WEIRD NORFOLK: The day a UFO came to visit Cromer

Did Cromer coastguards see a UFO over Cromer in 1977? Picture: Archant Library/Colin Finch

Did Cromer coastguards see a UFO over Cromer in 1977? Picture: Archant Library/Colin Finch - Credit: Colin Finch

Forget DFLs in North Norfolk – it was UFOs visiting on New Year’s Eve 1978 that had everyone in Cromer talking.

Red, green and white lights off the coast of Cromer at New Year can generally be explained by the town’s annual firework display: but in 1978, they were due to a close encounter of a very different kind.

On Sunday December 31, a UFO was spotted flying around two miles off the coast at Cromer – it was also seen at the same time from Skegness. Witnesses assumed the craft they had spotted at sea was an aircraft, but this was quickly discounted when the air traffic control centre at West Drayton in Middlesex confirmed no planes, either civil or military, had been in the area at that time. Both sightings – which lasted for less than a minute – were reported just after 7pm: coastguards at Cromer reported seeing an object moving from north to south while the report from Skegness gave its direction as west to east off the Lincolnshire coast.

The Eastern Daily Press of January 2 1979 dedicated its front page to the sighting. “First impressions were that it was an aircraft about to crash into the sea,” said the report, “two coastguards at Cromer saw the UFO through high-powered observation equipment.

“Mr H.V. Brown, an auxiliary coastguard and Mr Colin Handforth, a full-time coastguard, were on duty at Cromer when they saw what looked like a spaceship.

“Mr Brown explained, ‘At first it looked like a big light and then an airship. It came just opposite us about two or three miles out, over the sea. It looked 200 yards long with bands of whitish light coming off in all directions. It looked like a spaceship.’”

A spokesman at HM Coastguard rescue headquarters at Gorleston, to whom the sightings were reported, said: “It had a line of red and green lights down the side and something like a bright glow surrounded it. “It was between one and three miles from the coast and its height was estimated at 800 to 1000 feet, although that can only be an assumption.” He added that it was so clear and so close that the coastguard thought it was a Boeing 707 with all its lights on.

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Other reports of similar-sounding lights flooded in from around the country – from Wales, Tyne, Teeside and Humber and elsewhere along the east coast. Explanations ranged from a plane making its way to Amsterdam to a re-entry of some part of an object from a space probe – but the UFO seen from Cromer was moving horizontally along the coast, not coming down vertically. The Gorleston spokesman said: “We can only put it down as a report of something unidentified, whether it was a space vehicle re-entering or what it was. For us there is no punch line. We are left in the dark.”

One popular theory as to what UFOs are is that they are craft piloted by time-travelling humans returning from the future to study us. A recent book, Identified Flying Objects: A Multidisciplinary Scientific Approach to the UFO Phenomenon (Michael Masters, Masters Creative LLC 2019) puts forward the idea that humans of the distant future could have developed the knowledge and machinery necessary to return to the past. He writes: “Undoubtedly in the future, there are those that will pay a lot of money to have the opportunity to go back and observe their favorite period in history. Some of the most popular tourist sites are the pyramids of Giza and Machu Picchu in Peru … old and prehistoric sites.”

It seems entirely reasonable that one place future humans would definitely want to visit would be Cromer…

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