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Sixties Pirate Radio
Sixties Pirate Radio
   

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During May and June more new stations were believed to be coming on line. A station called 'Radio Channel' was rumoured to be starting in May, headed by Edward Campbell, from a ship anchored off Bexhill. No ship name or wavelength was announced. Others were Radio Caesar (which made a few test transmissions), Radio 365 (which was planned to cover the north of England on VHF) and in August, Radio Freedom (a potential political propaganda station broadcasting on behalf of Smith's Rhodesian regime), the threat of the latter possibly further hastening government legislation.

None of these stations (as far as I know) ever managed to get on air with regular programmes possibly due to the increasing likelihood of the government bringing in their intended 'anti-pirate' laws and the consequential withdrawal of financial backing although another scenario is that these, and other short-lived 'stations' were the results of enthusiastic amateurs having some fun with the Wireless and Telegraphy Act. Radio Sheila, operated by Dave Reading, ceased after a major bust in about 1971. It was subsequently revived for short periods of time on various occasions.

Radio 390 had been a commercial success and, in June 1966, they announced plans to buy the 'Cheeta II', which was still lying unused off the coast of Harwich, with the intention of operating it as Radio 390 North. This was intended to have been anchored off Colwyn Bay in North Wales but, although there were trade press adverts published and a two-station rate card produced, nothing further materialised due to legal problems in establishing ownership of the vessel.

During the summer of 1966 Roy Bates investigated the possibility of using the tower at Tongue Sands, off the coast of Margate, that had been abandoned in 1947 by its caretaker crew after sections broke away during a storm and it acquired a 15-degree list following noises heard coming from the foundations. It had also been the subject of a collision with a ship that had holed one of its legs, which was why it had attracted little previous interest. Bates believed, correctly, that there was probably a lot of material left on board that could be salvaged, such as spare parts, copper wiring and lead etc., so he planned to land a crew on the fort to investigate and strip out anything that might have value. Wire stripping is most easily done by burning off the insulation, which the boarders happily set about doing. However, the smoke was probably seen from shore and reported as, before long, a helicopter arrived to investigate but returned to the mainland after ascertaining that it was a 'false alarm'.

Radio Essex sticker Sometime later, that evening, a lifeboat also arrived and, being annoyed when they were informed that it was a false alarm, insisted on knowing exactly what was happening. The leader of the boarding party, Dick Palmer, rose to the occasion and quickly replied that they were an offshore radio station. On being further queried about which one, Palmer told them that they were 'Radio Albatross'. Via the two-way radio link the boarding party had with Radio Essex, word of this got around. A while later Guy Hamilton dedicated a record to them with "Here's a record for our friends over the water and for Mr. Albert Ross". Roy Bates also got to hear about it and, on visiting the fort a few days later wanted to know what 'Radio Albatross' was all about. On hearing the story his response was something like 'OK - we'll do it then!'

Also in the summer of 1966 Radio Essex was visited by ITN news who made a short film of the operation.

Government concerns stated by Tony Benn, Postmaster General (64-66) and Minister of Technology (66-70) included:
'The principal reason for taking action against the pirate stations is that they cause intolerable interference to the operation of broadcasting services in other countries and of certain maritime radio communication services in this country and abroad' (4th Feb 1965)
'The interruption of any of the authorised channels of communication between ships and the shore constitutes a danger to shipping. This was illustrated by the incident on 23rd February last, when a lightship was prevented for about 30 minutes from passing an urgent report to the shore because both of the frequencies available were blocked, one of them by a pirate broadcasting station' (22nd March 1965) and, on a different tack:
'They are also stealing copyrights of all records they broadcast and stealing the work of those who have made the records and the legitimate business claims of those who manufacture them'. However, in response to this, Johnnie Walker claimed that 'the pirate radio stations had always offered to pay royalties but the record companies refused because they didnít officially recognise our existence'.

The British government finally published the 'Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences)' bill' on July 2nd, the provisions of which would make it unlawful to broadcast from ships or marine structures. It would also be unlawful to 'instigate, finance, provide goods or in any other way aid' such an enterprise. The maximum penalty proposed was two years' imprisonment, a fine or both. It was the beginning of the end for pirate radio in its existing form. 'Cheeta II' set sail for Las Palmas on December 3rd and eventually arrived in The Gambia later that month, there to end her useful life as a floating restaurant in Bathurst harbour.

On 21st September, in his capacity as secretary of Estuary Radio Limited, David Lye was summonsed for contravention of the 1949 Wireless Telegraphy Act when he visited Scotland Yard to investigate a claim that Radio 390 was to be seized by the authorities. This followed a visit by the police to their London office on 17th August to warn them that they were broadcasting without a licence. When a similar summons was served against Radio Essex a week later, for the same offence, station owner Roy Bates announced that he had taken over another fort at Tongue Sands and would use this as a base for a new station, to be called either 'Radio Albatross' or 'Radio Kent' (at some point he also planned an FM station for London to be called 'Radio Eros', but none of these ever materialised due to lack of funding) and vowed that he would fight the action. He promptly installed a new, more powerful transmitter and, on 6th October, changed the station's name from 'Radio Essex' to 'BBMS' (Britain's Better Music Station) which continued transmitting on 222 metres pending an appeal. At this time the station's output became more formalised, the hours from 9pm to 6am being aimed at the youth and teenage audience while daytime programming was geared to more adult easy-listening music.

Radio Caroline closed down at 8.30pm as usual on October 31st, coming back on air at 10.30pm to carry out test transmissions on 257 metres 1169kHz. These continued nightly until November 24th, the station making the decision to change to the new wavelength and frequency on December 18th. November 11th (some accounts say 4th but it was Armistice Day) saw the end of Radio England, which was replaced by the Dutch station Radio Dolfijn using much the same format and was, predictably, popularly known as 'Radio Flipper'. Its sister station, Britain Radio, struggled on for another few months.
..
David Lye and Ted Allbeury appeared before three magistrates at Longport Magistrates Court on November 24th. Radio 390 had already closed down, Ted Allbeury having sent a taped message to the station saying "Hello there, this is Ted Allbeury speaking. I cannot believe that this is the end. I am advised that it might take three or four weeks for an appeal to be heard. If we win, we would start broadcasting again immediately. However, if we lose, it would mean that we should have to cease broadcasting from the fort. I should expect to make some alternative arrangements. For now, all I can say is what I have always said - take care of yourselves and God bless". This was transmitted by DJ Steven West who then announced "We are now closing down". The national anthem was broadcast and the 390 wavelength went silent. After two days of debate and presentations on the location of the fort, Estuary Radio was found guilty and fined £100. However, an application by the G.P.O. to have their equipment confiscated was rejected and the two men were given absolute discharges.

After a five-week closedown due to court proceedings Radio 390 returned to the air on December 19th (accounts differ as to the actual date) with the record "This Could Be The Start Of Something Big" and an announcement by Ted Allbeury "It's great to be back on the air and, furthermore, we shall stay on the air this time. We have new evidence that the fort is at least a mile and a half outside territorial waters. The survey was executed in accordance with Admiralty practice and the G.P.O. will have to summons us again if they feel they have a case". This statement was based on a hydrographer's findings that Middle Sands was 'always covered with water at low tide', technically making Red Sands Fort outside UK territorial broadcasting limits, but the authorities were apparently determined to get them by fair means or foul.......
Ted Allbeury and Radio 390 at Red Sands

On 30th November 1966 Roy Bates appeared at Rochford Magistrates Court to answer charges that he had used an unlicensed transmitter for radio broadcasting at fort Knock John. The prosecution used the same argument as they had used the previous week in their successful action against Radio 390, that the Thames Estuary was, under the provisions of the Geneva Convention, a bay and that the West Barrow sandbank was above water at low tide, which brought fort Knock John inside British territorial waters.

The Post Office provided evidence that they had monitored transmissions from three locations: Herne Bay, Shoeburyness and the Isle of Sheppey on 16th August. It was also confirmed that Roy Bates had made an application for a licence to broadcast but, as with Radio 390, this had been refused.

Dorothy Calvert Despite Bates' continued insistence that the structure was outside the jurisdiction of the Court because it was located more than 3 nautical miles off the Essex coastline, the magistrates ruled in favour of the prosecution. They imposed a £100 fine but refused a request by the Post Office to confiscate his transmitting equipment, pending appeal. 

Advertising contract income had all but disappeared following the issue of the summons in September and, with insufficient money to continue operating the station or pay the staff, it only continued for a few weeks, closing down at around 4.30pm on Christmas Day 1966. The subsequent appeal was heard on 17th January 1967, but failed. Some of the transmitting equipment was dismantled and removed to Roughs Tower, which was off Felixstowe and outside territorial waters by any definition. Unaware of Bates intended relocation, Radio Caroline engineers boarded Roughs tower in January and, with the intention of converting it into an offshore supply base for the ship, started cutting sections of the superstructure away to allow helicopters to be able to land on the main platform. Roy Bates was quite irate at this and yet another series of skirmishes followed, ending with Bates regaining occupation of the tower, but no further radio station broadcasts ever became evident.     Also see Pirate Forts, Roy Bates and Sealand

On February 8th Dorothy Calvert's appeal, that Shivering Sands was situated in international waters, was also rejected by magistrates and she was fined £100. That night, at the end of normal transmissions, Radio City played 'The Party's Over' followed by the national anthem and disappeared forever into the pages of pirate radio history.

Even after her trek to the west coast, Radio Scotland had not found the cure for her problems. On March 13th she was found to be within territorial waters 'in the Firth of Clyde near Lady Isle' and Tommy Shields' company was fined £80 for operating without a licence. Following this, preparations were made to take her to yet another new position back on the east coast off St. Abb's Head in the Firth of Forth but this was to be delayed due to bad weather. Once the tow was finally started they were again beset by storms which forced them to take refuge in Loch Ewe. Throughout this period Radio Scotland was losing money through lack of airtime advertising. The directors of City and County Commercial Radio made the decision not to continue with the east coast relocation and moved 'Comet' to a position off the Irish coast near Ballywalter, Co. Down, instead.
Even there, the bad weather followed her and forced her to take temporary shelter in Belfast Lough. On April 9th at 12.31pm the station finally recommenced transmissions after four weeks of silence with its name changed to 'Radio Scotland and Ireland', alternatively known as 'Radio 242'. In the meantime, the second reading of the 'Marine Broadcasting (Offences)' bill had taken place on March 16th. This was almost simultaneous with an announcement from the Postmaster General regarding the government's plan to provide a popular music programme on national radio by the end of the year, which seemed to be merely a poor attempt at sugar-coating a very bitter pill for the listening public.
Radio Scotland Logo

Twenty eight further summonses were issued by the Post Office (which was the government department responsible for broadcasting licenses) against Estuary Radio on 13th February. The proceedings were heard by Rochford magistrates on 22nd February when Ted Allbeury, David Lye, Christopher Blackwell, John Gething, Michael Mitcham, John LaTrobe and Estuary Radio were accused of broadcasting without a licence on four days in January.

Despite being over three miles from shore, Radio 390's Red Sands base was only one and a half miles from an 'occasional' sandbank called Middle Sands. On this occasion, on behalf of the Post Office, the Navy produced a photograph of Lt. Cmdr. John Mackay standing on an exposed section of Middle Sands next to a union jack (presumably taken at an unusually low tide). As this was inside UK waters the prosecution argued that the three mile 'limit' had to be measured from it, rather than from the coastline, conveniently placing Red Sands inside the court's jurisdiction. The Estuary directors were found guilty, with each being fined £40 and the company £200. After this action, Ted Allbeury resigned from the board and David Lye, took over. This was followed by another High Court action in May, but Estuary Radio was given permission to appeal, and the case was postponed until 28th July, allowing the station to stay on air in the meantime.

Radio London Peir-Vick, the operating company behind the two stations aboard the 'Laissez Faire', had gone into liquidation on March 18th and it was taken over by the new company headed by Ted Allbeury, called 'Carstead Advertising'. The stations on board were immediately renamed, with Radio Dolfijn becoming Radio 227 and Britain Radio becoming Radio 355.

With all these grim happenings, the offshore radio pirates could have been forgiven for losing their sense of humour. However, this was certainly not the case at Radio London who made spoof transmissions on April 1st, ostensibly from a (fictitious) station called 'Radio East Anglia' which they pretended was trying to take over their frequency. The spoof station disappeared suddenly at midday when they 'regained control'.

Radio Scotland and Ireland had wanderlust again at the end of April. Their transmitter signal strength was not great enough to reach Scotland properly and so the return to the East coast was finally undertaken. 'Comet' and her towing ship 'Campaigner' reached the new anchorage at Fife Ness on May 8th by which time Radio Scotland had not only lost about £15,000 in advertising revenue but also incurred the tow and supply costs as well and was in a precarious financial position.

On May 12th at 5pm the entire 'Sergeant Pepper' Beatles album was played by Radio London, two weeks before its official release date, despite the fact that no promotional versions had been issued by EMI. The origin of the music has never been explained, although Paul McCartney's house had been burgled a fortnight earlier and among the items taken were two proof pressings of the disc!

Around the start of June it looked like Radio Scotland might at last have some competition but a planned new station for Scotland's east coast, 'King's Radio', failed due to a loss of financial backing on two separate vessels.

When the government announced the date for enactment of the 'Marine Offences Act' they were contacted by the owners of the 'Laissez-Faire' who, having purchased some land in Essex, wanted to apply for a mainland broadcasting licence, which was duly refused. Their supply ship contract with the Dutch 'Wijsmuller' company was due to expire shortly anyway and it seemed pointless renewing the deal so, on July 23rd, Radio 227 expired quite quietly, doing nothing special for the occasion, just playing pre-recorded tapes until closedown. Their other station, Radio 355, lasted until a little after midnight on 5th August when it, too, finally became silent. The 'Laissez-Faire's transmitters were subsequently stripped and sold and the empty vessel returned to the USA.

In between these two events, Radio 390's final appeal was heard on 28th July and, not surprisingly, the station lost when Lord Justice Sellers upheld a decision by Justice O'Connor ruling that the Red Sands fort was inside territorial waters and was operating illegally. That evening, at 5pm, Graham Gill read a news bulletin which was followed by a pre-recorded edition of the station's only pop programme 'On the Scene' presented by Christopher Clark. After just one record, the news of the court verdict reached the station and the show was interrupted for a pre-arranged message to be broadcast by senior announcer, Edward Cole. Then, after playing the Alan Price record 'The House That Jack Built', followed by the national anthem at 5.10pm, there was nothing but silence on 390 metres. The staff on Red Sands, in expectation of the eventual closure, had been working on a closedown programme, but the instructions they received from directors at head office were to close immediately, so it was never heard. Engineer Laurence Bean switched off the transmitter and he and the broadcasting staff departed on the tender boat. The tapes for the pre-recorded final show were somehow left behind on the fort, to be discovered some time later, and copies were circulated among fans of offshore radio.

Around the same date a decision was made to close Radio London down. Perversely, the demand for commercials increased near the end as companies took advantage of the last opportunities to get advertisements for their products on the air. As previously noted, the final 'Fab 40' on Sunday 6th August contained 18 records that had not yet even been put on general release.
Tony Windsor

Marine & Broadcasting Offences Act

At 10pm on Saturday August 5th Radio 355 followed its sister station into oblivion when operating contracts expired. All the station's disc jockeys joined Tony Windsor as he chaired the final programme to be broadcast. Following an advert for 'Silexene' paint, Tony Windsor spoke for a while then handed over to station owner Ted Allbeury who made a short speech, ending with the final words ' . . . goodnight and God bless'. A recording of 'Auld Lang Syne' followed and Radio 355 disappeared from the airwaves to the sound of the national anthem at 21 minutes after midnight. It has always struck me as being quite poignant how many of the stations, despite their various origins, were to close by playing the national anthem of the country that was so keen to destroy them.

Caroline House in London closed on August 8th following which most of the equipment was shipped across to Amsterdam where the station had been operating an office since April. At midnight on 14th August 1967 'The Marine etc Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967' came into force, which effectively banned all UK subjects from being involved with offshore broadcasting within territorial waters and rendering all the pirate radio station operators and personnel open to prosecution as soon as they came within the '3-mile limit'.
This was not to affect Radio Caroline North immediately as the Manx government initially refused to recognise or ratify the Act, possibly to try and gain some concessions for their own Radio Manx, but Radio Caroline South was now vulnerable.
Dave Williams reports on Radio Caroline North news on August 14th 1967


Radio Veronica, being off the Dutch coast, was unaffected by the British Act but had its own problems in the Seventies when the Dutch government finally got around to passing a similar law.
The Act resulted in the imminent closure of all the British offshore radio stations except the maverick Radio Caroline which by now had offices in Holland under the name of 'Radio Caroline International'. At midnight on the 14th both Radio Caroline stations observed a minute's silence then broadcast the hymn 'We Shall Overcome' before continuing transmission using their new shared identification of Radio Caroline International. The four staff members on the South ship at the time were Robbie Dale, Spangles Muldoon, Ross Brown and Johnnie Walker, who read a statement thanking the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, 'for recognising Caroline's right to exist'.


Radio Scotland closed at midnight. The last six hours or so of the broadcast was pre-recorded, co-presented by Mark West and Tony Allan, Mark West being their last disc jockey on air, signing off with a bagpipe lament. The staff 'celebrated' its closure by throwing the station's entire record library into the sea and probably regretted it as they had to wait for a further three days before a boat came to take them ashore. 'Comet' was eventually towed to the Fife port of Methil where she was stripped of her radio mast and equipment before going on to Ouwerkerk in Holland to be broken up in the Van de Marel shipyard and sold for scrap in 1969. The station's managing director, Tommy Shields, never really recovered from the strain of these last few months and was to die in a Glasgow nursing home six months later, aged 49, shortly after an emergency operation for a kidney complaint.

Radio 270 closed down officially at 23.59pm. Strangely, their final shutdown had nearly occurred 24 hours earlier than planned when transmissions were interrupted by an overheating generator caused by a shoal of giant jellyfish being sucked into the cooling system's seawater intakes. It was originally intended that the entire DJ team should be on board for the final show, but rough weather prevented the tender setting out so, at the end, the ship only had three broadcasters aboard who had to handle the last 20-odd hours of programmes between them.

The staff stranded on shore recorded farewell messages but there remained the problem of how to get them out there. Against all the rules, Deputy Programme Director Mike Hayes persuaded a friend in the R.A.F. to drop them by helicopter, together with a note that no mention of this should be made on air. In short, the package missed the boat but the DJs saw the helicopter fly past. Thinking it was just a farewell visit, they said thank you on air, which led to some difficult questioning when the pilots returned and was, apparently, even commented on in Parliament.

With their tapes in the sea, the final hours were broadcast by the station's programme director Vince 'Rusty' Allen who played every single one of their jingles and theme tunes. Various other recordings and telegrams from the station's management were heard before the final record, Vera Lynn's 'Land Of Hope And Glory'.

Rusty Allen then signed off emotionally, with the words 'God bless and God speed. Goodnight and goodbye - Radio 270 is now closing down' and finally closed the station to the sound of the national anthem. The 'Oceaan VII' sailed into Whitby to a hero's welcome the following day and, despite nearly becoming the next incarnation of Radio Caroline in 1968, the twin-studio ship was eventually broken up for scrap. Its transmitting equipment was removed and put into storage, subsequently being transferred to the vessel m.v.'King David' that was to be the home of a pirate station called 'Capital Radio' which broadcast from off the Dutch coast in the early Seventies.     Final 10 minutes of 270
Oceaan 7 Radio 270

Radio London hung on until the next day. Professional to the last, the final hour had been pre-recorded to avoid the possibility of emotions taking over, closing with 'A Day In The Life' by The Beatles followed by the voice of disc jockey Paul Kaye saying simply 'Big L time is 3 o'clock and Radio London is now closing down'. The 'Big L' jingle was played, after which staff member Russell Tollerfield switched the transmitter off for the last time.   Radio London Closure

Johnnie Walker At, or slightly after, 3pm Robbie Dale of Radio Caroline gave a eulogy for Radio London and observed a minute's silence. The 'Galaxy' was towed to an anchorage on the German North Sea Canal where it was eventually sold to the German advertising agency Gloria International.

On August 21st the destruction of the offshore forts was begun by the M.O.D. to prevent any further use by private individuals. Sunk Head was the first to go when over 2,000lbs of explosives were detonated at 4.15pm, watched by Roy Bates from Roughs tower, six miles away.

The Marine Broadcasting (Offences) Act was reluctantly ratified by the Manx Parliament on August 31st at 8.30pm, to become effective at midnight. Although now subject to prosecution, Radio Caroline North stayed on the air and at midnight disc jockey Don Allan's voice was broadcast saying:
"This is the northern voice of Radio Caroline International on 259 metres, the continuing voice of free radio for the British Isles".

With the threat of prosecution now a reality, the personnel on the South ship had already changed dramatically, the only remaining disc jockeys being Johnnie Walker, Ross Brown, Spangles Muldoon and Robbie Dale. They were later joined by more disc jockeys of other nationalities, but during August and September the ship operated with a skeleton staff.
The destruction and remains of Sunk Head fort


A land-based 'pirate' station created by Steve Taylor and Tony Mendoza, initially operating out of Taylor's home in Benfleet and subsequently various locations around Essex was first heard during August and September 1967. The station was Radio Kaleidoscope, also known as 'Jolly Orange' and 'DD'. Its aim was to compensate the local listening public for the loss of the larger pirate stations using a mixture of live and pre-recorded broadcasts, and also ran 'phone-ins' conducted from telephone boxes in the local area. Their signature tune was Tangerine Dream's 'Kaleidoscope'. Although attracting raids and warnings from the GPO's Radio Tracking Service the station persisted and grew both nationally and internationally, joining other stations to form the Pirates protest League to effectively 'jam' Radio 1 at 11.30 a.m. on 18th April 1970. Radio Kaleidoscope was the first, and only land-based pirate station to be 'jammed' by the government. With an eventful and interesting history, the station continued to flourish despite attempted government interference and it celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017.

Don Allen The Radio Caroline North ship was now supplied from Dublin in Eire and the South ship received its supplies from Ijmuiden in Holland. On 26th September the station reduced its broadcasting hours, closing down between 2am and 5am due to the overworked disc jockeys being unable to cope with a 24 hour schedule.

Four days later BBC Radio 1 was heard for the first time. On the day it went live the Radio Caroline South ship encountered technical problems which made it impossible for them to use live transmission, only being able to play pre-recorded tapes.

In December 1967 Radio Syd was granted a broadcast licence in The Gambia, transmitting from a land-based facility on 329 metres 910kHz. The 'Cheeta II' was sold in 1971 but partly sank in a storm during August of that year. Both Radio Caroline International ships continued as normal until Saturday March 2nd 1968 when the Dutch tug 'Utrecht' anchored about a mile away from the Caroline North ship and refused to acknowledge any attempt at communication.

Don Allan's show, after playing 'God Be With You Till We Meet Again' by Jim Reeves, finished at 10pm as usual and the ship settled down for the night. At about 2am on March 3rd crewmen from the Dutch tug boarded the ship, disabled the transmitter and held all the crew and staff in captivity.

Similar events were also occurring on the Caroline South ship where they had already started the day's programmes when crew from the tug 'Titan' boarded her just after 5am. Equipment was ripped out and the station went off the air, without any warning, in the middle of a record. As with Caroline North, the transmitting crystal was removed and the crew of 'Mi Amigo' were imprisoned.

The ships had been seized by the Offshore Supply Company in lieu of £30,000 unpaid debts for their services and were towed to Amsterdam where the crews and staff were released and sent home to England. Despite the earlier threats from the British government, none of them were prosecuted on their return. Shortly afterwards the vessels were moved to a mooring in the Verschure shipyards. That was, effectively, the end of Radio Caroline International as a pirate station in the Sixties, but Ronan O'Rahilly didn't give up quite that easily. However, it would take four years for the station to return to the airwaves. In the intervening years, Caroline would be heard only twice - a one hour 'commemorative' show on the foreign station Radio Andorra on March 2nd, 1969, from midnight until ten minutes past one, and in 1970 when the 'Mebo II' RNI station transmitter was used in the 'revenge' campaign to back the Conservatives during the British elections because of its history and familiarity to the British public.

Almost exactly one year after the Broadcasting Offences Act came into effect a station called 'Radio London Three' transmitted for about an hour on 204 metres as a protest against the Act. Over the next few days the station changed its name to 'Radio Free London' and was heard intermittently. The signals were finally traced to a flat from which ex- Radio Caroline disc jockey Spangles Muldoon (alias Chris Carey, who was later to become the head of Radio Nova) was broadcasting. Others involved in the operation were Dick Fox-Davies, DJ Brian James and an un-named G.P.O. engineer. The radio transmitter was dismantled and confiscated but the ex-pirate had the last laugh. The equipment that was taken was a false set-up and the actual working transmitter was left intact!
Spangles Muldoon

In October of 1968 Radio Veronica started carrying out tests on 538 metres in an attempt to avoid interference from the Swiss. Gloria International, the company who had bought the Radio London ship 'Galaxy', announced plans to open a new German station, to be called 'Radio Gloria', on November 1st, broadcasting on 266 metres. The deadline passed but nothing was heard on the air, presumably because, by then, the German government had un-sportingly introduced their own Marine Broadcasting Offences Act.

RNSI Mebo 2 This prompted the company's directors Emile Luthle and Norbert Gschwendt to finally withdraw financial backing for the project the following January. During 1969 an abortive attempt was made by the owners of a prospective new pirate radio station to re-float the 'Galaxy'. They finally got onto the air in January 1970 as 'Radio North Sea International', but not aboard the 'Galaxy'. In 1968 Erwin Meister and Edwin Bollier were among the group who had intended to broadcast as Radio Gloria, and decided to buy their own vessel, the 'Bjarkoy', and set up a radio station.

They renamed their ship 'Mebo', then 'Mebo I' and, after transmissions ended, 'Angela'. Before fitting was completed, the 'Mebo I' was found to be too small for broadcasting but too big to use as a tender, even though this continued to be her role. The first test transmissions were made on January 23rd from a curiously psychedelic multi-coloured ship called the 'Mebo II' which was named after the owners, Messrs Meister and Boller. Their disc jockeys were to include Andy Archer, Stevie Merike, Dave Rogers, Ian Anderson and the much-travelled Alan West.

A land-based pirate station appeared in 1969, initially broadcasting on 194 metres from somewhere in south-west London. Identifying itself as Radio Jackie it was run by 17-year old Mike Knight who occasionally had to stop during broadcasts to avoid government detection teams. It made its first broadcast on 19th March with the call-sign CRJ (Clandestine Radio Jackie) and was named after Caroline Kennedy's mother, Jackie. For a short time later that month it became part of the 'Radio Helen Broadcasting Network' (a number of stations broadcasting from private houses and flats 30 minutes each at a time to avoid detection) with a weekly 30 minute slot, but this was quickly disbanded and Radio Jackie continued on its own, moving to 255 then 227metres, surviving well into the Eighties.

Also during 1968 and 1969 Radio Free London and Radio Free Helen were busy providing the sounds lost when offshore pirate radio was closed down. Radio Free London became two stations, North and South, with both sharing 255 metres, taking it in turns to broadcast. The Radio Helen Broadcasting Network had a number of stations sharing the wavelength of 197 metres, consisting of Radio Helen 1, 2 and 3 (later North and South), Radio Revenge, Radio Freedom, Radio Telstar, Radio Spectrum and Radio Apollo all taking turns from different locations but using the same frequency before breaking up when some stations dropped out of the scheme.

Capital Radio was formed by the International Broadcasters Society on August 23rd 1969 who then proceeded to buy and refit the 360 ton coaster 'Zeevaart', renaming it 'King David'. The ship had a unique lateral circular aerial (which caused them a lot of problems) and was equipped with the transmitter salvaged from Radio 270.

Capital Radio made its first test broadcasts, using the same 270 metre wavelength, on May 1st 1970.

It was not until 1973 that licensed commercial radio stations eventually appeared in Britain.

The last of the legendary Sixties offshore pirates still operating in its original form, Radio Veronica, finally succumbed to the 'Dutch Marine Broadcasting Act' on August 31st 1974. The last half-hour of disc jockey Rob Out's show featured a clock ticking loudly in the background. There was a news bulletin at 5.30pm followed by the owner, Bul Verweij, until 6pm when Rob Out took the chair to sign off with the epitaph "This is the end of Veronica. It's a pity for you, for Veronica, and especially for democracy in Holland".

These final few words were followed by the Dutch national anthem and a station jingle, which only got halfway through before the signal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Rob Out      Radio Veronica


And then? Might as well tell you a bit more about the eventful life of 'Mi Amigo' ................

On 29th May 1972, Mi Amigo was eventually sold at auction to the Hofman Shipping Company, who bought her on behalf of Rob Vermaat and Gerard van Dam. Although it was thought that Mi Amigo was to be scrapped, the Dutch Free Radio Organisation announced that she was to be used as a 'Free Radio museum'. After restoration work she left Amsterdam on 2nd September, anchoring off Scheveningen (The Hague, Netherlands, directly east of Ipswich) the next day. Test transmissions were made during October and November consisting of music only, without any station identification being given. Spangles' Muldoon (Chris Carey) eventually spoke live on air on 9th November. In a major storm on 13th November Mi Amigo lost her anchor and radio mast. Repairs were made and she resumed 'test' broadcasting on 1st December, identifying herself as 'Radio 199' on December 17th.

Mi Amigo on Longsand, March 1980
From 22nd December, the name 'Radio Caroline' was resurrected. On 30th December, Mi Amigo was towed north to Amsterdam and permission to enter port was eventually granted despite queries over port fees and paperwork. She was quickly declared unseaworthy and eventually towed to Ijmuiden for repair work, which was completed on 1st January 1973. After outstanding debts were paid, she set sail the following day. Late on 18th January 1973 a fire in the engine room forced a 'mayday' to be broadcast, but it was quickly extinguished.

After the Radio Veronica ship 'Norderney' ran aground off Scheveningen during a storm on 2nd April, Mi Amigo was used to broadcast for both stations, using two new purpose-built studios. In the period from July to October 1973 'Radio Atlantis' also bought airtime from Caroline to broadcast pre-recorded programmes during the daytime. On 1st October the recently-fitted new aerial mast collapsed. Temporary repairs were made and the ship resumed transmissions on 4th October, but these were only to last until the 18th when the mast failed again.

It took until 24th December to install a new 165ft high mast and, on 28th December, 'Radio Mi Amigo' started broadcasting in place of 'Radio Atlantis' (who now had their own radio ship), with the 'official' opening being announced on 1st January 1974. This was followed by 'Radio Seagull' on 7th January, changing its name to 'Radio Caroline' on 23rd February. On the 29th, Mi Amigo was towed across the North Sea by the m.v. Dolfijn, anchoring in a position near the Kentish Knock Lightship, about 18 nautical miles south-east of Felixstowe, the following day. This move was to avoid possible action under the Dutch Marine Offences Act, due to come into force on September 1st 1974.

All was then fairly peaceful until about 4:30 on 8th November 1975 when Mi Amigo's anchor chain broke. The ship drifted, eventually running aground on Longsand Head Sands. She was quickly refloated but her engine failed and she continued to drift, entering UK territorial waters just after 10pm. By the following day she had managed to anchor near the South Edinburgh Number 2 buoy but her position was declared to be a danger to shipping. On 13th November, Mi Amigo was towed to a new location at the South Edinburgh Number 3 buoy, where she recommenced broadcasting, but was boarded by police and Home Office officials the following day, ordering broadcasts to cease as she was still within UK jurisdiction.
Record Mirror 22nd November 1975

On 17th November the North Foreland coastguard were advised that the ship (not unusually!) had lost her main anchor. The Margate Lifeboat was launched and took off two crew members, leaving Mi Amigo's captain who refused to abandon the ship when told that no tug was available to assist her. Mi Amigo was repositioned some 17 nautical miles off Margate by 23rd November.
On 10th September 1976 one of the studios was flooded and put out of action when a wave broke a porthole during a Force 9 storm and, at about 20:30, her anchor chain broke again. At 02:30 on 11th September Mi Amigo ran aground on a sandbank. Holed in two places and 6ft deep in water, broadcasting ceased and the Dutch crew members were taken off the ship. On landing at Ostende, they somehow located an anchor and chain aboard an impounded oil tanker and appropriated it for use on Mi Amigo. The ship was towed off the sandbank on 16th September.

On 18th January 1979 the Mi Amigo sprang a major leak, issuing a 'mayday' on the following day which was received by the Thames Coastguard. Three vessels ('May Crest', 'Sand Serin' and 'Cambrai') were sent to assist. The ship had to be abandoned but was later re-boarded and salvaged. On 19th March 1980, Mi Amigo's anchor chain broke again in a Force 10 storm. After drifting for 10 nautical miles she eventually ran aground on the Long Sand Bank. At 23:58 a final broadcast was made by DJs Stevie Gordon and Tom Anderson, following which the Sheerness Lifeboat took off the 4 crew and a canary!. Mi Amigo sank on 20th March, leaving only her 127ft mast above water. On 22nd May plans to refloat the ship and turn her into a museum ship at Ramsgate were announced by Thanet District Council but the ship remained as a sunken wreck. Her mast eventually collapsed at the end of July 1986 and, on 13th September, it was decided that the position of the wreck, lying in 8ft to 16ft of water, was to be marked by a buoy.

All At Sea (part 1) - The story of offshore pirate radio in the 1960's presented by Ray Clark. Broadcast on 'Pirate' BBC Essex Easter 2004
All At Sea (part 2) - The continuing story of offshore pirate radio presented by Ray Clark. Broadcast on 'Pirate' BBC Essex in August 2007
When Pirates Ruled The Waves - The story of offshore radio, written and presented by Paul Rowley for BBC Radio Shropshire


     


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