Author: MARK NICOL FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
Two illegal immigrants sparked a major security alert after they approached a coach carrying British Army officers in France and clung to the vehicle’s undercarriage as it was driven to a military base in the UK.
The stowaways, believed to be from northern Africa, are understood to have targeted the bus while it was waiting to board a Brittany Ferries service from Cherbourg to Portsmouth.
They hid beneath the vehicle as it crossed the Channel and, in an incredible, death-defying feat, clung on as it was driven 80 miles to a military camp in Oxfordshire.
The coach carrying officers from 4 Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps (RLC), was waved inside Dalton Barracks in Abingdon by security guards with the stowaways still in hiding on Thursday evening.
A source at the base told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Just as the officers were climbing off the coach, there were some strange noises at the back of the vehicle and these two guys climbed down and made a run for it.
‘The camp went into lockdown and every soldier was ordered to search the base to find the stowaways.
‘Every vehicle going in and out of Dalton Barracks was thoroughly searched and at one point it was thought there might have been a third stowaway.
‘Everyone was amazed and impressed how they had managed to hold on to the bottom of the bus for so long. They were exhausted when we found them so we gave them water.’
The officers had hired the coach for a field study exercise in France. They were casually dressed as they travelled back to Britain, so the stowaways would not have known they were aboard a military vehicle.
The Ministry of Defence said: ‘We are aware of an incident that took place at Dalton Barracks. The matter was rapidly dealt with in conjunction with Thames Valley Police and at no point was the security of the base or our people at risk.’
Research by Migration Watch UK suggests that up to 12,850 people illegally gained access to the UK last year by hiding inside vehicles or clinging to their exteriors.