They came from outer space
MORE than half a century ago, I was stationed during my national service at Royal Air Force Hopton, only a cycle ride away from my Gorleston home.RAF Hopton was divided between two sites.
MORE than half a century ago, I was stationed during my national service at Royal Air Force Hopton, only a cycle ride away from my Gorleston home.
RAF Hopton was divided between two sites. One, adjacent to a holiday camp and at the end of Coronation Terrace off Station Road, housed billets, messes, stores, headquarters and parade ground.
A mile away towards Corton was an underground radar site beneath the cliff edge, with a pair of pylons constantly alert for Cold War intruders.
For those of us administrative chaps it was uneventful, routine work interspersed by spit-and-polish, parades and the occasional exercise.
On parades we carried rifles, but I cannot recall a round of ammunition ever loaded even for exercises.
Had I known then what I have just learned, I would probably have preferred to have been armed on those nights when I did my tours of inspection as duty NCO, for the village has been prone to some odd goings-on...
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Recently, the Ministry of Defence declassified a huge batch of alleged UFO sightings, enabling those with the inclination, time and patience to sift through them to see if there was any substance to the reports. I spent a couple of hours online delving into them
in a vain attempt to reveal the official
version of an inexplicable occurrence in... Hopton!
I went to Sidegate Road in August 1980 to meet Leslie Frost, a 46-year-old engineer, his wife Margaret and their 10-year-old son Anthony, who all claimed to have witnessed a strange sight from the bottom of their long garden when they were fetching washing from the linen line one night.
The experience left Mr Frost badly shaken for three days, by which time he decided he must talk about it other than to the police, whom he contacted that night. I was happy to listen to the family's story.
“It was like walking into the garden and seeing Yarmouth Pleasure Beach,” he told me.
There was a mass of brilliant lights - but this was out in the country, above a big stubble field, on a clear, moonlit night.
Above the field he saw two huge “absolutely square” structures showing a pattern of red and white lights the size of cars. There
was hardly any noise, which he found unnerving.
According to Mrs Frost: “I saw them come across, like formation flying but too slow for planes, and they couldn't have been helicopters.”
And young Anthony added: “There was one big square one and a smaller one, with all these red and white lights.”
Mr Frost continued: “They were solid shape and you could almost feel the 'solid-ness'. I don't believe in UFOs - I'm an engineer, and you can't put structures as big as that in the air. It was absolutely fantastic, and there's no possible explanation.”
They never landed, but as one flew over his head. “It was just like a big manta ray casting its shadow.”
Then it stopped, and “a terrific flash” was followed by a small triangular craft emerging from it.
That circled for about 10 minutes and finally hovered above his head, flew off in the path of the other two, and “they suddenly vanished as though they went into a curtain.”
Mr Frost conceded that it all sounded far-fetched but swore he saw it all for about half an hour.
His son saw most of it, and his wife watched some of it before hurrying indoors because their daughter was alone in the house.
It is a journalist's responsibility to twig when somebody is lying or spinning a yarn. I found the Frost family's account incredible but believed they were being honest with me.
The August bank holiday prevented checks with official sources, and by the time they were available the momentum had passed.
My editors on the Eastern Daily Press and Eastern Evening News were sceptical, so nothing appeared on the news pages.
But I did feature it as Peggotty when
Through the Porthole was a nightly column in the Evening News.
As there is no telephone directory listing for the Frosts at Sidegate Road, I could not contact them.
In trawling the internet seeking Hopton-area UFO reports, I chanced upon a long list of “humanoid sightings”, including one from Hopton that allegedly happened on a July night in 2000.
While “CK” walked along the beach, he became very quickly disorientated and dizzy, with headache and nausea, to the point where his eyesight became blurred.
As he moved from the cliff base to the water's edge, he glanced up the cliffs and saw a dark figure on the cliff-top, inside the perimeter fencing of “a local MoD base” (presumably the old RAF Hopton radar site, the entry building to which has been converted into a private home).
“Since he had the blurred vision, he
could not be sure, but this figure seemed to have no structure and was more of a dark silhouette.
“He glanced briefly away, and, as he glanced back, the figure was gone.”
On other sites, I discovered that “the powerful St Michael's ley line stretches from St Michael's Mount in Cornwall to Hopton Church in Norfolk.” And: “This is an avenue or corridor of sacred and ancient sites, many of which are dedicated to the dragon-slaying saint.”
I assume the “ley” church is the one that was gutted by fire in 1865, not the current St Margaret's, built the following year beside the old main road.
My dictionary says a ley is associated with lines of energy and paranormal phenomena.
I would not have felt safe unarmed at dear old RAF Hopton in the early 1950s had I been aware of all that...
Then again, perhaps an old rifle would have been useless against the unknown beings, anyway?
Finally, to other unwanted things that come out of the sky, one of which fell on - yes, Hopton again!
Suffolk-based aviation historian Bob Collis has just come across an official German wartime schedule of intended alternate targets for “revenge weapon number two”: the deadly V2 rocket employed when the Allies were getting the upper hand.
The East Anglian hit-list, all within range from the launch sites on mainland Europe, included Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
Two years ago I mentioned here that
one V2 plunged into a field and injured six people at Valley Farm, Hopton, on the coast side of the A12 not far from the Gorleston boundary.
Hopton? Sounds like a dangerous, spooky place...