Strange lights in the sky, cigar-shaped flying objects and a "sphere half the size of the moon" were among the Westcountry sightings made in the final days of the Ministry of Defence's UFO desk.
The MoD closed its UFO desk in 2009 because it served "no defence purpose" and was taking staff away from "more valuable defence-related activities", newly released files showed today.
Prominent sightings around the westcountry
1: July 24, 2007. Lynton, North Devon. A ball of fire was seen. No tail. It was moving from West to East.
2: April 6, 2008. Delabole, Cornwall. A bright orange light was seen. It started to move backwards, up and down and then started to wobble to and fro, very fast. It faded away, as though it was moving into the distance.
3: April 29, 2008. Exeter. A UFO was flying around and looked like it was having trouble keeping in control. It looked like it was going at about 250 miles per hour.
4: July 13, 2008. Davidstow, Cornwall. Six lights were seen. They looked like bright orange stars, rising up into the air one after the other.
5: November 4, 2008. Somerton, Somerset. The object was cigar shaped, was 80ft long and 30ft tall. Was orange in colour and looked illuminated. It had a rear, bright white light.
6: February 7, 2009. Fowey, Cornwall. Strange object in the sky. Bright orange in colour with intensity of fire. Like a huge hang glider.
7: February 10, 2009. Weston-super-Mare. An orange/yellow object moving NW to SE. Followed by three more. No navigation lights and they made no sound. Not that high up.
8: March 14, 2009. Harlyn Bay, Cornwall. Five strange orange lights in formation, moving very quickly.
9: March 28, 2009. Torquay. A group of very bright orange objects heading NW to SE at a consistent speed and low altitude. There was a group of 15 followed by groups of 2-3 and 3-4 over a five minute period. They made no noise.
10: July 18, 2009. Weston-super-Mare. A metallic aircraft shaped like a missile. One quarter was white, another green/blue and another red. Was circling. It had no wings and was moving diagonally. It made a sound like a motorbike.
11: July 25, 2009. Plymouth. Six orange/white lights, lying astern. Thought they were aircraft navigation lights but were evenly spaced out. No noise but moved with speed of a passing helicopter. Changed into a ‘hammer head’ shape.
12: August 20, 2009. Shebbear, Devon. Circular shape with a mix of stars, one was getting brighter and then dimmer and disappearing for a short number of minutes. Another red light hovered around the object. Camera on phone would not pick anything up.
13: September 13, 2009. Shepton Mallet, Somerset. RN Air Traffic Control. Seven silent objects emitting a bright orange light. One group of three and then singles. Travelled at about 100 knots then turned right.
14: October 23, 2009. Yeovil, Somerset. Metallic ball in the sky chased by fast jet then helicopter from Yeovilton.
15: November 9, 2009. Plympton, Devon. Red and orange sphere half the size of the moon, no noise, but bits were falling off it, tracked it for 20 seconds.
The latest tranche of declassified documents showed the decision was taken to close the desk and its UFO "hotline" in a year when sightings reported to the department had trebled, but that, in more than 50 years, none had indicated the existence of "any military threat to the UK".
The 25 files, released today by the National Archives, include 4,400 pages and cover the work carried out in the final two years of the MoD's UFO desk, from late 2007 until November 2009.
In that period there were 58 records from across the Westcountry.
In April 2008, it was reported that a UFO was flying around Exeter and "looked like it was having trouble keeping in control. It looked like it was going at about 250 miles per hour".
The same month, in Delabole, North Cornwall, a "bright orange light" was seen to "move backwards, up and down and then wobble to and fro, very fast".
In Lynton, North Devon, a member of the public reported seeing a "ball of fire" moving from west to east while "a huge hanglider" which was "bright orange in colour" was reported from Fowey.
Official records also revealed "very bright orange objects" moving at "a consistent speed and low altitude" over Torquay while a professional photographer in Plymouth reported "six orange/white lights" which made "no noise but moved with speed of a passing helicopter". They then "changed into a hammer head shape".
Some of the more intriguing reports were made in Somerset with an illuminated, 80ft long "cigar-shaped" object being seen at Somerton.
Another person at Yeovil believed that had seen a "metallic ball in the sky chased by fast jet then helicopter from Yeovilton".
Then in Weston-super-Mare, the MoD recorded "a metallic aircraft shaped like a missile. One quarter was white, another green/blue and another red. Was circling. It had no wings and was moving diagonally. It made a sound like a motorbike".
The latest release of official documents reveal accounts of alleged abductions and contact with aliens and UFO sightings near UK landmarks, as well as documentation of the decision to close the UFO desk.
In a briefing for then defence minister Bob Ainsworth in November 2009, Carl Mantell, of the RAF's Air Command, suggested the MoD should try to significantly reduce the UFO task, "which is consuming increasing resource, but produces no valuable defence output".
He told Mr Ainsworth that, in more than 50 years, "no UFO sighting reported to (MoD) has ever revealed anything to suggest an extra-terrestrial presence or military threat to the UK".
An official MoD statement said: "The Ministry of Defence has no opinion on the existence or otherwise of extra-terrestrial life.
"However, in over 50 years, no UFO report has revealed any evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom.
"The MoD has no specific capability for identifying the nature of such sightings. There is no defence benefit in such investigation and it would be an inappropriate use of defence resources."
Dr David Clarke, author of the book The UFO Files, said: "The last pieces of the puzzle have finally been revealed with this insight into the last days of the UFO desk.
"These files spell out clearly why the MoD decided – after 60 years – it no longer needed to keep tabs on sightings, even those made by 'credible' people such as police officers and pilots.
"The last files from the UFO desk are now all in the public domain. People at home can read them and draw their own conclusions about whether the truth' is in these files or still out there."
MoD told: I know how you can shoot one down
The Ministry of Defence politely declined an offer of a weapon that could “shoot down UFOs”, newly released files reveal.
One suggestion was sent to the MoD in March 2009 by a “UFO researcher” who wrote: “I have knowledge that the RAF have on more than one occasion intercepted a UFO using military aircraft.
“Therefore, the reason I am contacting you once again is that, through my research as a UFO researcher, I believe I know how you can shoot down a UFO. Hypothetically, let’s assume that these UFOs are extraterrestrial and that the RAF has tried but failed to bring down an extraterrestrial UFO.
“I have a suggestion for a new weapon which could and will bring down a potential extraterrestrial UFO.”
It went on: “It is your choice. Trust me, have faith.”
In a response on March 11, an official politely declined the offer, writing: “The UK has a comprehensive suite of capabilities that provide its air superiority, both here at home in the UK and also on expeditionary operations.
“The UK’s Air Policing Area is under continuous surveillance using a combination of civil and military radar installations that provide a continuous real-time ‘picture’.
“Any threat would, of course, be handled in the light of the particular circumstances at the time, however, rest assured that we have at our disposal a range of capabilities that we are confident can neutralise even the most demanding of targets.”
Ufologist urged Queen to act over alien ‘threat’
A UFO researcher wrote directly to the Queen to voice concerns that the government was ignoring the threat of unidentified flying objects.
The final UFO files include several messages from “ufologists” and members of the public to key figures, including the Queen, former prime minister Gordon Brown, and government ministers and defence secretaries, between 2007 and 2009.
One, from a UFO researcher in Victoria, Australia, sent in March 2009, was addressed directly to “Your Majesty Queen Elizabeth II”.
The letter said: “These Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) are, I believe, a threat to the United Kingdom in view of the air and safety issues involved.
“As I am writing this letter to you Your Majesty, I contemplate whether or not you will see reason and if you will choose to act Madam?”
The letter closed: “As a UFO researcher, I must highly recommend you act now Your Majesty.
“You are capable of deciding your own destiny.
“The question is Your Majesty, which path will you choose?”
A reply from Buckingham Palace, included in the files, said: “The Queen has asked the Private Secretary to thank (the unnamed recipient) for his letter of March 18.
“Although this is not a matter in which Her Majesty would intervene, the letter has been passed to the Secretary of State for Defence, so that this approach to the Queen may be known and consideration given to the points raised in the letter.”