Weird Norfolk: Were the mystery lights above west Norfolk UFOs?

The Wash. Photo courtesy Mike Page

What did Sally Jopson see in the sky of the Wash? - Credit: Mike Page

Are they a bird, a plane…or a UFO?

Over decades there have been reports of strange red, green and white lights flickering above the skies of Norfolk, the Wash and the Lincolnshire coast: and no one can explain what they could be, including the RAF.

In the Spring 1982 edition of Lantern, the publication from the Lowestoft-based Borderline Science Investigation Group, there is the curious tale of the UFOs over the Wash.

The publication draws on an article published in the Lynn News and Advertiser on March 9 and 12 in 1982, shortly after the incident in question.

First seen at around 6.30pm on Thursday, March 5, it was spotted by Sally Jopson of Terrington St Clement in West Norfolk.

Mrs Jopson said: “When we looked through the binoculars and even with the naked eye, it appeared to have red and green lights flashing.

“It was literally hovering over The Wash, then it moved along towards Lincolnshire, hovered there, faded and then came back bright. It literally exploded into light.”

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The report in Lantern adds: “Mrs Jopson, her husband and several neighbours watched the object for about 15 minutes. Later that same evening, at around 8.45pm, Mrs Jopson’s husband took their dog out and saw the object again ‘…as bright as life…’.

“Throughout the sighting there was no engine noise and Mrs Jopson is convinced that it was not an aeroplane.

“Neither the King’s Lynn police nor a spokesman for RAF Marham were able to offer an explanation as to what it was that Mrs Jopson’s and her neighbours had seen.”

The next day, people living in South Lynn spotted something similar, in broad daylight.

“One of the witnesses, 36-year-old Joan Smith, described “a big round object like a football” coming towards her and a local butcher,” continues Lantern.

“It was like ‘…a round ball with no wings and all the time it had a silver light flashing…’

“While they were watching the object, the witnesses saw a plane go up and circle around it. The witnesses watched the object for about 15 minutes.

“The MoD said there could have been ‘hundreds of explanations for the object’ but added that the RAF had no planes investigating anything in the area at the time.

“A spokesman for the CAA said there were no air routes over Lynn although a private plane could have been there.”

Red and green lights were also spotted in Lincolnshire and the Wash in August 1991 and later in 1998.

A view of the Wash from Hunstanton beach. Picture: Matthew Usher.

No one could explain what the lights seen over the Wash could be, including the RAF. - Credit: Matthew Usher

A sighting in 1996 saw coastguard involvement: they had been informed that police had seen “…red, green and white flashing lights, multi-coloured lights, twinkling lights, fairly large, fairly bright…” in the early hours of the morning of Saturday, October 5.

A report faxed to the RAF from Yarmouth coastguard read: “[The police] can see a strange red and green rotating light in the sky southeast from Skegness. Looks to be high in the sky directly over The Wash. Many people here are observing it…looks strange as it’s stationary. No sound in the area…”

Police in Boston could also see a bright light in the sky.

Rolland McKie, coastguard watch officer, said: “We had a phone call from Skegness Police saying they had seen a light in a south-east direction from Skegness, which puts it in the Wash and did we have any information.

“We questioned the policeman and asked him did he see any aircraft, did he hear any noise activity…he said no, so we made a broadcast on the radio for any vessels in the Wash to respond to us.”

The MV Conocast, a tanker to the south-east of Skegness picked up the message asking if anyone in the area had seen anything matching the description given to the coastguard by police.

A crew member replied: “Yes, they were flashing red, green and white and cannot identify it as an aircraft, it’s stationery and about a mile high.”

The crew of four also reported seeing another group of lights in the opposite direction, high in the sky above the North Sea: these were flashing red, blue, green and white.

When the two sightings were plotted on a map, it appeared the lights were actually over land, prompting the coastguard to contact nearby RAF Neatishead.

Flt Lt Keith Swetman at the base said: “The coastguard asked if we had any radar returns from the general area where the lights had been seen. They looked at the screens, and we had nothing on our own air defence radar screens at all.

“But on one of the air traffic radar screens there was shown to be a return which appeared to be in the similar area to where the lights had been seen. And that return remained on the screen until about 9am the following morning.”

The sighting was blamed on a number of factors, including people mistaking Venus for an aircraft, a military aircraft on a covert mission or freak weather conditions.

Flt Lt Swetmen added: “As far as we were aware, there was no aircraft activity in that area - there was certainly no exercises on.”

He said that he believed the radar return had bounced from St Botolph’s Church in Boston, which boasts a 273ft spire and is affectionately known by locals as The Boston Stump.

This had created a ‘permanent echo’ on the screens and an investigation suggested the lights seen in the sky could be attributed to Venus (which didn’t rise until 3.38am) and the star Sirius.

The explanations did little to dissuade those who had seen the strange lights from their belief that what they had seen was, quite literally, out of this world.

Have you spotted anything strange in the skies above West Norfolk…?