In 1967 October a rash of UFO sightings occurred over Britain. Many of these
made it no further than the pages of the popular press, but some were reported
to the Ministry of Defence. Details of the MoD’s investigations of these events have been publicly available at The National
Archives, Kew, since 1998.
October 27 – another flying cross
Most celebrated of the cases was the famous ‘flying cross’ reported on the morning of October 24 by two Devon policemen and identified by
astronomers and the MoD as Venus. What is less well known is that, three days
later, policemen in Cheshire also reported a bright cross-shaped UFO. The MoD
report on this sighting can be found in file AIR 20/11890. What follows is a brief summary with my own comments.
At 4.15 am on 1967 October 27 two constables on beat duty in Stalybridge,
Cheshire, made the first sighting of an object said to be bright, cross-shaped
and travelling at about 1,000 feet in a north-easterly direction. The actual
azimuth of the object was not stated.
Fifteen minutes later another PC at Mottram-in-Longdendale, about three miles
south of Stalybridge, reported a hovering object moving from side to side over
Glossop, a town another 3 miles or so away. Depending exactly where the officer
was standing, the azimuth of the object would have been anywhere from the east
“The object then began an up and down movement and finally remained stationary
for about five minutes,” the report continues. Three officers were sent out by car from Chester to
verify the incident, bringing the total of police witnesses to six.
The PC at Mottram-in-Longdendale was in touch by radio with one of the PCs at
Stalybridge, so it is evident they were seeing the same thing. It is also
evident that, despite the earlier report, it had not moved north-east at all,
or else it would not have been hovering over Glossop.
The object disappeared into misty cloud at 5.30 am, over an hour after it was
Spurious side-to-side and up-and-down movements of hovering celestial objects
are common due to the autokinetic effect in the eye. In addition, passing clouds can give the illusion that stationary
celestial objects are moving.
Evidently all this was well-known to the MoD investigator, who commented in a
handwritten note on the teleprinter printout: “The facts are consistent with Venus being viewed through semi-transparent
October 5 sighting
A DAYLIGHT UFO SIGHTING had been made earlier that same month from Okehampton,
Devon. Four witnesses from a company called Sterling Hatcheries reported to
Okehampton police that they had seen through binoculars a brilliant white
semi-spherical object “like an inverted parachute” for two hours from 08.50 on the morning of October 5. It lay in the direction
of Okehampton Camp, to the south of the town, and over the two-hour period of
observation it moved horizontally at an altitude of about 50 degrees.
On that date, Venus was at a crescent phase (like a parachute, in fact) and
brilliant enough to be seen in daylight. Its actual altitude at the time of the
sighting was around 45 degrees. It would indeed have appeared to move over a
period of hours due to the rotation of the Earth.
Taking into account the position and movement of the object, and its appearance
through a telescope, the MoD investigation concluded: “The object is Venus” (AIR 20/11889).
It is highly likely that the two Devon policemen who made the ‘flying cross’ sighting three weeks later in the same area had heard about this case, although
without knowing the solution.
October 26 sighting
A SIGHTING NEAR OKEHAMPTON on the evening of October 26 of a beam of light was
attributed to a tank searchlight, while that same night the lights from a USAF
refuelling exercise led to further UFO reports.
SUMMING UP THE MONTH’S ACTIVITIES on October 30, the head of the MoD secretariat S.4(Air), James
Carruthers, wrote to the Under Secretary of State for the RAF, Merlyn Rees: “There is nothing in any of this current series of reports to alter our basic
attitude to UFOs” (AIR 20/11612).
Despite the fact that any reasonably competent investigator could have come to
the same conclusions as the MoD, these cases are still quoted in some quarters
as genuine UFOs.
Content last updated 2008 May