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Pirate Radio
Pirate Radio


May 1964 was a busy time for the airwaves. Reg Calvert was a working class promoter and entrepreneur, part of the late Fifties and early Sixties music scene. He had set up 'The School of Rock'n'Roll' in a derelict mansion near Rugby, to create new stars, and managed a stable of solo singers and successful groups including The Fortunes, The Rocking Berries and Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages. He had also been responsible for the 'political career' of David Sutch by suggesting he stand for Parliament after the Profumo affair in 1963 and it was he who, in June 1965, again suggested Sutch stand for election at Huyton, in Prime Minister Harold Wilson's constituency. However, in May 1964, Calvert and Sutch planned a new 'publicity project' and, as neither of them could afford to buy a suitable ship from which to run a radio station, they hired a 60ft fishing trawler called 'Cornucopia' and sailed through London on 25th May, having a rock'n'roll party with The Savages and friends, loudly announcing to anyone listening that they were 'Radio Sutch'.

They originally planned to anchor and broadcast about four miles off Shoeburyness, in the Thames Estuary, until they discovered the deserted Shivering Sands army fort, which they promptly took over. The Whitstable-based vessel 'Harvester II' skippered by Fred Downs (who died by drowning off Whitstable Harbour in 1974), became the station's tender and was used to transfer the transmitting equipment, along with a top-hatted, purple-cloaked 'Lord' Sutch, to the tower where, after setting up a makeshift aerial, Radio Sutch put out its first weak signals on 194 metres on the morning of Wednesday May 27th. The first DJs were Calvert, Sutch and Brian Paul, one of 'The Savages', who was also responsible for keeping the transmitter going. This was not easy as there was no generator at that time, so the station went off air every few hours for an 'intermission' while they recharged the batteries.
Radio Sutch

Project Atlanta Reg Calvert, at the time, operated his business out of 'The Record Centre', 20a Oxford Street, Whitstable. This was owned by Eric K. Martin, a successful businessman from a wealthy family of brewers and pub owners that sold out to Shepherd-Neame, Faversham. He became the Radio Sutch 'station manager' by default, having responded to an on-air plea for supplies from the Shivering Sands fort by David Sutch and, as 'Ricky Martin', recorded fill-in programmes sent out by tender during 1965.

During a storm on 17th September 1964 Radio Syd's 'Cheeta I' went adrift and ran aground near Malmö, holed below the waterline. On 19th September the ship was refloated and taken to Malmo for repairs, but sunk there, at Quay 11, under suspicious circumstances during the evening of 7th October 1964. It was suspected that this was done for insurance purposes as all the valuable generation and transmitting equipment had, strangely, already been removed, but nothing was ever proved.

By September 1964 David Sutch was getting bored with his radio station and, having been offered a concert tour in Australia and New Zealand, sold his interest to Reg Calvert for a reported £5,000. Calvert bought new equipment and expanded the station into more of its five available towers. One of the original seven towers had been destroyed previously when a ship collided with it, leaving the northern-most tower isolated and the other five connected by catwalks in an irregular star shape. Calvert's team repaired the catwalks and refurbished the facilities and living quarters. New studios were built, a more powerful transmitter installed and they experimented with new antenna configurations and frequencies (1034kHz and eventually 1003 kHz), broadcasting under the new name of 'Radio City'. Initially antenna wires were strung between the towers but this proved to be unsuccessful due to poor insulation. A vertical aerial mast was later erected on the central tower, supported by guy wires from three of the surrounding towers, and the station adopted the nickname 'Tower of Power'.

Pop music had started reaching the mainland from a number of unlikely sources and the most ambitious of these was probably a project started in May by shipbuilder Cornelius Verolme, which involved the creation of a brand new artificial island off the coast of Holland. Verolme partnered with Will Hordijk and Pieter Heerema, a Scheveningen shipping magnate, to make this dream a reality. Banking organisation Texeira de Mattos financed the venture. The plan was for the company REM, 'Reklame Exploitatie Maatschoppij' (Advertising Exploitation Company) to construct the 'island' at Verolme's shipyard in Cork and tow it from there to a position about six miles off Noordvijk where it was to be sunk into the sea bed on legs, rather like an oil rig.

The structure boasted a 60 metre antenna, a roof that doubled as a helipad and sufficient accommodation to house 25 staff. It was towed into position across the North Sea by Heerema's 'Global Explorer', which had a lift capacity of 300 tons (and was the first vessel in the world to be converted into a floating crane), arriving on 3rd May 1964, closely observed by two Dutch naval vessels who looked on from half a mile away as the seabed support holes were bored 10km off the Dutch coast. This huge undertaking acquired the name 'REM Island' and was to become the home of Radio Nordzee. However, the positioning of the structure proved to be a misjudgement when the Dutch government gained support from neighbouring countries to allow it to extend its territorial waters to 11.5 kilometres, bringing the station within their legal jurisdiction.

On June 3rd Radio Invicta made some test transmissions, on a variety of wavelengths, from the Red Sands fort in the Thames Estuary, five miles off Whitstable. They had settled on 390 metres 985kHz by the time they commenced regular broadcasting on July 17th. The station was owned and managed by Tom and Francis Pepper, Charles Evans (who was later ousted from the group) and John Thompson, late of the unsuccessful Voice Of Slough etc.
REM Island

Red Sands Fort The station was serviced out of Whitstable by the 'Mallard', a fishing vessel owned by Vic Davis, which continued to service the fort throughout its various incarnations. As a point of interest, the Red Sands fort was seen on television at least a couple of times in the Sixties, being used as a filming location for 'Not So Jolly Roger', the last episode of 'Danger Man', starring Patrick McGoohan as British Intelligence agent John Drake. Televised on 7th April 1966, it featured Drake's investigation of a murder on board an offshore pirate radio station called 'Jolly Roger'. It also featured in the Dr. Who 'Fury From the Deep' episodes 5 and 6, shown in April 1968. Another interesting fact is that all early mail to Radio Invicta received replies from a department within Polydor records (whose products were also, later, heavily plugged by King Radio), which suggested that at least some of the major record companies were taking a much bigger interest and involvement in the pirate stations than they were prepared to publicly admit to at the time.

Manx Radio made its first tentative test broadcasts from a caravan studio on June 5th and a rag week stunt by some students from Leeds University led to an abortive attempt to start an unnamed pirate station from the yacht 'Carmen', off the coast of Harwich, on June 21st.

The operating costs of Radio Atlanta and Radio Caroline were not cheap as they both had to be supplied by service boats out of Brightlingsea or Harwich which, after being checked by UK Customs, ferried all their necessary provisions out to them including fuel, water, food, new record releases or recordings and, of course, regular staff changes and replacements. Some way had to be found to reduce costs and it made financial sense for the two stations to amalgamate. Talks between Allan Crawford and Ronan O'Rahilly, which had been more or less ongoing since before either station had gone on air and were hastened by pressure on the government from the music industry to outlaw them, resulted in the merger of Radio Atlanta and Radio Caroline being announced on July 2nd 1964. Radio Atlanta officially ceased to exist at 8pm on that day when the 'Mi Amigo' started transmitting as 'Radio Caroline South' from its existing location off Frinton-on-Sea.
The 'Caroline' was moved from her position off Felixstowe to an anchorage off Ramsey, Isle of Man, to cover north-west England, northern and southern Ireland as Radio Caroline North with the station actually continuing to broadcast, as Radio Caroline North, whilst en route, courtesy of the only two DJs on board during the trip, Tom Lodge and Jerry Leighton.

A minor curiosity occurred on July 5th when a station identifying itself as 'Radio Free Yorkshire' broadcast fleetingly in the Bridlington area. It was apparently the idea of, and operated by, would-be councillors to show 'the dangers of pirate radio' and possibly holds the distinction of being the shortest-lived transmitting pirate radio station, although there were quite a few other serious contenders for this less than prestigious title. One of these was Radio Red Rose which began broadcasting for a few hours on July 12th from the steamship 'Red Rose', anchored about 20 miles off Liverpool, and was financed by a consortium of Liverpool club owners. The exact duration and fate of this station are unknown but some accounts state that it only lasted the one day.

The following day, July 13th, Radio Caroline North commenced broadcasting regular programmes on 197m between 6am and 9pm from its new permanent location off the Isle of Man. Shows included Tom Lodge's 'Rave Party', Jim Murphy's 'Midnite Surf Party' and Don Allen's 'Country & Western Jamboree'. With this new 'dual attack', Radio Caroline was able to broadcast to most of Britain, with some programmes being pre-recorded on land and broadcast simultaneously from both ships. During this period the Radio Caroline company moved out of the offices that they shared with 'Queen' magazine into 'Caroline House', a seven-floor building in Chesterfield Gardens, Mayfair, where they had their own recording studio built. Spare floor space was rented out to The Moody Blues, Terence Stamp and the Rik Gunnell promotion agency. The company operated under the name of Project Atlanta for a few months before reportedly severing all remaining links with Atlanta and becoming Planet Productions Limited.

Radio Noordzee began test transmissions in Dutch on July 19th, initially using 280 metres at 1071kHz, changing to 214 metres at 1400kHz before they began regular transmissions between 9am and 6.15pm on July 29th. They followed this up with test television transmissions in August leading to a regular television service, TV Noordzee, which started on September 1st, triggering more serious debates in the Dutch Parliament.

On 28th September a survey announced that Radio Caroline had more listeners than BBC Radio. It was around this time that Radio Veronica moved away from using pre-recorded material and started broadcasting live from their ship, introducing a new top 40 programme format. Also during September, some other short-lived pirate transmissions were heard from Radio Lambay, off the Irish coast, and Radio Shannon which transmitted from the coaster d.s.'Viking'.
Radio Noordzee REM

Peggy Knight and Radio City On 30th September 1964 Reg Calvert used the ex-Radio Sutch facility to start broadcasting under the new name of 'Radio City'. The station could be heard from 6am to midnight on 238 metres at 1261kHz and, apart from the record promotions (they ran a 'new releases' program at 1pm each day) its output continued to be fairly footloose and fancy-free. Radio City laid claim to having the first female pirate disc jockeys in Peggy Knight (Linda Bass) and, possibly even before her, Reg Calvert's daughter, Candy, who hosted a show called 'Candy's Pop Shop' during the school holidays! They certainly had the first programme dedicated specifically to the music of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, 'The 5 x 4 Show', and also put out a weekly comedy show called 'The Auntie Mabel Hour' in which Ian MacRae and Alan Clarke satirised contemporary issues, not unlike the station's original owner. Broadcasting content was fairly eclectic, with Reg also taking his turn at broadcasting and, apparently, spending one evening reading out 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' to his south-east audience!

At that time their advertising income was still low compared to other stations so Reg Calvert supplemented this by taking on paid American religious programmes. This was a highly lucrative decision and, by early 1965, Radio City was claiming a monthly income of around £20,000 with running costs of around £2,500. In mid-December their music broadcasts were switched to 290m (but were still announced as 299m) when a more powerful ex-navy transmitter, nicknamed 'Big Bertha', was acquired. The old transmitter (originally from a Handley Page bomber) continued to be used for the sponsored religious programmes, broadcasting on 188m so as not to interfere with the more popular music output. Although output never exceeded 2kW, the efficiency of the antenna combined with its location over water (a reflector of radio waves) gave it the coverage of a more powerful land-based station, and Radio City notoriously claimed a power of 10kW for the purpose of attracting potential advertisers.

'Coded' messages to onshore facilities and suppliers were not unusual. Radio City occasionally broadcast 'You've Got Your Troubles' by The Fortunes as a signal to land-based associates of a problem, such as a supply shortage.
Just before taking on the paid religious programmes, Reg Calvert voiced what was probably the strangest idea during the 'pirate radio' era, suggesting that he was considering using a submarine as a radio base! In his words "A submarine is not so crazy as it might sound. It is the only craft capable of remaining in the Thames Estuary which can be tremendously rough. Most of the time the sub would remain on the surface, but in rough weather we could easily dive a few fathoms and continue transmission - its 200ft radio mast would still be above the water. It will be financed from the proceeds of Radio City. The submarine will only cost about £4,000 to fit out. If we cannot buy a submarine in this country we will go abroad to find one. There is nothing to stop us buying one from, say, Belgium. Once the thing is out of the country no-one can do much about it".

November 19th 1964 saw the arrival of Radio London which had set sail from Miami on October 22nd. The ship, converted for broadcasting, had been built in 1944 and was the 780-ton, 185ft former US minesweeper 'Manoula' (also known as 'Density') which had been renamed 'Galaxy'. After anchoring in the Thames Estuary she immediately started test transmissions on 412 metres and 324 metres with a 50kW transmitter, which was potentially about ten times more powerful than Radio Caroline. The ship's captain very quickly received a friendly warning from Ronan O'Rahilly that he had mistakenly situated the vessel inside territorial waters which resulted in them making a slight positional change to their anchorage about three miles off the coast of Frinton-on-Sea, within sight of the 'Mi Amigo'. Following further test transmissions made on December 5th using 265 metres, 277 metres and finally settling on 266 metres, regular programmes began on December 23rd but initially utilised only 17kW of her awesome transmitter power. The first programme was presented by Paul Kaye. In the meantime, Manx Radio, the first legal land-based commercial station, finally went on air officially on November 24th.
Voice of Prophecy

Radio London Radio London, also popularly known as 'Big L', was backed by a consortium of 17 main shareholders, mostly Texan oil people, under the name of Marine Investments Inc. and was headed by Don Peirson who owned the Abilene National Bank and several Dodge and Oldsmobile automobile agencies. Other shareholders included Tom Danaher, who owned Volkswagen automobile agencies and the airport at Wichita Falls, Mal McIlwain, owner of McIlwain Cadillac Company and Ford automobile agencies and Jack McGlothlin who was a Texas oil mogul.

Many of the major shareholders sub-divided their holdings amongst smaller investors, allegedly including the US President's wife 'Ladybird' Johnson. This rumour had its grounds in the fact that the station's managing director, Philip Birch, had been a guest at the Johnson ranch and claimed to have gained presidential approval for the venture during his stay. Aware of the success of his local Dallas radio station KLIF, and further impressed by that of Radio Caroline, Don Peirson planned to bring an American presentation style to British offshore radio.

Peirson's original idea was to broadcast pre-recorded KLIF tapes under the name of 'Radio KLIF London' with the necessary changes to the jingles, but the plan was moderated when it occurred to them that the 'conservative' British listening public might not be attracted by the upbeat American-style presentation. Sales manager and disc jockey Ben Toney, who had previously been a director of Fort Worth stations KCUL and KJIM, was brought in as programme director from the American station WTAW to produce a format for the new station in association with ex-Radio Nord man Gordon McLendon.

One of their innovations led to Radio London being the first 'British' pirate radio station to carry news bulletins, which were broadcast on the half hour along with a weather forecast. Attempts at affiliation with all the major news services, and even the 'Sun' newspaper, had been unsuccessful due to the potential legal complications of dealing with pirate radio so, ultimately, they merely 'stole' BBC news broadcasts.

The format was a mix of top 40 records with an occasional 'golden oldie', overseas hit, new release or LP track thrown in and was known as the 'Fab 40'. Each show was about 3 hours long, containing about 6 minutes of advertising per hour. 'Pirate' radio 'charts' were not, in fact, representative of actual record sales but more of a prediction of what they thought would shortly become popular and were, to some extent, also a 'plug' for certain records on new release and, because of that, were always in advance of actual charts and sometimes wildly inaccurate, containing recordings that never actually featured in the official sales charts. Radio London's 'Fab 40' was, at times, up to six weeks in advance of actual charts and, during their final week in August 1967, contained many records that were not even due for general release until September!
The biggest advertiser in the station's early days was Reckitts and their line of products which included 'Beecham's Powders', 'Germolene' and 'Setlers', the latter probably being a popular product on board the ship during heavy weather. Radio London playlists were organised by the station management and were usually tightly adhered to, at least during the day, with presenters not being allowed to make their own selections at all.
Philip Birch

John Peel

Radio Caroline's answer to the 'Fab 40' was their 'Sound Sixty Five', but the cramming of so many discs into a three-hour show meant playing only abbreviated sections from each, which effectively meant that the station was really only mimicking what Radio Luxembourg had been doing at the turn of the decade. The disc jockeys recruited for Radio London were mainly fairly highly experienced with the exception of a 19 year-old Liverpool lad named Maurice James Christopher Cole, who was to become better known as Kenny Everett. He and another disc jockey, Dave Cash, came together in April 1965 to produce a popular, zany show which, despite only lasting for a few months, achieved a 'cult' status in the history of pirate radio. They later recreated this partnership, known as 'Kenny & Cash', for the land-based commercial station Capital Radio.

Another programme which also attained 'cult' status was John Peel's anarchic late night 'Perfumed Garden' show which ran for a few months early in 1967, broadcast between midnight and 2am. Instead of sticking to the playlist it contained a lot of blues music and introduced the British listeners to 'underground' sounds and L.P. tracks from groups like Country Joe and the Fish, Frank Zappa and Velvet Underground, which John had been presenting a short time earlier for a Californian station and was something of a precursor to the 'hippie' movement of the late Sixties.

The station management apparently had a lot less interest in the late night output, which allowed John to create a format which he later used to similar good effect in a show called 'Night Ride' on BBC Radio 1.

Radio London was very professional and soon established itself as the main competitor to Radio Caroline, surprisingly being much more in tune with the 'Ready Steady Go!' Mod scene with its high quality presentation and catchy PAMS jingles. PAMS was a Dallas professional jingle production company set up by Gordon McLendon in the Forties and its products had been used by the KLIF station since 1954.

Kenny Everett

National Archives: View an extract from a report on the survey conducted on the radio audience for Radio Caroline in the autumn of 1964.

On December 12th 1964 the Dutch government finally made their move and passed a law which made it illegal to broadcast from structures on the offshore sea bed. This resulted in the closure of Radio Noordzee and TV Noordzee during the period 16th / 17th December when Dutch marine police boarded REM Island, closing the station down and confiscating the equipment 'for refusal to comply with the law'. The structure still remained until 2005, used as a meteorological station, but under constant threat of being dismantled.

Radio Invicta

Click for news articleTom PepperSimon Ashley

That month, the 'News of The World' Sunday newspaper was persuaded to run a trial advertisement on Radio Invicta by Tom Pepper (Harry Featherbee). The station's senior disc jockey, DJ Ed Moreno, was to do the voice-over so, on 16th December, he and Tom Pepper embarked from Faversham on Pepper's launch, the 36ft 'David', to do the adverts out at the Red Sands fort, also taking along some much-needed food supplies. After unloading Moreno and the cargo, Pepper headed back towards shore along with two of the station staff, disc jockey Simon Ashley (Barry Hoy) and 18 year-old engineer Martin Shaw, who were due to take their Christmas break, but the vessel was hit by a sudden squall and began to ship water.

The two passengers were lost overboard and, when the overworked pump eventually failed, Pepper tied himself to a life-raft and abandoned the vessel, hoping to make it to shore. His body was subsequently washed up near Reeves Beach, Whitstable, but his two passengers remained unaccounted for although it was later reported that an unidentifiable body had been washed ashore in Spain with some Radio Invicta tapes in its clothing. Suspected 'foul play' was never proven and the coroner recorded an 'open' verdict on Tom Pepper's death at the inquest. The station closed forever on December 18th.

Ed Moreno's tribute to Tom Pepper, broadcast while the search for Ashley and Shaw's bodies was still continuing.

The start of 1965 saw some 'big guns' lining up against the pop pirates when, on January 22nd, the governments of Belgium, France, Greece, Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark and Britain signed a Council of Europe Agreement that not only banned broadcasts 'on board ships, aircraft or any other floating or airborne objects' but also banned anyone from those countries from supplying the pirates with materials, supplies or equipment. The stations were forced to obtain new sources of supply from either Holland or Spain, neither of whom had been party to the agreement.

Due to the distances involved this proved to be an expensive exercise and it wasn't long before Radio London, Radio Caroline and later Radio England were all using the same Dutch supply company and vessels, presumably to cut costs. Three tenders were operated out of Holland by a salvage company owned by the Wijsmuller brothers. The vessels 'Offshore I' and 'Offshore 2' supplied the ships on the east coast while the larger 'Offshore III' was capable of making the run to supply Radio Caroline North on the west coast. Radio Caroline North was also in the happier position of being able to obtain supplies from Dublin or even the nearby Isle of Man as the Manx government were reluctant to ratify legislation against the ship due to the trade and tourism she brought to the island.

February found Reg Calvert planning another new radio station and started to consider using the empty fort at Knock John, but that particular site was also keenly sought by Roy Bates, which was to lead to a series of confrontations later that year
(also see David St.John's 'The Reg Calvert Story' - great info and some fab, unique pictures).
By March 1965 Calvert was also investigating the possibility of acquiring an ex-navy supply boat to start a second radio station and even announced plans for a 'Radio City West' (and a possible TV station - 'City TV' or 'Venture TV', covering south-west England, the south Midlands and south Wales) to be broadcast from a vessel near Lundy Island, just outside the Bristol Channel. This failed to materialise and concentration was then focussed on improving the range of Radio City. In June 1965, after a failed do-it-yourself attempt, professional riggers were employed to erect a new 240ft aerial mast and broadcasting hours were increased to 13 hours a day. During this period one of the Radio City DJs, Tony Carroll, suffered acute appendicitis and had to be airlifted from the station by helicopter.
Radio Caroline North

Knock John

Following the tragic deaths at Red Sands a group of Kent businessmen including Charles Evans (one of the original owners of Radio Invicta), David Lye and John Thompson found new backers and took over the station. At a cost of about £7,000, new equipment was installed to improve its output and on March 2nd it started test transmissions around 237 metres as King Radio. King Radio had, apparently, originally been planned as a brand new station and not as a reincarnation of Radio Invicta, evidenced by the pre-recorded test broadcasts that gave their location as the Nore tower, which was somewhat unlikely as the tower had been completely dismantled by the early Sixties and did not actually exist!. There were some announcements for planned programmes that included shows called 'South East Special', 'Mardi Gras', 'Fiesta' and 'Candlelight and Wine', although no such-named shows were ever broadcast by the station.

Some ex-Invicta presenters, including Bruce Holland, Eddie Gerold (Frank Smith) and John Ross-Barnard, stayed with the new station, as did the fort administrator Ed Hinkins. They were joined by some new announcers including programme controller Mike Raven, late of Radio Atlanta, Roger Gomez (later on 270) and Jeff Tyse. Their format was light, middle of the road music, essentially aimed at listening housewives, but this proved to be comparatively unsuccessful, failing to live up to such grandiose self-description such as 'your monarch of music for the metropolis' and 'the most melodic delicatessen on the medium wave'.
Simon Dee made his last broadcast for Radio Caroline from the 'Mi Amigo' in March 1965 but continued to work at the company's London offices for a few months afterwards.

In April a proposed project called 'Radex TV' , headed by New Zealander James DeGrey and two years in the planning, announced that it would be broadcasting recorded television programmes for 18 hours a day, from a ship 14 miles off Whitstable in the next few months. By using VHF Channel 6 on 405 lines (which had already been allocated to Radio Astronomy Services of Cambridge) they planned to cover Greater London and south-east England. It was their intention to apply to become Britain's fourth 'official' TV channel but, if this was not accepted, they would go ahead anyway. Although Radex was reported to have massive American financial backing, this was withdrawn in September and, despite a search for British backing, it never got further than the planning stage.

On April 10th tapes arrived in London for the first ever record company-sponsored show on pirate radio. American label Roulette Records had signed a two-year contract with Radio Caroline which included spot advertising and, despite written objections by E.M.I. who were the U.K. licensee, the shows were first transmitted on April 12th.

Thursday May 13th 1965 saw a station called 'Radio Pamela' start to make test transmissions on land around Colchester with a full service announced to commence on 16th May, 11.00am to 3.00pm on Sundays, but only with a range of about 20 miles, covering Clacton, Harwich, Mersea Island and Colchester. Reg Torr, managing director of TD Television in Clacton came up with the idea of using his service manager's boat, the 18ft 'Pamela', to broadcast from offshore with equipment built by the boat's owner George Short. 'Pamela' would anchor 3.5 miles off the Essex coast each Sunday, close to the Gunfleet Lighthouse, to broadcast pre-recorded tape programme. Their intention was to advertise only their own products but hinted at possible expansion should there be interest from other companies. It was good as a publicity stunt, but with the inherent problems and cost in transmitting the once weekly programmes it was not long before Torr did not want to pursue the project further. George Short, however, was keen to continue and enlisted the help of local businessman Eric Sullivan and acquired a slightly more powerful transmitter, an ex-Canadian Army unit that used just one single 813 output valve. It is alleged that they contacted Reg Calvert, who declined to become involved as he was already in planning for Radio Sutch, so they decided to find a tower to transmit from and eventually selected Roughs.
KING Radio

Sunk Head Tower Fort Sullivan, John Waters and a friend hired a boat from Tubby Bennett to visit the tower but were unable to board due to heavy seas. The fort's legs had become damaged over the years, having been hit by a ship in the 1950s, and were flooded, with the water level rising and falling with the tide. Also, Sunk Head was located in deeper water than the other navy forts, with strong tides and generally larger waves making any sort of approach hazardous.

Knowledge of their intention to return the following week reached the ear of Caroline's shipping agent, Percy Scaddon, who immediately sent out a group of men to take over the fort on behalf of Radio Caroline. The 'Pamela' plans seemed to be thwarted when they discovered that the only remaining tower, Sunk Head about 11 miles off Clacton, was also occupied by Radio Caroline. However, the men on this fort were taken off after severe storms and, on confirming that it was deserted, John Waters hired Ron Pipe's boat 'Girl Betty' from Burnham-on-Crouch and boarded the structure on 13th October 1965, leaving 'caretakers' John Boulter and Terry Lambeth aboard to 'hold' the fort. This, effectively, was the end of Radio Pamela while equipment and staff were being assembled for the new station, to be called Tower Radio. Press releases at the time advertised that the output of the new £40,000 station (this was predicted operational costs, not capital outlay) would include keep fit classes for housewives, farming, religious, political and general news programmes.

Not only that, but there was also to be a television station, called 'Tower TV' that was planned to broadcast American films, thriller series, record programmes and adverts on the Channel 5 frequency. This was already earmarked for the BBC but Tower was going to use the airspace for a few hours after 12.15am when BBC transmissions had ended for the night, broadcasting to coastal areas between Ipswich and Colchester. The television service was originally supposed to start on 9th November (or in the New Year, according to some press reports) but no substantiated views of any transmissions were ever seen. The project was abandoned in January the following year in favour of concentrating on the radio station.

In June or July 1965 a local land-based pirate station identifying itself as Radio Shanus (often misquoted as 'Shameless') began broadcasting in the Wimbledon area of London. One of the 'pirates', Martin Macgregor (who also broadcast from Radio Essex as 'Peter Lane' and was involved in Roy Bates' ill-fated attempt to start Radio Kent on Tongue Sands off Margate), confirms "It was actually Radio Shanus … please do not ask why … just the name that a bunch of us came up with".

Radio City increased their transmitter power from 3.5kW to 10kW in June and also extended their broadcasting hours.

Financial problems for King Radio eventually resulted in an expensive takeover on June 7th 1965 by Ted Allbeury's company, Estuary Radio Limited, who brought in program director Peter James and spent the next couple of months refitting the station at a cost of about £150,000, including installation of an RCA 10kW transmitter and a 297 foot aerial. Not all the towers were in use and one in particular was 'reserved' for the transmitter and technical equipment.

Two custom-built air-conditioned studios were used, fitted with twin tables, seven-channel mixers and twin tape recorders. The total power output capability was some 35kW (although it only normally used about 10kW) and it resumed transmissions with Glen Miller's 'Moonlight Serenade' on September 22nd broadcasting on 388.1 metres under the name of 'Radio 390', with such programmes as 'Eve - The Woman's Magazine of the Air' which was the station's original planned name. This idea was not followed through due to the fact that it was not 'snappy' enough and failed to include an advertisement for its wavelength.

Radio 390 Moonmice The station was not one of the purist 'pop pirates' but still proved very popular, pushing out a mixture of light classical and jazz amongst other musical types. It claimed to be the most powerful of the Sixties offshore transmitters, broadcasting from 6.30am until midnight with a signal strength that allowed it to reach most of the country. Programmes tended to be in 15 and 30 minute slots as opposed to the three or four-hour shows of the other stations and were inclined to be a kind of 'radio magazine'. As well as 'Eve', daily output included titles such as 'Melody Fair', 'Tea-Time Tunes' and 'Keyboard Cavalcade'. There was a daily ten-minute programme for children called 'Playtime', a five-minute sound cartoon called 'Moonmice' and even a radio soap opera entitled 'Dr.Paul'. Ted Allbeury himself presented a Sunday evening show called 'Red Sands Rendezvous' and in July 1966 a twice-daily half-hour business programme called 'Voice of Business' was introduced which ran until the station's demise.
Radio 390 EVE

Radio City - Evening Standard By September 1965 Radio Caroline South had been seeing a decline in its advertising revenue due to the success of Radio London 'Big L' and, with the arrival of another American radio station rumoured, entered into talks with Radio City and Reg Calvert about a possible merger. Through Major William 'Oliver' Smedley of Project Atlanta, Calvert offered to sell Shivering Sands and Radio City but Atlanta were not keen on this due to the financial, staffing and other issues that Caroline South were currently having to contend with. However, a merger proposal whereby Shivering Sands would be used as the Radio Caroline South platform (a fort being much cheaper to operate than a ship) with the 'Mi Amigo' ship to move to a new broadcasting location off either the south-west or north-east coast, where competition would be less intense and costs lower, was agreed.

A jointly-owned company was set up to handle advertising sales for both stations and, when the agreement came into effect on October 1st, regular listeners at the time would have heard Radio City starting to broadcast Caroline's pre-recorded 'Newsbeat' items and promoting some of the Caroline programmes. As part of this agreement Project Atlanta director Smedley agreed to finance a new, more powerful transmitter to relay Caroline's transmissions via the fort while Radio City owner Calvert ran the day-to-day operations on behalf of Radio Caroline South.

Despite this, Reg Calvert had not yet totally abandoned his plan for a second station and, during September, he moved some staff and around £3,000 of equipment onto the vacant Knock John navy fort, about 18 miles off Southend. This was, ostensibly, to carry out some preliminary transmission tests, but it seems quite likely that he was planning to start a new station there once the contract with Project Atlanta had gone through.

The previously mentioned Essex businessman, Roy Bates, had followed the commercial success of the ship-based radio stations Caroline and London and was also very aware of Radio City and King Radio that were already operating from the estuary forts. By early September he had also made plans to utilise Knock John for his own station, Radio Essex. Bates arrived at the tower to find it already occupied by Calvert's people. This potentially thwarted his plans and, about a week later, on 10th October, Roy Bates took action to remedy the situation. He organised a group of nine men as a 'raiding party', boarded the fort while only two Radio City staff were present and proceeded to claim 'squatter's rights'. Two teenaged fishermen, 17 year-old Malcolm Westmoreland and 19 year-old Dennis Church, were left to 'guard' the fort while the bemused Radio City staff were ferried ashore at Whitstable.

Reg Calvert was, understandably, unhappy about 'losing' the equipment he had already transferred there and a territorial feud ensued between the two organisations, lasting about a month. In brief, Calvert's immediate response was to retake the fort, allowing the two teenagers to leave, leaving two men there himself. Westmoreland reportedly said to 'The People' newspaper "The men were very friendly but they promised trouble if we put up resistance. As we were hopelessly outnumbered we reluctantly surrendered. A lot more sparks are going to fly before the dispute is settled". He was right, as Bates, in turn, despatched these two, leaving two more of his own. Calvert then used the Radio City supply boat and a group of ten men to oust these, this time leaving three men aboard. "The other chaps went moderately quietly - we promised them safe conduct" said a station spokesman at the time. A further sortie from Southend by Bates removed these three, transporting them back to Shivering Sands.

Disc jockey Dick Dixon told 'The Sun' "We had no choice but to leave. Nine Radio Essex men boarded the fort and told us: 'You'd better get off'. They arrived at the fort in a fishing boat. We broke down the ladders to try to stop them but they managed to get aboard by climbing a derelict crane alongside. They were all very big men. We decided it was better not to put up a fight. They took us to Radio City's No. 1 station four miles away and left us there. Another disc jockey, Alex Dee, said "They are obviously waiting for us to go back for equipment we left behind but we'll let them sweat it out for a bit".

This series of 'attacks' and 'kidnappings' were meat and drink to the local and national press, being very much in keeping with the 'pirate' radio name that had arisen, and they keenly reported on the activities of the two rival groups 'battling' over possession of Knock John. A 'Sun' reporter was allowed to visit the fort on 11th October and quoted Roy Bates as saying "I intend to stay here indefinitely - there is no law which says I cannot and possession is everything. So far, there has been no question of using violence on either side". Of the Radio City stores and equipment he said "We aren't touching any of that. It will just have to stay until the matter is sorted out". They did, however, start to use City's generator and transmitter. "They'll hate that when they read about it" said Bates, "But we have over £5,500 worth of equipment waiting to be landed in calmer weather".

Looking at Knock John the same evening, Reg Calvert is quoted as saying "We are no longer interested in that. There are other towers in the area that we can use. As far as I am concerned we are withdrawing from the fight".

A peaceful settlement was eventually reached between the protagonists whereby Reg Calvert got his equipment back but with Roy Bates retaining possession of the fort. Radio City's managing director, Peter Jameson, told the Evening Standard "They can have the wretched place but we will be going back there to get our equipment back. We are a respectable organisation and we do not go in for punch-ups. There is no need for it. We chose it because it was near to our transmitting station and because it is in good condition. We left about £3,000 worth of equipment there a month ago. The trouble started about a week after that when Bates arrived on the scene".


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