Winter c. 1949, West View council estate, Hartlepool.
‘Goal!’ Rueben Wright shouted as the lop-sided football crashed into the garden gate. The metal sneck clattered as the wood of the gate took the shock and a bit more green paint fell off.
Five of us were playing street football; each of us had a gate to defend. We usually played until some resident of Brus Crescent got tired of the noise and chased us away into the winter darkness, but tonight we would be stopped by something else.
The ball was kicked into play and we began again, tackling, shoving and pushing and dribbling with our booted, slack-socked and scab-kneed, bare legs. Rueben got knocked onto his back and, as he lay in the middle of the road, he pointed to the sky. ‘What’s that?’
Hovering above the railway embankment was a blue disc trailed by a short and stubby yellow tail. It seemed about half the size of a full moon and was moving towards the north above and parallel with the line of the LNER.
‘It’s a rocket! ‘ someone shouted. ‘Lets run to the tunnel and get onto the sands – there must be a shipwreck. ‘
We set off running, but after a few strides we slowed and stopped.
‘That’s never a rocket,’ one lad said. ‘It not falling to the ground. ‘
We gathered in a huddle, mystified, as we watched the ‘rocket’ continue moving northwards up the coast at the same height and the same steady leisurely speed. It got smaller and smaller until we could see it no more.
We had no words for what we had seen (it was in the days before ‘UFO’ was coined) but we knew we had seen something strange. Next day, the ‘Northern Daily Mail’ had a brief report about an unusual light moving northwards along the coast at Hartlepool. A similar light had been seen all along the coast and as far north as Blyth in Northumberland, about 90 miles away. The newspaper approached the RAF and was told none of their aircraft had been in the area.
Each time I hear of UFO reports I remember that game of street football.