Sixties City Index Page
Pirate Radio
Pirate Radio

Test transmissions for Radio Essex commenced on October 25th, one of the first voices heard being that of disc jockey Mark Wesley (West) saying "This is Radio Essex, the voice of Essex on 222 metres, and this is a test transmission". The station started regular programmes on 7th November, initially closing down at 10pm but later going to 24 hours. Its format was fairly successful, playing middle-of-the-road music during the day and top 40 records into the evening but its range was extremely limited as the transmitter was only a 1kW ex-U.S. Air Force beacon which had been converted for broadcasting.

In a further effort to expand his service Roy Bates was also to make an abortive attempt to start up 'Radio Kent' from the Tongue Sands fort, about twelve miles off Canvey Island, which was rather quickly abandoned when the structure threatened to disintegrate during a storm.

Meanwhile, Project Atlanta sent out engineers Carl Thomson and Ted Walters to Radio City on Shivering Sands to help with the delivery and installation of the agreed 'new' transmitter (the equipment was in fact a 25 year-old unit bought 'second hand' from the KCUL station in Fort Worth, Texas) but things did not go quite according to plan. When the Caroline supply tender brought the replacement transmitter to Shivering Sands the staff could hardly believe the size of it, consisting of three or four cabinets about the size of telephone boxes. It was decided to try and raise the heaviest one, the power pack unit, first.

D.J. Alex Dee recalls "We tied it on and began to pull it up with our electric crane - we thought it might pull the tower over but it took the strain and the first cabinet ascended very slowly. I was working the crane handle that was situated overlooking the Caroline tender. We had winched it as far up as the first level and I stopped the crane, which automatically put the brake on. Well, our makeshift braking system decided that a 'telephone kiosk' was too large to hold and the transmitter began to descend towards the deck of the tender. Everybody was yelling "Brake! Brake!" but there was nothing we could do. We had to watch the transmitter gaining speed towards the ship's deck - the crew scattered and the cabinet crashed on to the deck. It was in a big wooden box so it didn't appear to be damaged too much."

That wasn't quite the end of it. On the second attempt, the 2" thick rope they were using to hoist the cabinet began to fray and despite efforts to pull it in at level one (about seventy feet above sea level) it got caught under the edge of the platform on gun tower one. An attempt was made to run chains through the cabinet's casing to support it, but to no avail as the cabinet tilted and dropped towards the sea. Fortunately, the captain of the tender had learned from the first attempt and had moved his boat away from the tower. The rope holding the cabinet eventually parted and it fell into the sea and sunk to a depth of about twenty feet, its position marked by the frayed ends of the rope.

Alex continues "That night, on our ship-to-shore link-up, Reg Calvert asked if anything went wrong and, I do believe, had a seizure on hearing the news that his 5,000 transmitter was lying in twenty feet of salty water. After he recovered he arranged for divers to come out next day and salvage the submerged transmitter". It was eventually retrieved with the assistance of local divers from The British Sub Aqua Club and hoisted onto the tower. Although some accounts claim that the equipment did not work after its unplanned swim, the unit was cleaned up and returned to operating functionality. However, due to its size, its power demand was much greater than the generators on the fort were able to supply for extended periods, despite the best efforts of Radio City and Caroline engineers, so it was put aside, with Radio City engineers Phil Perkins and Ian West modifying the original equipment to make it seem that the transmitter was operating at greater efficiency than its very low 2kW.

DJ Ian Macrae commented "Radio City engineer Tony Pine told me that the transmitter never worked properly, not just because of the effect of sea water but because the generators weren't able to provide enough power to drive it. I recall we had to turn off all other electrical devices such as lights etc. when the big transmitter was running but the generator just wasn't up to the task. The engineers had warned Reg Calvert about this when he told them the transmitter was coming out but he just ignored the advice saying 'Find a way to make it work!'"
Reg and Dorothy Calvert

When Project Atlanta sent Radio City the 600 invoice for the transportation costs from Texas, Reg Calvert refused to pay. He returned it to Atlanta saying that the transmitter did not work, was their responsibility and that they could come and collect it any time they wanted. This did little to help relations between the companies and the agreement was ultimately not a success.

Dateline Diamonds All the finances had been handled through Project Atlanta and, within three months, Radio City was alleging that it was owed various revenues and operating costs that had not been paid by Project Atlanta who ended up owing Radio City something in the region of 8,000. Planet Productions took over the assets and liabilities of Project Atlanta in December following which Allan Crawford resigned from the board. Effectively, Project Atlanta had gone bust and, at the end of December 1965, the owners of Radio Caroline North (Ronan O'Rahilly's Planet Productions) bought the Radio Caroline South ship too. It was believed that all connection with Atlanta's ex-chairman and major shareholder, Oliver Smedley, had been severed at this time but he was known to still be holding 60,000 Atlanta shares as late as 1972. With the 'fall of Atlanta', the agreement with Reg Calvert ended. Radio City returned to selling its own airtime advertising and paid its own operating costs again with effect from January 1st 1966, but the subsequent legal disputes carried on for months. Radio Caroline later claimed that it had severed all connections with Project Atlanta in December and that the provenance of the transmitter remained a matter for dispute.

After a somewhat controversial career, Radio London finally really sacked Kenny Everett (he had been sacked and quickly reinstated several times previously) in October 1965 after he made irreverent comments about Garner Ted Armstrong, one of the station's main religious sponsors. Such was Kenny's popularity though that he was re-employed in June 1966 after a suitable 'cooling-off period'. Also in October, Radio London became a film star when the ship and crew were used for the storyline and location sequences in a feature film
called '
Dateline Diamonds', released in 1966, with brief appearances by Phillip Birch, Earl Richmond and Ben Toney.

Tower Radio announced themselves on air with some weak tests on 22nd October 1965 using a Helium-filled barrage balloon to hold up their aerial. This broke free never to be recovered, following which a form of kite was tried, with the same result, forcing them to build a more permanent aerial on top of the fort's radar house. Tests continued, with George Short frequently taking over the microphone to send family greetings to his wife, Pam, and daughters Julie, Linda & Diane.

On 28th October an emergency call was transmitted, asking any listeners to contact their supply ship at Burnham-on-Crouch and tell it to come out to the station. The message actually got through but the boat was unable to comply due to heavy weather. Another vessel responded but went to Roughs tower in error. The Walton lifeboat eventually responded and, despite the bad conditions, managed to take off George Short who had been suffering pains after forgetting to take his prostate medicine out to the fort with him. The lifeboat service complained bitterly about the difficulty and danger of approaching the station in foul weather and, due to this incident, all future 'distress' calls from pirate stations were carefully vetted before response.

Also as a result of this, it was decided that a more reliable supply tender was required. On 28th November a deal was agreed with the Dutch operation 'Offshore Supply Company' whose vessel 'Offshore I' was already servicing the Caroline and London ships from Holland. The initial attempt at tendering the fort narrowly avoided disaster due to the difficulty of conditions and the boat was damaged. The deal was abandoned and, in January 1966, ex-OSC employee Kees Romas joined Eric Sullivan and they bought the Icelandic fishing vessel 'Maarje' to act as a tender. Meanwhile, testing continued at low power on many frequencies and new offices were opened in opened at 15 Trinity Street, Colchester, but George Short had to withdraw due to ill health and new backers were sought. Irish millionaire Steve O'Flaherty invested some money but stayed very much in the background. Tommy Shields (who later launched Radio Scotland) showed some interest but never invested. Peter Jeeves, a director of TowerAd, invested 10,000 on the understanding that he would become joint managing director and Dave Simser put in his life savings of 2,000 and a new company was formed called 'Vision Projects'.

A company called 'Ellambar Investments Limited' was set up in November by a group of businessmen headed by Wilf Proudfoot, who had been the Conservative M.P. for Cleveland between 1959 and 1964, with the intention of setting up a 'pirate' radio station to service the north of England from off the coast of Scarborough. The chairman was Leonard Dale of the Dale Group which manufactured marine generators and the managing director was Don Robinson, a wrestling promoter, who had interests in various leisure facilities around the country.

New Year's Eve 1965 brought another new station. After dropping anchor, rather fittingly on Hogmanay, Radio Scotland commenced broadcasting at ten minutes to midnight on 242 metres 1241kHz, 'Swinging to you on 242' from a converted lightship off the east coast of Scotland 4 miles out from Dunbar in the Firth of Forth. The opening announcements were made by television actor and nouveau disc jockey Paul Young and Tommy Shields, the managing director of its operating company City and County Commercial Radio (Scotland) Ltd. which had been formed in October 1964. Being an ex-lightship, the 'Comet' was effectively just a floating platform with no engines which had to be towed everywhere. It was unable to operate its transmitter at full power until January 16th and soon after changed its frequency to 1260kHz. Radio Scotland had the distinction of being the only Scottish offshore station and was run by mostly local people, broadcasting a varied selection of programmes including ceilidh music and pop.

January 1966 saw the end of the six-month life of land-based Radio Shanus. The transmitter was confiscated and 18 year old Martin Macgregor, who had started the station as part of a college rag week stunt, was fined 2. Martin adds "....and please do not forget the 3 guineas costs!"

In the early hours of January 12th the Clacton lifeboat was launched to attend the Radio London ship 'Galaxy' which had dragged her anchor in a force 8 gale, ending up close to Clacton and necessitating shutdown of transmission while it was within territorial waters. The pirates, even in adversity, were never short of a sense of humour and the first record played on resuming programme transmission was 'Day Tripper' by The Beatles.
Radio Scotland COMET

The winter conditions of that year caused many problems for the North Sea pirates. Radio Syd ceased transmissions to Sweden on January 20th 1966 when it was thought that pack ice caused by the severe Baltic weather might damage her thin hull plates, so she had to move from her anchorage and, unable to return to her former position, headed for the English coast

Caroline aground at Frinton On the evening of the same day, 'Mi Amigo' broke her anchor chain and started to drift, which went unnoticed by the crew who had finished broadcasting for the day and were apparently watching television below deck. The ship ended up aground on the Holland Haven beach near Frinton-on-Sea, having somehow avoided the multitude of concrete groynes which protruded all along that coast. Several staff had to be taken off the ship by breeches buoy, including Dave Lee Travis, Tom Lodge, Graham Webb and Tony Blackburn. Attempts made by the tug 'Titan' to pull her off were unsuccessful but the captain managed to kedge her off and refloat her on the 22nd following which she was taken to Zaandam in Holland for a damage inspection and repair.

It looked as if the station was going to be off the air for quite some time, while repairs were carried out, until an unexpected offer of a replacement ship came from Britt Wadner. At the time it was widely reported that the 'Cheeta II' was being loaned free of charge but the rental was, in fact, charged at around 750 a week - cash!

So, between 31st January and 1st May 1966 Radio Caroline South was broadcast from 'Cheeta II' which actually carried the first ship-borne television station with a UHF TV transmitter (using Channel 41) and an ingenious aerial system. The TV studio, including lighting etc., was in the hold and this is where the Caroline studio was set up. Radio Syd had, previously, normally broadcast to Sweden on VHF-FM but, at that time, this was a waveband not widely used in Britain so one of the 'Mi Amigo's 10kW medium wave transmitters was brought back from the ship currently under repair in Holland. It was installed by Caroline engineering staff who also rigged a makeshift aerial for the AM signal, but the low masts on 'Cheeta II' meant that the possible aerial array was not really up to the job, emitting sparks if high power was applied. Even so, 'Cheeta II's generators still weren't powerful enough to run the Caroline equipment so a General Motors 75 kV diesel alternator was brought back from the 'Mi Amigo' as well.

As a result, Caroline was only able to broadcast from its temporary home at reduced power but at least ensured a continuing income from advertising. Night time reception was particularly bad so transmission hours were shortened. The station had been losing listeners to Radio London for a while and during this period wholesale changes to the broadcasting staff were made when Tom Lodge was brought in to revamp the operation. He gave the remaining disc jockeys a much bigger say in programme content and injected a new enthusiasm and more spontaneous style into their presentation by the time the 'Mi Amigo' started broadcasting again on 27th February from Holland, relaying through 'Cheeta II'. She left Holland on April 5th with a new 50kW transmitter. 'Mi Amigo' developed a fault on her aerial mast on the 18th which engineers refused to go aloft and fix due to the prevailing bad weather conditions. Thus was born one of the great pirate legends when a certain Tony Blackburn was 'elected' to climb the mast to make the necessary repairs!

Around this time 'Mi Amigo' began test transmissions on 259 metres 1169kHz with her new equipment and until May 1st, when 'Cheeta II' stopped broadcasting on behalf of Radio Caroline South, the station effectively had two ships 'online' who made a great thing out of 'talking' to one another on-air.

Phil Solomon, previously with Decca and an agent for The Bachelors and Them, joined Planet Productions in February as a director. One of his first suggestions was for Radio Caroline to start up its own record label and talks took place with Ember records regarding distribution. Their own records were being distributed by a subsidiary of Decca called Selecta who delayed the launch of the label from September to November by their prevarication on involvement with 'pop pirates'. They had already refused to distribute a record called 'We Love The Pirates', made by members of The Ivy League under the name 'The Roaring Sixties', but finally came to an arrangement with Planet Productions and the 'Major Minor' label was launched on 25th November 1966. The discs were to be manufactured by CBS and distributed by Selecta. The first two releases on the new label were by the O'Brien Brothers and Odin's People who were previously unknown Irish artists. Recordings were mostly of Irish showbands and ballad singers, with some light classical performers such as The Raymond LeFevre Orchestra and The Roberto Mann Singers plus the occasional 'novelty' record. Other artists included The Wheels and The Gibsons. Later on, deals were made with American labels which brought artists such as Johnny Nash and The Isley Brothers to the British airwaves.

The label was immediately given much airtime on Radio Caroline but very few of their early records troubled the national charts as Caroline was the only station promoting them. Plugs for the label continued to the point where the disc jockeys were getting pretty fed up with it and Emperor Rosko was allegedly 'sacked' several times for refusing to play them. Eventually, sometime after the Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967 became effective, Johnnie Walker made the best practical objection when he played The Bachelors for about an hour and a half, non-stop, introducing each track as the next item on his official playlist. On the subject of DJs, they seemed to put up with a lot for comparatively little recompense. By 1966 the average weekly wage of a Caroline DJ was about 25, whereas the Radio London DJs were making, on average, about 50.

In March a proposed station called 'Radio Mayflower' announced that it planned to start a service in April, transmitting from The Wash, near Boston. Throughout 1965 and January 1966, testing at Tower Radio continued to be problematical but they finally settled on the 236m wavelength. On 5th March the station ID was changed to Radio Tower and they announced on 24th March that it would commence broadcasting on 21st April, 7am to 7pm. On 8th April a new generator was taken to Sunk Head but was damaged during unloading. It was repaired on land and returned to the fort on a fishing vessel called 'Venus'. A few days after this their regular tender, 'Maarje', was impounded by Customs & Excise for unpaid bills and later sold off. Radio Tower jingles were produced at Martello Studios, run by Robin Garton, whose family owned the Martello Holiday Park at Walton-on-The-Naze.

Despite having attracted a 12-month advertising contract with News of the World magazine, Vision Projects were declared bankrupt on 28th April. Radio Tower continued to broadcast regularly until 4th May and then erratically, with their last transmission being heard on 12th May 1966.
Also during April 'Radio Channel' was believed to be preparing to broadcast from off the coast of Bexhill, Sussex, and a station called 'Radio Dynavision' was heard, but as very little else materialised after that it may have only been a test transmission. Yet another short-lived transmission in May identified itself as 'Radio Jim'.

On April 22nd, because of the frequently adverse weather conditions and poor mainland signal reception being experienced by Radio Scotland, an operation began to transfer 'Comet' to a new position three miles off Troon on the west coast. The ship continued broadcasting programmes as it was towed for the best part of a thousand miles around the north of Scotland. They could hardly have picked a worse time of year and the voyage was horrific. There were storms, a fire broke out in her generator room while she was off Peterhead and, at one point, she was shipping so much water that her own pumps couldn't cope and they were forced to request someone to send an extra pump by making an appeal during programme transmissions.
Radio Scotland 'Comet' and  Tommy Shields

On May 3rd 1966, 'Swinging' Radio England and Britain Radio began test transmissions, regular three and four-hour programmes starting on the 18th and 19th of June respectively. There is a good story connected with this as Radio Caroline South disc jockeys allegedly 'stole' many of the Radio England jingles by recording them as they were played in their entirety, without interruption, during the test transmissions. The station name was edited and changed and they took great joy in playing the newly-customised jingles on air the same day that Radio England went 'live'. So good were the copies that Radio England were even accused of 'stealing' them from Radio Caroline! By the end of the year nearly every pirate station had its own complete set of these customised jingles.

Laissez Faire Britain Radio Radio England The twin stations, both operating from the same ship, were created by some of the Texan backers who had broken away from Radio London to form Pier-Vick Ltd. which consisted of Don Pierson, Bill Vick, general manager Jack Curtiss (grateful thanks to Jack for providing information corrections) and programme director Ron O'Quinn. The twin-studio ship was originally a World War II Liberty Ship named 'Olga Patricia' that had been refitted, renamed 'Laissez Faire' and was anchored three miles off the coast of Walton-on-The-Naze.

During World War II, 2711 of these ships were built in US shipyards and saw action in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific but were probably most remembered for their participation in the dreaded 'Russian convoys' through northern seas past Norway to the Russian port of Murmansk. Their lack of speed made them an easy U-boat target and about 200 were lost through enemy action. Their expected life span was a mere five years but, even so, such was the likely casualty rate that the Navy considered one safe voyage to be a ship's full quota.

During the early part of 1966 an audience survey was commissioned from National Opinion Polls Ltd. by Brian Scudder, the sales director of Radio Caroline. The company reported that during the period of the survey about 45% of the population listened to Luxembourg or offshore stations. The listening figures (as reported) were: Radio Luxembourg - 8,818,000, Radio Caroline - 8,818,000, Radio London - 8,140,000 Radio 390 - 2,633,000, Radio England - 2,274,000, Radio Scotland - 2,195,000, Britain Radio - 718,000 (In June 1967 National Opinion Polls published more figures showing that Radio 270 had an audience of 4.5million).

Radio England, initially on 355 metres 845kHz, changed to 227 metres 1320kHz after complaints of interference from Italy. At one point, the numbers 227 were clearly visible on the bows, but not in the image shown.

More vehement complaints of interference, received on June 3rd from Radio Roma II, resulted in it reverting to its original wavelength and frequency. Its weekday output consisted of non-stop pop and chart music using experienced American disc jockeys with their own style of broadcasting, the weekend being largely devoted to 'golden oldies'. Because of its (to British listeners) unusual American broadcasting style it failed to attract advertisers (as was the fear of Radio London) and was less successful than it really deserved. Britain Radio on 227 metres 1320kHz was more middle-of-the-road easy listening in style.

May 1966 brought some major changes for Radio Veronica. The station altered its format from half-hour programmes to two-hour ones and replaced their ship, the ageing 'Borkum Riff', with the 'Nordeney', a better equipped (10kW) and 'more luxurious' converted trawler from which the station continued transmitting throughout the Sixties. The old converted lightship was towed into harbour and broken up for scrap. That month also saw a 50,000 refit for the Radio London ship 'Galaxy' with the intention of increasing her transmitter power to around 75kW and there was some press speculation about a new pirate station planned for August which intended to carry out wide-ranging political broadcasting from a position off the Thames estuary.

Although intending to go on air on April 1st 1966, various problems delayed the ill-fated Radio 270, owned by Ellambar Investments and run by managing director Wilfred Proudfoot, from starting regular transmissions on 270 metres 1115kHz until 4th June. Throughout its life it suffered from constant technical and electrical supply problems, which was a bit of an embarrassment for Leonard Dale whose company's generators it was using and adverts for which were prominently featured. The station was originally to be called 'Radio Yorkshire' and some pre-launch publicity actually used that name, but when it became apparent that a Leeds-based company had already registered 'Radio Yorkshire' as a trade name, it became 'Radio 270', named after its wavelength.

Following a 75,000 conversion and re-fit, the station broadcast from m.v.'Oceaan VII', anchored at first off Scarborough then moving to Bridlington Bay during the following winter. 'Oceaan VII' was unique in that it was the only pirate radio ship that used to come to the mainland to avoid the roughest weather, often taking the opportunity to replenish her supplies while doing so. The other ships, barring emergencies, stayed out at sea and were serviced solely by supply tenders. Radio 270 would finish transmissions before high tide and sail into Bridlington to load up overnight and return to its anchorage on the morning tide, weather permitting. The 'Oceaan VII', at 160 tons, was the smallest of all the pirate ships and, at 139ft long, her 150 foot broadcasting mast was longer than the ship itself.

During April 1966 Radio London and Managing Director Philip Birch had started to negotiate their own proposal with Reg Calvert for 'Big L' to take over the fort's operation in order to launch an 'easy listening' station to rival Radio 390 and the Britain Radio stations. This may also have been part of another project rumoured to be in the planning stage called 'Radio Manchester' which was to be a sister station for Radio London. Similar to the Radio Caroline idea, it involved finding an alternative base for the south-east radio station so that the 'Galaxy' could be moved and anchored off Fleetwood, Lancashire, to serve the north-west of England.

A joint sales company was proposed, comprising Radio London and a new one, UKGM (United Kingdom Good Music), with a servicing and tendering agreement shared between the two stations, Radio London to manage the operation and receive 55% of the advertising revenue while Reg Calvert received 45% and retained ownership of the tower. A draft agreement was drawn up in May that proposed the setting up of a management company to be called 'Sweet Music', to be jointly owned by Reg Calvert and Radio London, which would operate a new station to be called 'UKGM'. It was planned that the agreement would come into effect on 1st June with UKGM becoming fully operational on 1st July. Plans for the launch of UKGM were first announced to the public in a newspaper article on 16th June but did not proceed quite as envisaged.

Radio London disc jockeys Keith Skues and Duncan Johnson were given the task of overseeing the programming of the new station and, together with engineer Martin Newton and Radio London office manager Dennis Maitland, visited the fort in early June 1966 to inspect the facilities and technical standards in order to get a better idea of what was going to be required. They were not overly impressed with either and subsequently raised questions about its suitability.

While the negotiations with Radio London were taking place it seems that Reg Calvert was simultaneously holding clandestine discussions with Major Oliver Smedley of Project Atlanta who was offering to either buy the station outright for about 10,000 or issue him with the equivalent value in shares for the formation of a joint operating company. Smedley was keen to get in on the business, especially as he was still owed the money for the radio transmitter he had supplied. There is a story that he visited the Radio City offices with a 'Mr. Fablon' to view their accounts on behalf of an anonymous potential buyer. Calvert was loath to commit himself at that point, still being in discussion with Philip Birch, and nothing came of this particular incident or the negotiations in general.

When Smedley learned that Reg Calvert had agreed to go into partnership with Radio London he became concerned that there might be a danger of him completely losing the value of his transmitter investment and decided to take more direct personal action. This saw the start of a dark train of events which was to scandalise pirate radio. A few days before the Radio London agreement became due to be signed, Oliver Smedley advised Atlanta's Allan Crawford of his intention to board the fort and repossess the transmitter.

Crawford refused to get involved in the plot and tried to advise Smedley against it, forbidding Smedley to associate Project Atlanta with the plot should he go ahead with it. Dorothy Calvert, Reg's wife, apparently received a telephone call from Ted Allbeury, the boss of the rival Radio 390, who had heard rumours that someone was plotting to take over Calvert's fort by force.
Ian Macrae and Big Alf on Radio City

Oliver Smedley assembled a group of about ten riggers and Trinity House pilots (led by 'Big Alf' Bullen) who were, at that time, out of work due to the London Docks strike and, along with Dorothy 'Kitty' Black (one of the original Project Atlanta shareholders), sailed from Gravesend Pier around midnight on Sunday 19th June, arriving at Shivering Sands tower at about 3.30am. On Shivering Sands, Radio City had closed down for the night and its complement of ten (reports vary between seven and ten) staff were asleep as Smedley and his group boarded the fort in darkness. Little or no resistance was offered as the staff were locked up by the boarding party. Smedley's team proceeded to remove the station's transmitter crystal, preventing the station from broadcasting. After a few hours Smedley, Kitty Black and some of the group returned to the mainland, leaving behind an 8-man occupying force to oversee their 'prisoners'. At the usual start of airtime at 6.00am on Monday 20th June Radio City was silent.

DJ Ian Macrae, who had joined Radio City in February, commented: "We had no idea what was going on and what the reason for this extreme action was. Of course, we later found that out. To simplify the situation, it all came down to a high powered transmitter that had been brought out to the station much earlier that Smedley's people claimed they owned. When they got word that Reg might be about to sell the station they wanted a share of the action. What wasn't taken into account was that, when the transmitter was being winched on board, something had gone wrong and it finished up in the sea for some time and, try as hard as they could, the technicians were never able to get it to stay on air for any length of time so basically it was worthless anyway".

DJ Alan Clark, who had joined Radio City in November 1964 was also on board at the time of the raid and recalled "I'll never forget the boarding party which took over the station for a week. They literally woke us in our beds (presumably all of us!) with flashing torches and implied threats. Some of the men wore knives in their belts - opposition was out of the question. There was a dispute between Reg Calvert and Oliver Smedley and this dispute took place at the time of the seamen's strike. Without going into the details of the dispute, to cut a long story short, it climaxed in Major Smedley recruiting some striking seamen to sail out to the fort in a tug and take the place over. I was there at the time, along with a number of other people, and we were quite surprised to peer out of a porthole to see this tug nearby and lots of men rowing towards us in their boat. Then of course they came on board, took over the place, ripped the studio apart and placed it out of bounds. There was no violence. They didn't hurt us or anything like that but they certainly kept us off the air for a few days. There was a feeling that it might well have been an 'inside job' in the sense that these marine structures are quite hard to gain access to. They are way, way above the surface of the sea and it was felt that someone must have helped them on board but who that person was I have no idea".

Reg Calvert Oliver Smedley On their return to the mainland Smedley and Black drove to Philip Birch's home in Kent and invited him to attend a meeting, later in the day, that was to be held at Project Atlanta's offices in Dean Street, Soho. Birch advised Reg Calvert about the meeting but Calvert was late arriving. It proved to be a rather heated affair, attended by Philip Birch, Oliver Smedley and other Project Atlanta shareholders including Kitty Black, Horace Leggett and Captain Sandy Horsley. Smedley announced that he had taken possession of the fort and wanted a share of the deal with Radio City to remove the boarders and compensate him for his transmitter. Calvert arrived shortly afterwards and Smedley made the same offer to him as he had to Birch.

Reg Calvert bluntly refused and demanded that Smedley remove the boarding party immediately, threatening to take it back by force if necessary and allegedly threatening to use nerve gas. Smedley responded by claiming that the men on the fort were armed and would destroy all the equipment if anyone tried to regain control. Philip Birch accused Smedley of blackmail, told him that he was not doing any business under duress and walked out, so the meeting broke up abruptly and angrily after about 15 minutes. Philip Birch subsequently announced that Radio London would not be going ahead with the UKGM proposal as his company operated in a legal and ethical manner (even though they were technically operating an illegal radio station) and would not get involved in this sort of business.

On Tuesday 21st June, Calvert reported the boarding action to the police and asked for their help, although there was some uncertainty as to what could be done to assist. The occupying force, at some point, allowed a change of crew and also agreed to let themselves and the Radio City staff be interviewed by police but, as they were outside territorial waters and mainland jurisdiction, the police stuck to their view that there was nothing they could do to resolve the situation. They could only suggest that Calvert and Smedley sort it out themselves but Calvert was unable to get in touch with him - he was apparently trying to 'sell' the station to Radio 390!

Although the complete story will probably never be fully known, subsequent evidence and accounts given allege the following events on the evening of 21st June. Reg Calvert and radio engineer Alan Arnold drove from Calvert's home at Clifton Hall, near Rugby, to Oliver Smedley's house in Wendens Ambo, a village about fifteen miles south of Cambridge, arriving at about 11pm. Calvert had taken money with him to try and do a deal with Smedley to get him to remove his boarding party and return the transmitter crystal they had removed. On being made aware of Calvert's approach (according to Reg's daughter Susan, Smedley was already aware of the potential visit as Alan Arnold had phoned him earlier to tell him they were coming down), Smedley retreated to his bedroom to arm himself with a shotgun. He then went to the cottage next door to get them to phone the police as he suspected there might be some threatening action or violence. On his return, he saw his housekeeper/secretary, Miss Pamela Thorburn, involved in a scuffle with Calvert who was trying to gain entry and see Smedley. A struggle ensued during which Calvert picked up a marble bust, supposedly to use as a weapon. At this point, seeing things getting nasty, Arnold started to leave the house to get help, but as he got outside he heard a shot and returned to see Reg Calvert lying on the floor in the hallway.
Trial evidence stated: 'As I entered the hall, the man with the shotgun, who I now know to be Smedley, was looking at me. I uttered an exclamation of horror and said, "My God - this is murder". As I did so, Smedley made a movement which appeared to me as if he was going to point the gun at me. In fact, I saw the barrels move in my direction. I became very alarmed and turned and ran from the house, through the front door. I first ran towards the car, thinking to get help. I then stopped and collected my wits and decided instead to go to the house to the left of Smedley's house, which I imagined there would be a telephone.'

On arrival, police arrested Smedley on suspicion of murder and a subsequent defence plea for bail was denied. On 23rd June Reg Calvert's widow, Dorothy, appeared on television saying that negotiations to sell the station had been cancelled and that she hoped Radio City would be back on the air in a few days time.

Senior DJ Tom Edwards, who was going out to the fort as part of the crew change, recalled "I went out to Radio City knowing the raiders were still there. They were polite although 'rough' characters. I was a young man and could 'strut my stuff' but yes, of course I was frightened".

"Then the news came that Reg had been shot. For goodness sake, I had only been with him the day before in London and yes, he was 'wound up' ......... it's news that didn't sink in at first. There were police officers and newspaper reporters everywhere, both on and off the fort. The raiders were not happy and Big Alf, who seemed to be in charge, said to me that he didn't know anyone was going to get killed".

On Sunday 26th June, a week after their arrival, the members of the boarding party still on the fort departed for no obvious reason, arriving at Sheerness just before midnight. On the fort a spare crystal, hidden from the intruders, was located by the Radio City staff and quickly used to repair the transmitter, resulting in radio transmissions being tested by 9.30pm and Radio City being heard again at 10pm with Ian Macrae being first on and playing, appropriately, 'Strangers in the Night'.

Reg Calvert was buried on 1st July 1966 at St. Peter's, Dunchurch, with Screaming Lord Sutch and members of the Pinkerton's Assorted Colours pop group among the mourners.

Major William Oliver Smedley was officially charged with murder on July 18th and his trial opened at Chelmsford assizes on October 11th where the charge was subsequently reduced to manslaughter. Smedley claimed that he was afraid that Calvert had come to kill him and claimed innocence on grounds of an action of self-defence when Calvert picked up a 'weapon'. A day and a half later, the jury agreed that he had acted in self-defence and returned a verdict of 'not guilty' without even retiring.

It was undoubtedly this bizarre incident that hastened the end for pirate radio. The Labour government under Harold Wilson had only, up to that time, a small Parliamentary majority and plans to make offshore broadcasting a criminal offence had been repeatedly put off for about two years due to the pirates' popularity and the likely adverse effect on their public vote. Calvert's death gave them a reason to act and they quickly announced that legislation would soon be introduced, which ultimately led to the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act coming into effect on 15th August 1967.


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