Radio Caroline

Radio Caroline

Radio Caroline is a European radio station that started transmissions on Easter Sunday 1964 from a ship anchored in international waters off the coast of Felixstowe, Suffolk, England. [ [ Don't Get Mad, Get Even] ]

It was unlicensed by any government for most of its life and it was labelled a pirate radio station.

Although one of a number of unlicensed radio stations based on ships anchored off Britain, Radio Caroline was the first such station to broadcast all day using the English language. This, together with the station's tenacity in surviving for some 40 years, has established Radio Caroline as a household name for offshore radio.

A legal, onshore version of Radio Caroline continues to broadcast via several methods, predominantly via satellite and over the internet.

Infobox Radio station
name = Radio Caroline

city =
area = UK:
Europe (Eurobird 1);
Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Worldspace);
Worldwide (Internet)
branding =
slogan =
airdate = March 28 1964
frequency = Sky Digital: 0199
UPC Ireland: 927
Eurobird 1: 11390V
format = Classic Rock
power =
erp =
class =
callsign_meaning =
former_callsigns =
owner = Radio Caroline
sister_stations =
webcast =
website = []
affiliations =


The station has seen four distinct stages, all with different owners and financial backers:

#1964–1968: its founding on March 28, 1964, through to 1968 when its two ships were impounded by the shipping company
#1972–1980: the launch of a station called Radio Caroline in 1972 and survival until 1980 when the ship sank in a storm
#1983–1991: the third launch of a station called Radio Caroline, using a new ship in 1983 until 1991 when this vessel was shipwrecked and brought into harbour
#1991–present: a land based version of Radio Caroline, operating as a primarily onshore station broadcasting principally via satellite.


Radio Caroline opens

Radio Caroline was founded by Irish music industry businessman Ronan O'Rahilly and Oliver Smedley. The station, Radio Caroline, began broadcasting on 28 March 1964 from the ex-passenger ferry MV "Fredericia", anchored in international waters three miles (5 km) off the coast of Felixstowe, Suffolk, England. The station took its name from Caroline Kennedy, daughter of U.S. President John F. Kennedy: O'Rahilly has said in interviews that when he flew to Dallas, Texas to buy the transmitters for the radio station, he was reading a copy of "Look" magazine. That issue contained a now-famous photo essay about the president and his two children John Jr and Caroline, who were playing with him in the Oval Office. O'Rahilly recalled a picture that showed John Jr crawling through a miniature doorway away from the President's legs. O'Rahilly changed the subject in his retelling of this story from John Jr to Caroline and that is how both his ship and station gained their names.

Radio Caroline's first theme tune was Jimmy McGriff's "Round Midnight" (a jazz standard composed by Thelonious Monk which was an LP track on "I've Got a Woman", Sue ILP 907 1962 UK; Sue 1012 USA). During March 1964, Birmingham band The Fortunes recorded the song "Caroline" on Decca F11809, and this later became the station's theme song, with "Round Midnight" confined to close down after the syndicated religious slot from US evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong.

Radio Caroline chose a wavelength announced as "199" metres, which rhymed with "Caroline". In reality the station was on 197.3 metres (1520 kHz) at the high end of the medium wave band. The Dutch offshore station Radio Veronica was on 192 metres (1562 kHz) and Radio Atlanta chose 201 metres (1495 kHz). The original transmitter power of Radio Caroline was almost 20kW, achieved by linking two 10 kW Continental Electronics transmitters together. Broadcasting hours were initially limited from 6am to 6pm daily under the slogan "Your all-day music station", because Radio Luxembourg came on the air in the English language at 6pm and direct competition was avoided. Later the station decided to return to the airwaves after 8pm and it continued until just after midnight. In this way Caroline saved its fuel by avoiding direct competition with the most popular television programmes. The use of radio sets at work was an uncommon practice and most commuters used public transport. Consequently most of its pop music programmes were aimed at housewives and later in the day they were targeted towards children arriving home from school. Because of the lack of daytime music radio competition during the first six months of transmission, Radio Caroline soon commanded a daytime audience of several million listeners at a time when all-day pop music broadcast in English was unknown in Europe.

Caroline was not the first offshore station; the first ship-based radio station reportedly broadcast in the USA from the casino ship "Rex", moored off California in the 1930s. Later, offshore radio ships were anchored off the coasts of Denmark and Sweden in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and since 1960 Radio Veronica had been broadcasting successfully to the Netherlands from a ship off the Dutch coast as well as Radio Northsea.

Creation of Radio Caroline North and South

Other offshore radio ships soon followed Caroline's example and began broadcasting off the British coast. A few months after launch, Caroline merged with the new competitor station Radio Atlanta, and until 1968 broadcast from two ships — the original vessel "Fredericia", which moved to the Bay of Ramsey, Isle of Man, to become Radio Caroline North — and the MV Mi Amigo, the ex-Radio Atlanta ship, which remained anchored off the Essex coast and took the name Radio Caroline South. Together the two ships were able to cover most of the British Isles and the western-most parts of continental northern Europe. The first programme heard on Caroline was presented by Chris Moore [] DJs who went on to become nationally famous included Tony Blackburn, Roger Day, Simon Dee, Tony Prince, Spangles Muldoon, Keith Skues, Johnnie Walker, Robbie Dale, Dave Lee Travis and Andy Archer. There were also a number of DJs from the USA and Commonwealth countries, such as Graham Webb, Tom Lodge, Emperor Rosko, Colin Nicol and Norman St John. DJ Jack Spector, of the WMCA "Good Guys" in New York, contributed a show, taped specifically for Radio Caroline on a regular basis. Syndicated shows from the US as well as prerecorded religious programmes were also broadcast. BBC Radio 2 newsreader Colin Berry and Classic FM's Nick Bailey started their careers reading the news on Radio Caroline South.

"Mi Amigo" runs aground

In January 1966, the Radio Caroline South ship MV "Mi Amigo" drifted in a storm and ran aground on the beach at Frinton-on-Sea. Transmissions ceased as the boat entered British territorial waters, and the crew and broadcasting staff were rescued unharmed, but the ship's hull was damaged and it had to go into dry dock for repair. While the repairs were being carried out, Caroline South broadcast from the vessel "Cheeta II", owned by Swedish offshore station Radio Syd which was off the air at the time owing to severe weather in the Baltic Sea. The "Cheeta II" was equipped for FM broadcasting, so to enable Caroline to return on 199 it was fitted with the 10 kW transmitter from the "Mi Amigo", fed through a makeshift antenna system. The resulting signal was low-powered, but ensured that Caroline South's advertising revenue would not dry up.

The repaired and refitted "Mi Amigo" attempted a return to the air on April 18, broadcasting on 259 metres (actually 252, but called 259 to rhyme with Caroline and enable use of the same jingles as Radio Caroline North on 1169 kHz), with a redesigned antenna and a new 50 kW transmitter. The increased power initially proved too much for the antenna insulators, and it was not until April 27 that the "Mi Amigo" was fully operational. The "Cheeta II" continued to relay Caroline South programmes until May 1.

The move to 259 metres meant that Caroline's channel was now just a notch away from the highly popular pirate radio station Wonderful Radio London on 266m (1133 kHz), also with 50 kW, on the one side of the dial, and the BBC's Light Programme mainstream music and entertainment service on 247m (1214 kHz) on the other. This gave Caroline a higher profile and helped the station capture new listeners away from these other two channels. Radio Caroline North subsequently moved to 257m (1169 kHz) but also called it 259. Caroline would continue to utilise the "259m" (1187 kHz) wavelength until the late 1970s.

On May 3 1966 two new rival stations, Swinging Radio England and Britain Radio, began test transmissions from the "MV Olga Patricia" (later renamed "Laissez Faire"). Both of these stations also used 50 kW transmitters, and the British government became increasingly concerned about potential interference to foreign radio stations.

The Radio City death

In June 1966 Radio Caroline embarked on a joint venture with rival pirate Radio City, which broadcast from a Second World War marine fort off the Kent coast, seven miles (11 km) from Margate. One of the directors of Caroline, Major Oliver Smedley, agreed to pay for a new transmitter to relay Caroline's programmes from the fort, while Reginald Calvert, the owner of Radio City, would continue to run the operation but this time on behalf of Radio Caroline.

However, Radio Caroline then withdrew from the deal when it was heard that the government intended to prosecute those occupying the forts, which were still Crown property. Smedley, however, had received no payment from Calvert for the transmitter.

A raid on the Radio City fort was subsequently launched by Smedley, and the station's transmitter was put out of action. Calvert then visited Smedley's home to demand the departure of the raiders and the return of vital transmitter parts. A violent struggle developed during which Smedley shot Calvert dead. During the subsequent trial, Smedley was acquitted on grounds of self-defence.

Marine Broadcasting Offences Act 1967

The British government responded to the presence of Caroline and the other offshore stations in 1967 by passing the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act which made it an offence to advertise or supply an offshore radio station from the UK. However a rearguard action was attempted by the Manx parliament Tynwald to exclude the North Ship from the legislation with an appeal to the European Court on the legality of the act being applied to the Isle of Man. All the offshore stations off the British coast closed, with the exception of Radio Caroline, which moved its supply operation to the Netherlands where offshore broadcasting had not yet been outlawed. She was the only UK offshore station to do so. However, the expected advertising revenue from overseas sources was not forthcoming, and less than a year later the station was forced off the air when the Dutch shipping company which tendered the two Caroline ships seized the vessels on grounds of non-payment.

Six weeks after the Marine Offences Act was passed, the BBC introduced its national pop station Radio 1, modelled largely on the successful pirate competitor station to Caroline, Radio London. The old BBC Light, Third and Home programmes became Radios 2, 3 and 4, respectively. [cite news | url = | work = Daily Telegraph | title = The day we woke up to pop music on Radio 1| date = 2007-09-27 | author = Imogen Carter | accessdate = 2007-09-30] It was to be another six years before the first on-land commercial radio stations began to appear in the UK.


Radio Caroline International

Upon the Marine &c. Broadcasting Offences Act becoming extant law, Radio Caroline renamed itself Radio Caroline International.

The original two ship stations of Radio Caroline International eventually ran out of money in early 1968, and a salvage company towed them away for unpaid bills. For a time nothing more was heard of Radio Caroline until a new and powerful offshore radio station aboard the MV "Mebo II" anchored off the east coast of England in time for the British General election, calling itself Radio Northsea International or RNI.

RNI was jammed by the UK Labour government and responded by campaigning for the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom general election 1970. At that moment Radio Northsea International - RNI - suddenly changed its name to Radio Caroline International, by arrangement with Radio Caroline's original owners, and it began to lobby for the introduction of licensed commercial radio in the United Kingdom. After the election this Radio Caroline International renamed itself back to RNI, but the jamming continued under the new Conservative government.

Caroline Television

There were several major news stories in the European press announcing the start of Caroline TV from two aircraft using Stratovision technology. One plane was set to circle over the North Sea in international air space near the coastline of the United Kingdom, while the other one was kept on standby to take over duties. Although these stories continued for some time and included details of co-operation by a former member of the Beatles and a sign-on date was given, nothing more was heard of the venture once that date came and went.

It has been suggested that the entire event was a publicity stunt in an effort to keep the name of Radio Caroline in the news, but the technology behind this story was both valid and perfected by the Westinghouse company which invented Stratovision. The story was not a publicity stunt. The aircraft was a Super ConstellationFact|date=June 2008, one of the last built, with a flight endurance of 20 hours plus. Presentations were made to US advertising agencies in New York and Chicago and Business Week in the US covered the story. Programming was prepared and equipment installed. The British authorities monitored test transmissions, but said nothing publicly.

1972: Radio Caroline returns

Caroline made a comeback in 1972, this time from the smaller of the two ships, the MV "Mi Amigo", anchored off the Dutch coastal resort of Scheveningen and serviced and operated from the Netherlands. The ship had restarted broadcasting as Radio 199, but soon became Radio Caroline once again with a Top 40 line up that included DJs Chris Carey (who was also station manager), Roger 'Twiggy' Day, Andy Archer, Paul Alexander (Paul Rusling, who later set up Laser 558), Steve England, Johnny Jason, and Peter Chicago. The ship carried programmes for Radio Veronica for a short time (while the latter's ship was on the beach, thrown there in a violent storm) and at one stage in summer 1973 broadcast two separate stations (English and Dutch) simultaneously, on 773 and 1187 kHz. Two aerials were deployed at the time, the twin transmitters were on air for about six weeks until the aerial mast failed. To accommodate the second aerial, a second but short mast positioned just in front of the bridge was used as the other end for the main mast.

O'Rahilly decided Caroline should adopt an album format similar to that found on "FM progressive rock" stations in the USA, as this radio market segment was uncatered for in Europe. This service was initially broadcast using the name Radio Seagull.

Radio Atlantis and Radio Seagull

Radio Caroline could not find substantial advertising revenue and so the station shared its 259 metre frequency (actually 1187 kHz, corresponding to a wavelength of 253 metres) with Dutch language pop stations, the first of which was a Belgian station called Radio Atlantis, which used the frequency during the daytime to broadcast pre-recorded programmes. Radio Seagull broadcast during the night live from the ship's studio.

Radio Mi Amigo

Once the contract with Radio Caroline had come to an end, Radio Atlantis moved to their own ship, the "MV Janiene". Daytime programmes were provided by another Belgian station, Radio Mi Amigo which was officially launched on January 1 1974. In contrast to Caroline in the 1970s, this station was a commercial success, with a wide listenership in Dutch-speaking Belgium, the Netherlands and a surprisingly large following in the UK. Radio Seagull changed its name back to Radio Caroline on the 23rd February 1974. The Album format was still followed. however. Throughout most of the 1970s, Radio Caroline itself could be heard only at night, under the banner "Radio Caroline — Europe's first and only album station".

Caroline's daytime partner station Radio Mi Amigo was run by Belgian businessman and Suzy Waffles magnate Sylvain Tack [ [ Tribute to Sylvain Tack] ] . The station's offices and studios were based on Spain's Playa De Aro Costa Brava resort, where it produced programmes for Dutch-speaking holidaymakers. Most of the programmes of Radio Mi Amigo were taped and rebroadcast from the Caroline ship by day and were a mixture of Europop/Top 40/MOR together with native Dutch language popular music, presented by Belgian, Dutch and occasionally English DJs with frequent commercials. Land-based commercial radio was prohibited in Belgium at that time; thus Radio Mi Amigo had little competition and so enjoyed a wide popularity in Belgium and to a lesser extent in the Netherlands. Thus for the first few years there was a big demand for advertising on the station. After the closure of the Netherlands' Radio Veronica, Radio Mi Amigo gained a number of Veronica presenters and shows.

Loving Awareness

Caroline's chosen format of heavy album tracks rather than top 40 now meant that, although the station served a market gap, overall listenership was smaller than in the 1960s. Caroline also promoted O'Rahilly's new concept of "LA" (Loving Awareness), a far-eastern inspired philosophy of love and peace. Some of the station's DJs were embarrassed at the idea of promoting love and peace on air, but some were fascinated by the challenge of promoting an abstract concept in the same way that they might promote a brand of detergent. At least one disc jockey, however, was an enthusiastic supporter of the concept. Tony Allan developed a cult following among listeners as he also combined his promotion of "Loving Awareness" with a professional style, deep knowledge of music and rich radio voice. Allan died in 2004 aged 54 from cancer, and the cult around him has grown.

O'Rahilly set up a group called The Loving Awareness Band, which released one album, "Loving Awareness" on More Love Records. It was - and still is - promoted heavily on the station, and was re-released by the Caroline organisation in 2006 on CD with a replica of the original sleeve. The Loving Awareness CD was released by SMC ( Foundation for media communication in the Netherlands.) The musicians who played on the album went on to join the Blockheads and work with Ian Dury.

Caroline's constant plugging of "LA", together with the progressive rock album music it played — bands such as Pink Floyd; Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Led Zeppelin; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Barclay James Harvest and Hawkwind - gave the station an unusual and distinctive sound.

During this time, the theme tune of the station changed to "On My Way Back Home" by New Riders of the Purple Sage, a track from the "Gypsy Cowboy" album which included the words "Flying to the sun, sweet Caroline". Also frequently played was "Climb aboard the love ship" by Fox, as well as the original version of the song by Kenny Young, which he recorded before he recorded it with Fox. This version was used by Tony Allan as the music for the 'climb aboard the love ship and sail away' jingle.

"Last of the Pirates"

The book "Last of the Pirates" by engineer and occasional DJ Bob Noakes (Edinburgh, Paul Harris Publishing, 1984, ISBN 0-86228-092-3) describes this period as one of poverty, makeshift equipment, disorganization and severe personality clashes amongst the DJs and office staff. It must be borne in mind that we only have his word, and that of others who have worked at Radio Caroline, for this and some of his claims may be moderated to avoid breaching the Marine Offences Act.

According to Noakes, but confirmed by Tony Blackburn, some of the station's equipment was acquired on credit which was never repaid, tenders had to keep changing ports to avoid customs raids, and there was a high turnover of DJs due to inexperience or personal conflicts. Noakes claims that some of the best Loving Awareness promotions were made at a time when DJs were at each other's throats (sometimes almost literally).

Noakes struggled to keep the station on the air despite the poor condition of some of the equipment, describing days of back-breaking work in appalling weather, assisted by most of the English-speaking staff but never the Dutch, who apparently considered maintenance work beneath them. When the station managed to get on the air many of the Seagull and Caroline DJs who presented programmes were high on marijuana.

Finally in 1974 some of the staff planned a coup, which would have involved taking over the ship and sailing it to the coast of Belgium next to the Radio Atlantis ship "Janiene", while continuing to broadcast normal Caroline and Mi Amigo programmes so the public would be unaware that anything was going on. Noakes and his fellow conspirators planned to set up a simultaneous daytime Caroline service on 389 metres (773 kHz) broadcasting a Top Forty format which could have attracted major advertisers, while retaining Caroline's nighttime album rock format on 259.

However, the plot was discovered; Noakes was fired, as was Roger "Twiggy" Day, by the MEBO AG, and took a job at RNI. But, he claims, the backstabbing and disorganization at Caroline continued.

Dutch Marine Broadcasting Act

In 1974 the Dutch government passed laws to prohibit pirate radio which came into effect on September 1. However, Caroline continued broadcasting, this time moving its headquarters and the servicing operation to Spain and its ship from off the Dutch coast to a position in the Knock Deep Channel, approximately 30 km from the British coast. On September 1 a small motor launch ran into difficulties in rough seas and tied up alongside the "Mi Amigo" until help could arrive. Radio Caroline broadcast appeals for help, giving the ship's position as 51° 41' N, 1° 35' E. A coastguard vessel was sent to escort the boat back to shore, but the authorities were unhappy that Caroline fans had jammed the emergency switchboards.

After August 31, pre-recorded shows for Radio Mi Amigo were delivered on cassettes which were much smaller and lighter than reels of tape although the sound quality was greatly inferior.

It was claimed that the stations were tendered from Spain. In practice the "Mi Amigo" was tendered clandestinely from ports in Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Tenders and small boat owners were warned and in some cases prosecuted for ferrying staff and provisions out to the ship. Belgium had outlawed offshore radio in 1962 and its authorities took action to prosecute the advertisers. This cut the station's revenues. In addition, Belgian courts sentenced the owner and a number of DJs to fines and jail terms in absentia — although the prison terms were later cancelled.

Wavelength changes

The two stations experimented with several different broadcast frequencies. After a short test on 773 kHz in late 1975, May 1976 saw Caroline beginning a daytime service on 1562 kHz (192 metres, the old Radio Veronica frequency) using one of the 10 kW transmitters, while its existing overnight service continued to share the 50 kW tx with Mi Amigo's daytime programming on 1187 kHz (253 metres, announced as 259).

In December of that year Mi Amigo moved onto 1562 kHz on the 50 kW tx, leaving Caroline on 1187 kHz 24 hours a day on the 10 kW. The reduction in power caused Caroline to experience greater interference at night, and in an attempt to improve the signal it was decided to move Caroline to a new frequency. On March 3 1977 (coincidentally the 9th anniversary of the Caroline ships being towed away in 1968) Caroline closed down, announcing that it would return six days later on an improved wavelength of 319 metres. To allow Radio Mi Amigo to continue broadcasting by day, the engineering work necessary for Caroline's move had to be carried out at night after the 50 kW transmitter was switched off, accounting for the six day closure.

Caroline returned on schedule on March 9 on a frequency of 953 kHz (actually 315 metres but called 319, again because 319 rhymed with Caroline). This frequency produced very strong heterodyne interference because the transmitter crystal was off-channel, and Caroline soon moved to the adjacent channel, 962 kHz (312 metres but still called 319). this was a relatively clear channel that had previously been used by Radio Atlantis, and Caroline's reception in England improved.

Meanwhile Radio Mi Amigo experienced interference on 1562 kHz (as had Veronica before it) and announced another frequency change. The 1562 kHz service closed on July 23, 1977 and Mi Amigo reopened on 1412 kHz (212 m) two days later. This channel produced strong sideband interference. Fact|to whom ?|date=March 2007

Finally it was decided to move Radio Mi Amigo onto 962 kHz (the same frequency as Caroline), this happened on December 1. Generator trouble meant that no longer could two services be broadcast simultaneously, and so Radio Caroline was once more relegated to a night-time only service. The upside was that both stations were once more sharing the 50 kW tx, which meant that Caroline began to receive mail from all over Europe. At times one of the 10 kW transmitters was used to save on fuel and because the generators give more trouble as time went by. The 10 kW transmitters could be run on the Henshaw generator that was available beside the main two Man units and a Cummings that was positioned on the aft deck behind the wheelhouse. [ [ This site is put together by Johnny Lewis, an engineer and presenter who worked on the station at the time.] ]

To the chagrin of fans, Caroline then began broadcasting sponsored evangelical programmes in order to supplement its income. Such programmes had been a staple of the 1960s pirates, but Caroline was broadcasting as many as three hours of them each night after Radio Mi Amigo closed, pushing the start of music programmes back to 9 p.m.

On October 20, 1978, a combination of technical and financial problems put the "Mi Amigo" off the air. This was compounded by a serious accident on the Mi Amigo on the 19 January, 1979, when the ship took in water and the lifeboat had to be called in to take off the last remaining crew members. [ [ The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame: the seventies ] ] Unhappy at the loss of advertising revenue, Radio Mi Amigo terminated its contract with Caroline in November and set about equipping its own ship. Caroline finally returned to the air on April 15, 1979. The first record played being "Fool (If You Think It's Over)", by Chris Rea, dedicated to the British Home Office, whose mission was to close down the station. [ [ STATIONS 1 ] ] Broadcasting was in Dutch and English under its own name by day and in English at night, although for the first few months broadcasting finished at 10pm each evening. Radio Mi Amigo began broadcasting from the "MV Magdalena" later that year, but this was short-lived.

"Mi Amigo" sinks

By the end of the 1970s, conditions on the MV "Mi Amigo" had deteriorated. The ship was now 60 years old and had been used to house offshore radio stations for almost 20 years, since its original use as Sweden's Radio Nord in 1961. The ship had drifted and run aground on sandbanks in the North Sea a number of times.

One particularly serious grounding occurred in September 1976 when the ship broke its anchor chain in heavy seas, the studios were flooded, the antenna feed cable broke and the hull was breached below the water line. On that occasion the crew had managed to patch the hull and keep the ship afloat until a tender arrived with welding gear and a new (and according to some reports, stolen) anchor. Six days after the grounding the stations were back on the air almost as if nothing had happened, but it was not to be the last such incident.

As early as 1972 serious doubts had been voiced as to the ship's seaworthiness, but by the end of the 70s some of the boat crews that visited the "Mi Amigo" were describing it as a floating death trap, so badly rusted that it was only being held together by its paint.

Finally, just after midnight UK time on the 20th of March 1980, the "Mi Amigo" foundered in a storm after once again losing its anchor and drifting for several miles, and began taking in water. The crew were rescued by lifeboat. The generator had been left running to power the pumps, but these could not manage the inflow of water and the "Mi Amigo" sank only ten minutes after taking off the four-man crew, three British nationals and a Dutchman, and their canary, named Wilson, after the former Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. The last words spoken from the "Mi Amigo" were by Stevie Gordon and Tom Anderson, and were as follows:

"Well, we're sorry to tell you that due to the severe weather conditions and the fact that we are shipping quite a lot of water, we are closing down, and the crew are at this stage leaving the ship. Obviously, we hope to be back with you as soon as possible, but just for the moment we would like to say goodbye. "It's not a very good occasion really, we have to hurry this because the lifeboat is standing by. We're not leaving and disappearing, we're going onto the lifeboat hoping that the pumps can take it, if they can, we'll be back, if not, well we really don't like to say it. I'm sure we'll be back one way or another. For the moment from all of us, goodbye and God Bless."

The "Mi Amigo"'s convert|160|ft|m|sing=on mast remained erect, pointing skywards out of the sea for a further six years in what some fans called a gesture of defiance.


In 1983 Radio Caroline returned to the air for a third time, on the 19th August, with Tom Anderson, who said goodbye from the Mi Amigo, presenting the first official programme, after a long period of testing. It had a new set of owners and Ronan O'Rahilly acting as the front person. This time from its biggest and most robust ship yet, the MV "Ross Revenge", a sturdy ex-North Sea factory fishing trawler. The name "Revenge" was not considered entirely appropriate for a station devoted to Loving Awareness (the ship was originally built during the Anglo-Icelandic Cod War, hence the name), and it was originally intended to rename the ship "Imagine" after the John Lennon song. However, for legal or financial reasons, this was never done. The station's antenna was 300 ft (90 m) high and was the tallest mast on any ship in the world, and well over convert|100|ft|m|abbr=on higher than the mast of the "Mi Amigo". Officially Caroline was now run from offices in North America with most of the advertising coming from the US and Canada. In practice, day-to-day servicing of the station was carried out clandestinely from France and the UK. From the ship's original anchorage in the Knock deep the "Mi Amigo's" mast could be seen on the horizon.

O'Rahilly wanted an oldies station. This met with opposition from some DJs and crew who had previously served on the "Mi Amigo". Caroline returned to the air with the former album format as on the old ship, along with the return of some of the former presenters such as Andy Archer, Samantha Dubois and Simon Barrett.

The MV "Ross Revenge" was considerably larger than the old vessel and was to be fitted over the years with more elaborate transmitting equipment than the "Mi Amigo" had seen. In 1983 two 5 kW RCA transmitters were available besides the RCA 50 kW unit. One of these was initially regarded as not serviceable. When Radio Monique hired the main transmitter, sufficient spare parts could be taken from a fourth transmitter that was brought on board from Ireland, to rebuild the third transmitter into a working 10 kW unit. (the RCA 5 and 10 kW transmitters are similar in many respects). [ Photos of the transmitters can be found here ] The remaining 5 kW transmitter was later converted for short wave use.

The availability of four studios enabled the ship to transmit a number of other services for the first time. As in the 1970s Caroline tried out several frequencies, among them besides 963; 576, 585 (briefly), 558 (after Laser 558 closed) and later 819 kHz. (By this time European mediumwave channels had been reallocated to exact multiples of 9.) In the evenings on 963, in addition to the main Radio Caroline service on 576 or 558, some alternative music programmes were tried, including the reggae-oriented "Jamming 963", and then throughout 1986 and early 1987, a separate programme of progressive and indie rock called Caroline Overdrive. This service can be considered as more in line with the album format.

On 9th August 1985 it was announced that an official vessel was anchored one hundred and fifty yards from the Ross Revenge (day one of "Eurosiege"). It was the period that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) put out a permanent watch on all activities in the Thames Estuary regarding the movements of ships in the neighbourhood of the MV Ross Revenge and the MV Communicator, which was at that stage the radio ship for Laser 558. Caroline DJs on board the ship at this historic time included Susan Charles, Peter Philips, John Lewis, Dave Collins and David Andrews. On 3rd September 1985 at 24:00 hours the Dioptric Surveyor departed owing to a force nine storm.

Radio Monique

Once again, Caroline had a Dutch operation. From December 1984 the "Ross Revenge" broadcast the taped and live programmes of a Dutch music radio production company by day under the name Radio Monique using the 50 kW transmitter. These programmes featured mainly Pop and Euro-Pop style music, aimed at the mainstream Dutch radio listening audience, which gave Radio Monique wide appeal throughout the Benelux.

In addition, Caroline transmitted paid-for programmes of various Dutch and American religious evangelist broadcasters such as Johan Maasbach and Roy Masters. these were broadcast on medium wave (and later on short-wave as well) under the name "Viewpoint 963/819" (or "World Mission Radio" in the case of the SW service).

In November 1985, the competitor offshore station, Laser, dragged its anchor in a storm. Laser broadcast a Mayday (distress signal) call, which the DTI answered and escorted the "Communicator" into harbour, where they impounded the ship. With Laser off the air, Caroline moved from 576 kHz to Laser's 558 kHz frequency, now broadcasting a Top 40 music format similar to Laser's under the name Caroline 558. Thus when Laser briefly returned as Laser Hot Hits, it was in turn forced to use Caroline's former (and somewhat inferior) frequency of 576.

The mast collapses

In 1987 the British Government passed the Territorial Sea Act [ [ Territorial Sea Act 1987] ] which extended the UK maritime limit from three to twelve nautical miles. In order to remain in International waters, the ship had to move to a new anchorage which was less sheltered and close to major shipping lanes. Initially this was regarded as a minor inconvenience as the convert|300|ft|m|sing=on ship (the largest ever used in offshore radio) was felt to be sturdy enough to operate at this anchorage. However, in October a massive storm hit southern England, causing loss of life and severe damage to buildings and trees. Unable to take shelter inside territorial waters, the MV "Ross Revenge" was forced to weather the storm in the North Sea.

Unbeknown at the time, the storm had weakened her convert|300|ft|m|sing=on antenna mast, and it collapsed in a further storm some weeks later ~ (a video taken aboard the ship at the time by Nigel Harris, known as Stuart Russell in earlier times, is widely available). Caroline quickly returned to the airwaves Initially with a makeshift aerial which gave a less powerful signal (and as a result, a much reduced audience) For several months only one transmitter could be used leading to the loss of the crucial income-generating Radio Monique, although a substitute Dutch daytime service Radio 558 (later Radio 819) was eventually established.

1989 Joint Anglo-Dutch Raid

On land, the UK Thatcher government sharpened the 1967 anti-offshore broadcasting law further, this time to permit the boarding and silencing of stations operating even in international waters, if British nationals were involved. [ Charter 88 - Why break a butterfly upon the wheel? ]

On August 19, 1989 (months before the new law had even made it through Parliament), James Murphy, an investigator for the Office of Official Solicitor acting on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry, led colleagues and counterparts from the Netherlands Radio Regulatory Authority to carry out a raid on the "Ross Revenge" in which vital equipment was wrecked or confiscated.

It was claimed that Caroline's use of a short wave frequency 6215 kHz for the transmission of paid-for religious programmes was causing interference to maritime communications (although the shortwave transmissions had stopped on the day prior to the raid). That station was called World Mission Radio and its on-air announced address was in California.

Another possible reason for the raid is that the Dutch station Radio 819 ran catchy adverts for a cigarette brand, Texas Cigarettes. The blatant advertising of a product banned from being advertised by European Union law further compounded the authorities' venom for the unregulated broadcasts that were emanating from the "Ross Revenge".

The main reason though, according to most people, was that 1.5 million people were listening each day to Radio Monique, transmitted from the "Ross Revenge". The Dutch state radio station discovered this and complained to the authorities to do something about it because, they argued, they were losing potential advertising money.

The interference on short wave however did exist, and several times Caroline was warned about this by officials and offshore-radio fans.

Part of the raid was broadcast live before officials finally cut off the transmitters. Dutch staff were arrested and taken back to the Netherlands, together with most of the broadcasting equipment that had been used for the Dutch language broadcasts. Although the British staff were not arrested and were left on the ship, Radio Caroline was no longer in a position to broadcast.

The legality of the raid (as well as accounts of what actually took place on board that day) is still hotly disputed between the Caroline Organisation and the authorities. Caroline claimed that the boarding of the ship and removal/destruction of equipment was an act of piracy on the high seas under international maritime law (a crime which at the time still carried the death penalty). The Dutch claimed that as the ship's Panamanian registration had lapsed in 1987, it was not under legal protection from any country and that its transmissions were a breach of international radio regulations which since 1982 have prohibited broadcasting from outside national territories.

1990-1991: After the raid

Six weeks after the police raid, on 1 October 1989, Radio Caroline restarted from the "Ross Revenge" . Although initially using makeshift equipment and on very low power, Caroline's return was seen by its staff both as a gesture of defiance toward the raiders and a necessary measure to retain the 558 kHz frequency (which at the time was regarded as one of best available on the medium wave band due to the low level of night-time interference). One of Caroline's most faithful people of all time, engineer Peter Chicago, had hidden parts during the raid. In six weeks he managed to put these into good use and restored the 5 kW transmitter previously used on short-wave to 558 kHz.

Over the following months Caroline's signal quality improved as transmitting valves were donated and programming returned to normal. A new challenge occurred in June 1990, when Spectrum Radio, a new multi-ethnic community radio station for London, was allocated 558 kHz, the same frequency as Caroline. This was seen by many of Caroline's fans as an attempt by the British authorities to jam Caroline.

In the event Caroline's signal caused more interference to Spectrum's than vice versa. Caroline broadcast regular apologies to Spectrum and its listeners but refused to vacate the channel. Spectrum threatened to sue the Radio Authority, which relented and allowed Spectrum to temporairly use a second, clear frequency of 990 kHz (despite earlier claims that no alternative frequencies were available) alongside 558 kHz. Eventually, however, Caroline did leave 558 kHz and moved to 819 (the former Dutch frequency).

This continued until 5 November 1990 when lack of fuel and supplies finally put the station off the air. The final song played being "Pilot of the Airwaves" by Charlie Dore, [ [ First & last ] ] which turned out to be (unintentionally) poignant. Most of the previous broadcasting staff had by now left. A skeleton staff of volunteers remained on board for a year as caretakers, whilst fresh funding and equipment was sought on land.

In November 1991 hurricane force storms caused the ship to break anchor and drift onto Goodwin Sands, a notorious "ships' graveyard" in the English Channel. The crew were rescued by RAF helicopter. The "Ross Revenge" was later salvaged and brought into harbour in Dover.

1991 onwards: Caroline onshore

A legal onshore Radio Caroline now broadcasts from Maidstone, Kent.

It began broadcasting via Astra satellites from 19 and 28 degrees east, covering Western Europe, first with an analogue, and then later with a digital service. Astra transmissions temporarily ceased in November 2002 [ [ Where is Caroline's place in the new millennium?] ] . The station has also held several Restricted Service Licences (RSLs), and now broadcasts via internet audio streaming, Sky Digital and Freesat (via the Astra 28e satellite), and WorldSpace.

As of 2007, following numerous moves, the "Ross Revenge" has been docked at Tilbury and is undergoing repairs and maintenance by a volunteer crew. The ship still has working radio studios aboard, from which both Caroline and BBC Essex have occasionally broadcast.

In 2008, over the Easter, May and Spring Bank Holiday weekends, Radio Caroline has broadcast special feature schedules, entirely from the studios of the Tilbury-docked "MV Ross Revenge".

Satellite Caroline

- In the 21st century, Radio Caroline broadcasts primarily by satellite and, as in the 1990s, still relies principally on listener donations from the Caroline Support Group.

- A website and internet audio stream are also available.

The station is now based and uses onshore studios in the south-east English town of Maidstone in Kent. Former offshore broadcasters who continue to broadcast on Caroline from studios in Maidstone are Roger Mathews, Nigel Harris, Martin Fisher, Marc Jacobs, Johnny Lewis, Doug Wood, Dave Foster, Cliff Osbourne, Bob Lawrence and Ad Roberts. On Saturdays, a German-English language service is broadcast in the morning for two hours, under the name German Caroline. Evangelical programmes are also broadcast, together with a number of sponsored specialist music shows. Easter weekend 2008 saw 3 days of live broadcasting from the Ross Revenge in Tilbury featuring 10 presenters from the Mi Amigo of the late 70s. Those aboard for the 90 hour reunion were Roger Mathews, Mike Stevens, Bob Lawrence, Brian Martin, Martin Fisher, Cliff Osbourne, Jeremy Chartham, Ad Roberts, Dick Verheul and Kees Borrell.

"Onshore" Radio Caroline began broadcasting via Astra satellite from 19 degrees east, covering the whole of Western Europe. Caroline initially broadcast on Sunday afternoons on the satellite station European Klassik Rock. Following the closure of EKR, Caroline started a full service on the former EKR channel, first with an analogue, and then later, with a digital service.

- However, the Astra satellite used for the broadcasts, Astra 1 at 19.2E, is one which is rarely used for British programming. This put Caroline at a disadvantage for attracting audiences in Britain. The majority of British satellite dishes are pointed at Astra 2 at 28.2E which is used for BBC programming and the Sky Digital service. Listenership levels in continental Europe were also disappointing and the service was therefore discontinued in early 2003, with the station moving to a channel on the Eurobird 1 satellite at 28.5E, which allows the station to be received by the majority of satellite viewers in the UK with their existing equipment.

- In 2002 Caroline took a channel with the WorldSpace satellite radio system. This is a subscription-based satellite which carries only radio services and covers a third of the world from South Africa across to the western tip of India and northern Europe. A special dedicated WorldSpace receiver is required in order to receive WorldSpace stations, together with an annual subscription to descramble the broadcasts. It remains to be seen whether this service will enjoy widespread popularity, but it gives those living outside of the Sky Digital broadcast footprint (principally the British Isles), the chance to hear Caroline on a radio set. In 2007 Worldspace announced it would no longer offer services on its current platform of radios and would instead concentrate on its new Hybrid Satellite system.

- In spring 2004, Radio Caroline negotiated a deal with Italy's RTL 102.5 for Caroline to broadcast as part of Italy's national DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) system. This means Radio Caroline can now be heard in Rome, Milan, Turin, Bologna, Florence and Naples. Programming is a mix of Caroline's UK-produced and locally created material. - Caroline can also be heard on channel 927 on the NTL Cable TV networks in Dublin, Galway and Waterford.

- Caroline finally purchased an EPG slot of Sky Digital Channel 0199 on the British Sky Broadcasting satellite platform during the summer of 2006.

The RSL broadcasts

Following the near shipwrecking of the Ross Revenge and subsequent harbouring off the south east coast of England in 1990, the ship has been maintained by an association of enthusiasts called the Caroline Support Group (originally called the Ross Revenge Support Group - this way they could support the ship without getting into any legal trouble with regards to supporting the station).

The radio station itself was off the air for most of the 1990s, with the exception of occasional low-power broadcasts of one month's duration. A number of these licensed 28-day RSL (Restricted Service Licence) broadcasts took place from the "Ross Revenge" during the 1990s, with the ship anchored off Clacton, in London's Canary Wharf, Southend Pier and off the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. Meanwhile O'Rahilly was said to be canvassing foreign states in an attempt to be granted a licence to broadcast legally again from the "Ross Revenge".

The most recent and, reportedly, most successful RSL ran from 7th August until 3 September 2004 from the ship moored at the cruise liner terminal jetty at Tilbury in Essex. On this occasion the medium wave frequency authorised was 235 metres (1278 kHz) and an ISDN link enabled the programmes created on-board to be routed by landline to their Maidstone studio and thus to web streams and the satellite broadcast. The retailer ASDA and English Heritage, guardians of Tilbury Fort, were amongst the backers for this short duration event, intended to mark the 40th anniversary year of Radio Caroline and promote awareness of the continuing legalised digital and satellite programmes.

Dutch Caroline and Caroline South

In January 2002, Sietse Brouwer, a DJ with Caroline in the 1980s launched a Netherlands-based Radio Caroline operating from Harlingen and broadcasting on the Dutch cable network with coverage in the northern Netherlands. This operation is run largely independent of UK Caroline. This was intended to be a prelude to obtaining an AM frequency from the Dutch authorities in 2003, when Dutch medium wave frequencies were reallocated. However, Dutch Caroline failed to obtain a frequency and the cable network service has been discontinued for the interim, owing to lack of funds. In the meantime, the Dutch station is broadcasting in the interim solely via internet streaming technology, using the resurrected name of Radio Seagull, presenting a progressive rock format based on that of the original Radio Seagull that broadcast from the MV "Mi Amigo" in the early 1970s.

Caroline also now has a broadcasting partner based on the French and Italian Mediterranean Rivieras. Presented under the name Caroline South, this operation provides weekend evening programmes for Radio Caroline which are also broadcast on local FM radio stations on the Riviera. Veteran Caroline DJs Grant Benson and Tom Anderson are among the presenters.

2007 Ownership Controversy

As of 2nd December 2007, two web sites sites claim to be the "official" Radio Caroline.

This website in UK is broadcasting music via satellite, internet and relays. Some personalities from the offshore days of the offshore Radio Caroline are involved. Owned by Malcolm Smith, who holds a registered UK trademark.

Apparently based in France is currently not broadcasting by any means. Claims to be "endorsed" by the original founder Ronan O'Rahilly. Implies that Peter Chicago (the former offshore engineer) is involved.


Radio Caroline International broadcasts in Tenerife, The Canary Islands on FM 105 and streams via the internet. The station is named after the original offshore Radio Caroline but does not claim to be the original. Station relays Radio Seagull 1602 AM, between 10 pm and 6 a.m each night. Radio Caroline International plans further expansion in 2008.

Pop culture references

* On his album "The Golden Age of Wireless", British musician Thomas Dolby recorded a song entitled "Radio Silence", where he makes cryptic references to a woman named "Caroline" and lamenting a lost love like an empty radio frequency. It is presumed that this is a "love song" of sorts for Radio Caroline.
*Godley & Creme recorded a song about Radio Caroline called "Get Well Soon" from their 1979 album "Freeze Frame". The song describes the unwell protagonist listening to Radio Caroline in order to get better, and then when he does the station disappears altogether.
* In The Goodies the Goodies created an offshore pirate radio station and offshore pirate post service.
* The Status Quo song "Rock and roll" refers to Radio Caroline
* Ska band The Toasters have a song titled "Pirate Radio," which is about Radio Caroline.
* The song "Hearthammer" by the Scottish Folk Rock band Runrig contains the line, "Lying under the covers. Radio on. Settle down with Caroline as she sailed all summer long," which appears to be a reference to Radio Caroline.

ee also

*Pirate radio in Europe
*Alan Crawford - Brief biography about the person who founded Radio Atlanta, which became Radio Caroline South in 1964.
*Marine Broadcasting Offences Act - The law which ended the hey-day and commercial viability of offshore radio between March 1964 and August 1967.
*Tony Benn - As Postmaster-General, he led for the government on the Marine Broadcasting Offences Bill in 1967, and was responsible for enforcing it once it was enacted on August 14.

External links

* [ The Official website of Radio Caroline International]
* []
* [ "Ross Revenge" radio ship official website]
* [ "Horizon" magazine website]
* [ Multi Media Radio Caroline website]
* [ Lots of offshore memories]
* [ - Website by Johnny Lewis, Caroline engineer and presenter]
* [ - Website by Ad Roberts, Radio Monique presenter]
* [ - Website by Tom Mackenzie, Radio Caroline presenter of the 1990s London RSL]
* [] Unique 80's photos from Radio Caroline/Ross Revenge
* [ Video: A Day in the Life] - broadcasting offshore from the M.V. Ross Revenge
* [ Video: The attack in 1989]

References for Martin Turner

Background Material

*"Radio Caroline", by Venmore Rowland, John. - Landmark Press, UK. 1967. - The original book about Radio Caroline. Contains interesting information about the stations.
*"When Pirates Ruled The Waves", by Harris, Paul. - Impulse Publications, UK. 1968. - The first book published in the wake of the Marine Offences Act of 1967 at a time of uncertainty. There are factual errors in the book which is mainly based upon press cuttings.
*"History of Radio Nord", by Kotschack, Jack. - Forlags AB, Sweden. (Swedish) English version published in 1970 by Impulse Publications, UK. - Radio Nord used the MV "Mi Amigo" which was later used by Radio Atlanta which merged with the Caroline Organization to become Radio Caroline South. This ship sank in 1980.
*"From International Waters", by Leonard, Mike. - Forest Press, Heswall, UK. 1996. ISBN 0-9527684-0-2 - An encyclopedia about the history of offshore broadcasting until 1996. Contains extensive coverage about the history of Radio Caroline.
*"Mass Media Moments in the United Kingdom, the USSR and the USA", by Gilder PhD., Eric. - "Lucian Blaga" University of Sibiu Press, Romania. 2003. ISBN 973-651-596-6 - Contains academic studies of government reaction to the advent of "pirate radio" in Europe and details of how Radio Caroline influenced Texans to start Wonderful Radio London.
*"The Beat Fleet: The story behind the 60's 'pirate' radio stations", by Leonard, Mike. - Forest Press, Heswall, UK. 2004 ISBN 0 9527684 1 0 - A look at the business operations behind Britain's offshore stations.

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