Radio Caroline first started broadcasting at Easter 1964.
I was on my school holidays and getting a little bored.
I had a cassette recorder and every week I recorded the
top 20 chart show from the BBC Light programme on Sunday
afternoon. There was not much music on the radio those days
and so I could play back the programme over and over again.
I listened to some of the Dutch stations at the time and
workers playtime, music while you work and listen with mother
were the highlights of the BBC weekly offering. Radio Luxembourg
was the only pop music station on the air during the evenings
with a strong signal that faded badly. I was tuning the
dial when I found a very strong signal playing pop music.
Suddenly a voice said "This is a test transmission
for Radio Caroline on 199 your all day music station"
It was Simon Dee and Chris Moore. Little did I know how
this would change my life. This was BBC Radio's biggest
challenge and the beginning of a radio revolution for he
UK. Soon many other stations joined them on boats and forts
in the North Sea. Radio London, Radio City, Radio 390, Radio
England. Britain Radio. Caroline North (Irish Sea), Radio
270 and Radio Scotland also arrived. I made my parents take
holidays in Clacton so that I could visit the ships on boats
from Walton on the Naze and I remember leaning over the
side of the old Mi Amigo talking to Tony Blackburn and Roger
Day getting them to play my requests on the Big Line up
programme at 4pm. This fun went on until 1967 when the government
passed a law banning these stations and all but Radio Caroline
On August 14th 1967 the government's bill to silence
all the stations was made law and all the stations closed
down except one and that was Radio Caroline. I was supposed
to be working that day but at 2pm I disappeared into a stack
of boxes of light bulbs for an hour with my transistor radio
and earpiece and listened to the last hour of Radio London.
I will never forget that last hour they closed with "A
day in the life" by the Beatles and Paul Kay said, "Radio
London is now closing down". I turned over to Caroline
and heard Johnny Walker say, we welcome all the new listeners
and Caroline continues. Luckily no one seemed to have missed
me all that time and I still had my job. Caroline's
programmes that evening were un-missable and the midnight "We
shall overcome" and Johnny Walker sailing up the Thames
story was legendary and radio at its best. Caroline continued
for some time but found it difficult with money running
out. I remember tuning in one day and there was nothing
there and later in the day I heard the TV newsman say that
Radio Caroline's north and south ships had been towed
away to Holland due to unpaid bills although there has always
been some doubt about that.
They broadcasts eventually returned from the Mi Amigo and
they continued until the old ship sank in early 1980. Many
people thought that they were gone forever but we know Radio
Caroline and they returned in 1983 on another boat, the
Ross Revenge an ex Icelandic trawler. In the hurricane of
1987 the mast , which was the highest ship born structure
of that time was weakened and it blew down a week later.
But they were soon back on the air when a temporary structure
was erected at sea. Laser 558 joined them and although up
to then the government had taken little interest in them
Laser with its top 40 America style format changed all that.
Caroline was relying on the Dutch programming to provide
them with money to pay the bills but soon the Dutch and
British governments raided the ship and closed it down taking
away most of the transmitting equipment. After a couple
of weeks they again returned when Peter Chicago found enough
equipment to get the transmitter working again. Eventually
they went adrift onto the Goodwin sands and incredibly were
towed off by a Dover Harbour tug and taken to Dover. This
was one of the only times a ship has been rescued from these
treacherous sands. This began a remarkable comeback by Caroline.
Because of a restriction order placed on the ship forbidding
it to go to sea much work had to be done by the northern
repair group before they could get the ship out again and
all this work was carried out by volunteers free. The salvage
bill was paid after great support from Dover harbour board
and the Ross Revenge Support group which became the Radio
Caroline Support group. The ship then moved to various locations
around the Kent and Essex coast before settling at Queenborough
on the Isle of Sheppey where I visited the ship and saw
the amount of work that had been carried out by the dedicated
team. The ship was looking much more respectable now. Some
money had been raised with the Radio Caroline support group
and R.S.L broadcasts from the ship and one of these had
taken place in London when the ship proudly sailed up the
Thames to Docklands as in the Johnny Walker story. This
nearly proved costly to Caroline because they only just
moved the ship before the devastating IRA bomb blast that
would have damaged the ship. The successful Docklands RSL
raised enough money to pay for the ship to go into Chatham
Dockyard for an inspection on the dent that was the result
of their running aground on the Goodwin Sands.
In August 1999 the ship was moved to the end of Clacton
pier for the summer and another R.S.L broadcast took place.
During this time talks were taking place with an organisation
that were trying to bring back Radio Luxembourg. The plan
was to use the Ross Revenge as a studio moored in London
Docklands and relay the programmes up to the Astra satellite
from the ship until a permanent studio could be built. This
would have brought in lots of money for Caroline and a rebuild
of their studios. From Southend the ship was moved to a
temporary mooring in the River Medway. This proved a disastrous
move for the ship because at Christmas a storm blew the
ship adrift, it just missed another ship and went aground
on mud flats. Tugs from Medway port authority had to be
called out during their Christmas break to tow them into
Sheerness harbour at great expense. Since then the ship
has returned to Queenborough. After all that Radio Luxembourg
Later when EKR who were broadcasting from the Maidstone
studio's ran out of money they offered some free airtime
to Caroline. Caroline decided to take up the offer and gradually
the hours of transmission were increased until they were
broadcasting seven days a week. When the analogue closedown
took place Caroline decided to go digital and after a break
of a month resumed in splendid digital quality from Maidstone.
Broadcasts were also streamed from the web by the Dutch
supporters on www.radio-caroline.nl.
In August 2004 to celebrate their 40th birthday they moved
the ship from Rochester to the ferry landing stage in Tilbury.
They had an RSL covering much of South Essex and North Kent
on Medium Wave sending the signal over to the Maidstone
studio's using an ADSL link to uplink to Sky, Worldspace
(Aug 2002) and the Internet.
In 2008/09 Radio Caroline were broadcasting from another
studio (John Brock) in Maidstone, using an expensive
link to get the signal up to London for uplinking to the
Eurobird satellite to Sky Digital EPG 0199 but the audio
signal is in mono. Their signal was also uplinked to the
AfriStar Satellite for Worldspace Radio's, this is a
portable radio with a small satellite dish attached to it
that covers most of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The Internet stream is now in super stereo and usually very
solid and listeners can tune in all over the World. They
are also heard on DAB occasionally in Italy and on Saturday
and Sunday nights can be heard on FM on the French and Italian
This has all be achieved with thanks to many unpaid volunteers
that have worked tirelessly for the station. Remember, Caroline
can be anywhere.
by Roland Beaney
Update by Bob Squirrell
In the 21st century, Radio Caroline now broadcasts by satellite
(no EPG) and the internet and as in the 1990's, still relies
principally on listener donations from the Caroline Support
Group. The station now usually uses onshore studios in Kent.
It still has the Ross Revenge, the ship which was used in
the 1980's. This is being restored by volunteers and is
used for occasional special broadcasts.
Its 50 years since Radio Caroline first started broadcasting
music around the clock and before then radio was very different
to what it is today. To mark this outstanding achievement
the station had a day of celebration at the Corn Exchange
in Rochester, Kent It all started at 10am with Peter
Antony broadcasting live from a studio built within the
complex Hundreds of people began arriving and soon
the main hall was full up with people watching Roger Day
introduce the first panel discussing the 1960s era. Panels
discussing the 1970s and the 1980s took place
during the day with DJs from each decade telling interesting
stories and sharing their memories with the large audience.
It was nice to meet so many current DJs and staff from the
station and legends from the past and it was an event I
will never forget. There was further audio from the party
during the course of the afternoon going out on a separate
internet stream. After a break at 5pm Charlie Dore
entertained us and featured the Pirates of the airwaves
song that later became an anthem for the station. (Listen
Here). The evening finished with the Counterfeit
Beatles that got people dancing until late. Thanks
to Andrew Austin and his team who worked so hard over the
last few months to make it so successful.
After spending ten years at Tilbury
the MV Ross Revenge moved to her new home, moored on the
River Blackwater near Bradwell. Many people have said
how magnificent she looked as she came out of Tilbury docks
and moved into the Thames. For a few minutes the tide caught
her (see video 2) and it seemed that she wanted to go towards
London but the tug GPS Avenger soon had her moving
out towards the Estuary and she passed Southend and headed
towards Harwich. After turning round she spent part of the
night with her tug off Clacton and Walton near where she
spent many years back in the mid 1980s. On Friday morning
1st August she settled down in her new mooring and all was
completed by 10:25am. Well done to all the people that have
spent many hours of exhausting work on the ship in Tilbury
and it was a great achievement to get the ship through all
the safety checks so that she could leave Tilbury.
Its 50 years since Radio Caroline
first started broadcasting music around the clock and before
then radio was very different to what it is today. To mark
this outstanding achievement the station had a day of celebration
at the Corn Exchange in Rochester, Kent It all started
at 10am with Peter Antony broadcasting live from a studio
built within the complex Hundreds of people began
arriving and soon the main hall was full up with people
watching Roger Day introduce the first panel discussing
the 1960s era. Panels discussing the 1970s and the
1980s took place during the day with DJs from each
decade telling interesting stories and sharing their memories
with the large audience. It was nice to meet so many current
DJs and staff from the station and legends from the past
and it was an event I will never forget. There was further
audio from the party during the course of the afternoon
going out on a separate internet stream. After a break at
5pm Charlie Dore entertained us and featured
the Pirates of the airwaves song that later became
an anthem for the station. (Listen
Here No 32 on playlist). The evening finished
with the Counterfeit Beatles that got people
dancing until late. Thanks to Andrew Austin and his team
who worked so hard over the last few months to make it so
The new 648Khz AM (Medium Wave)
transmitter commenced full time programmes at 7.00AM on
Friday 22nd December with live programmes from the Radio
Caroline ship, The Ross Revenge.
The changed schedule for the day
7am Johnny Lewis
9am Top Fifteen
10am Ray Clark – with the official
launch at midday.
2pm Kevin Turner
5pm Resume normal programmes)
A John from Norfolk who was once a Caroline Movement member
wrote to remind me that the early founding members of the
CM were Geoff Baldwin, Andy Thompson later known as DJ Andy
Johnson, and Brian Bannister who is now sadly dead. He tells
me that he is sure there were others involved in these early
days but the real credit of the CM goes to Geoff Baldwin.
The first editor of the CM Bulletin was Andy Thompson, John
Burch then took over from him. I am pleased to be able to
put the record straight John, I am planning to do an article
on the Caroline Movement and would be pleased to hear from
anyone who has info on the movement in those days.
What would you do if you met a ghost? I've never seen
one but others seem to meet them quite regularly. I've
spent a lot of time on board the Ross and heard stories
that make what little I have left of my hair stand on end.
I recently asked a couple of my ship mates to tell me of
their encounters with the ships ghost. Lee Shuttlewood and
Peter Woods told me of several encounters with Harry (the
ships ghost) over the past few years. Stories of footsteps
coming up stairs and noises in the engine room when there
was no one there. Shadows being cast into the mess room,
towels moving as if by the draft of someone passing by them.
Someone stomping around on the back deck when there was
no one there. Finger taps on shoulders, dogs barking. Fangs
a lot to both Lee and Peter for their stories of ghostly
happenings on board the Ross Revenge.
of the famous DJs on Radio Caroline in the 60's was
Johnny Walker. He became very popular with his 9 - 12pm
shows which included a "Kiss in the car" segment
where couples could snuggle up in their cars at 11pm to
the sound of "When A Man Loves A Woman" by Percy
Sledge. This song became a Caroline anthem and the "Kiss
in the car" stickers became sought after. Johnny now
works for the BBC on Radio 2.
Another show that became popular was the Frinton "Flashing"
Hundreds of motorists would park their cars on the seafront
at Frinton and Walton on the Naze and flash their headlights
out to sea where the ship was at anchor 3 and a half miles
out. The DJs would stand on the deck asking questions and
the motorists would flash their headlights with two flashes
for no and one for yes. Apparently it was an incredible
sight to see all the cars flashing their headlights on command.
It must be remembered that the guys on the ship were very
cut off and had no phones except for emergencies so this
was a way of contacting the listeners for them. I suppose
this was the first interactive service another first for
Various boats were taking visitors out to the ships from
the Essex coast. The DJs looked forward to these visits
as life could become very boring on board because some of
them stayed out there for several weeks at a time. The ships
could be seen from the shore and many people particularly
those on holiday during the summer would go out to see them.
The staff on the ship would leap about on board when they
saw a boat approaching and shout out greetings. If you were
very lucky and the sea was calm the boat would go up very
close but contact with the ship was forbidden and you could
not go on board without going through customs.
The Maidstone studio was the broadcasting "home"
of Radio Caroline between 1999 and 2007. European Klassic
Rock were the original occupiers of the studio but when
they ran out of money Radio Caroline was offered the facility.
A few hours at the weekend at first but eventually it became
24 hours. At the time the studio was also the home of several
TV channels and an Eastern European TV service and they
had their own satellite uplink facility. This was a big
advantage as Caroline used this uplink to get their programmes
up to the Astra Satellite direct from the studio. This kept
the costs down and provided the listeners with excellent
quality audio. After the Studios closed down their Satellite
uplink Caroline had to find another way to get their programmes
up to London and they had to get a high quality telephone
line from BT. This proved to be very costly. I was surprised
that Caroline continued to broadcast from Maidstone for
so long. It was prestigious facility with three offices
converted to studios, security was good and it had a big
car park and a restaurant. Unfortunately the restaurant
was only open for a few hours during the day and not weekends
and the car park got very full at times. Many TV programmes
are made in the studios including Tricia but it was rare
to be able to rub shoulders with famous people. With modern
streaming technology it is possible to set up a studio anywhere
and costs can be kept down. I wish Caroline good luck with
its new studio.
The Dover photos were taken in December
1991 from the Cessna 150 G-AZLH on a 5 hour
round trip, with a re-fuel at Shipdam on
return and then back into Skegness with
a layer of fog starting to establish! Before
leaving Skeggy frost had to be swept from
the aircraft. It was so cold that it froze
the camera battery and it would only fire
a shot every couple of minutes and only
two photos were able to be taken.
The 1995 Clacton view was taken from Cessna
175 G-OTOW, which flew from Gamston to Clacton
Many thanks to Clive Ironmonger for photos
Cessna 150 G-AZLH
Ross Revenge at Clacton 1995
Ross Revenge at Western Docks Dover 1991
Ross Revenge at Western Docks Dover 1991
Regarding the two pictures below, The one on the left shows
the Ross Revenge with its original aerial mast before the
great storm in October 1987 from which it survived. The
hurricane took place on 16th October, 1987. The mast fell
down on 25th November, 1987. This was due to the ship being
side on to the waves and rolling at 40-45 degree angles.
They couldn't turn the ship into the waves as one of
the motors for turning the rudder was off the ship being
repaired. The stays had become slack because of the hurricane
and the ship was waiting for riggers to go out and tighten
them up and also replace the broken egg insulators.
The other photo was believed to have been taken in 1993
in Bradwell. The ship looks like it is facing Maldon as
the tide is going out. Also there is a river bank on the
right hand side of the picture. More details about the Ross
When you look up at these structures it makes you wonder
how they managed to put them up at sea.