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A Tribute to Mike Bass

Mike Bass portrait

We've been privileged to have access to Mike's pictures

More will appear in forthcoming features until then enjoy some recollections of the late Mike Bass

Mike Bass head & shoulders

How I remember my friend Mike Bass, by Robin Banks

Mike was born in Oxford in 1933 he'd lost his Father in the mid 1950's, in his early 20's he started working for Decca Radar, he continued to live at home with his Mother in Sydenham, London. I have fond memories of calling at his home, usually accompanied by a bunch of long haired cronies about my age. Mike’s Mother would let us in without a word and with a quiet sigh would usher us quickly to the back parlor where Mike had his ham radio equipment. The Bass’s were a reserved an educated family and Mrs Bass was not amused by a gang of loud teenage hippies clambering around her home. After about the second visit, several notices appeared in the house and one on the toilet flush I shall always remember, it read “one light pull is quite sufficient!”

Decca radar vessel approaches Tower Bridge london

Mike worked for Decca Radar for 10 years above tests being conducted by engineers on the River Thames around Tower Bridge in the Pool of London

I'd met Mike during 1968 I was then an 18 year old budding studio engineer having only a scant knowledge of radio theory. Mike, in his usual patient manner, was prepared to take the time to explain what was going on. This was a good excuse to head for the local, and so Mike and I met up on a frequent basis to down a few pints and rant on about transmitters and aerials

Shivering Sands Forts 14/6/69

Shivering Sands fort complex through the mist on 14th June 1969

We were attempting to put Radio Free London on the air from my gloomy bedsit in Shepherds Bush. There were so many out of work Caroline people who had taken to crashing in my flat. Those included Andy Archer, Bud Bulloo, Stevie Merrik, Spangles Muldoon (Chris Carey) and friends

Roger off Shivering Sands Buoy

Roger off the Shivering Sands South Buoy

In fact we were all bored senseless due to the absence of work. This heralded the inevitable intervention of the devil himself. Somebody had the idea that making a pirate broadcast on the first anniversary of the Marine & Broadcasting Offences Act could well be a suitable gesture in defiance of the authorities but how?

Mike Bass on Shivering Sands Jungle Walk

Crossing Shivering Sands "Jungle Walk" from the G1 Gun Tower to the central Control Tower

Spangles and his girlfriend Kate put a list of equipment required together. By magic, most of the parts arrived within hours, including an amateur radio transmitter which had been borrowed from Peter Chicago who at the time was a member of an amateur radio club in the Croydon area and Mike Bass a buddie

Peter, trusting in that we must have had more than a clue as to how to operate his transmitter, allowed us custody in his absence imagine! Of course everybody had been an expert, and various methods of establishing an antenna were invented, but nobody could be bothered to erect it so 200 feet of wire were wrapped around the ceiling of the bedsit!

Mike Bass on Radio Free London

An early supporter of the campaign for Free Radio & leading light of Radio Free London Mike above in his radio shack in Sydenham London in 1970

Unfortunately, our transmission could only be received up to the end of the street. However, Maria, living in the room above, got perfect reception on her Dansette Radiogram regardless of which buttons she pressed! In a desperate attempt to silence this racket, she wrenched the plug from the wall socket.
Alas, the screeching of Radio free London continued to bellow from the Dansette!! Demons were at work poor Maria charged downstairs in a state of panic calling for the help of the Holy Spirit.

Needless to say RFL successfully broadcast over London on the anniversary day, thanks to the help of Mike Bass & Chicago

Mi-Amigo in Holland

The Mi-Amigo is pictured above in Amsterdam Harbour Holland in 1972 before its escape back to sea

The ship had 9 stations broadcast from her between 1958 - 1980 as the Bon Jour/Magda Maria; Radio Nord, as the Mi-Amigo; Radio Atlanta, Radio Caroline variants, Radio 192, Radio Seagull, Radio Atlantis, Station 385, Radio Mi-Amigo & Radio Veronica

During the time of the Caroline revival in the early seventies, Mike was working with Chicago on board the Mi-Amigo in Holland preparing the transmitters for operation at sea

Mike Bass on Mi-Amigo with TX Tubes

Mike aboard Radio Caroline Mi-Amigo in 1972 working as radio engineer above in the storeroom next to the TX room in the bows of the ship holding a vacuum capacitor used in the final stages of the 50kW cost of these £1000's

Then a 4cx3500 two are used 1 in the carrier & mod' of the Continental Electronics Transmitter final Power Amplifier

The 6697 came from the MEBO 2 four were used in the final amplifier from the RCA 100kW transmitter 2 on each side of the ampiphase, one tube or valve each cabinet

Mike Bass working on Carolines 10k TX

Fitting a transmitter tube in the 10kW Continental Electronics reserve Unit

With encouragement from Mike, I was at the time studying as a Maritime Radio Officer at Norwood Tech in South London. Having almost completed my course I’d applied for a job onboard a Canadian seismic Research vessel based in Northern Holland. Mike had by then returned to his new London home at Purley Oaks, South Croydon. Mike had suggested that I popped in at Caroline House in the Hague whilst en voyage to Den Helder, and meet up with the old crowd for a drink. The rest is history

Mike Bass turns on Carolines 10k TX

Switching back on

Mike would have a very subtle way of putting things and every so often a little gem of knowledge would slip out! Mike would then utter a quiet chuckle as he heard the penny drop! Part of his charm was his passion for surprise, and skulduggery here and there. If you needed to pick his brains on a subject, you didn't expect a short answer, instead you would be presented with an array of hints and clues which made it all the more fun

Mike Bass tunes Carolines 10k TX

Setting up transmitter control panel

Over the years I learned bits and pieces about the Mike I never knew. During the 1960’s pirate radio boom, Mike had been a stalwart supporter. He often provided valuable technical assistance, mostly to Radio Invicta and K.I.N.G Radio

Mi-Amigo in Colour

Evening as the Mi-Amigo shows a light with radar reflector duplicating as the anchor ball!

After the closure of RNI in 1974, Mike and I kept in touch on a regular basis. Mike who in his Doctorate was then teaching Physics at Croydon University. Dr Bass modest to a fault rarely used his title, indeed Mike never bragged about anything. My visits with him often coincided with Chicago’s, when we’d happily convene to the local watering hole until beyond closing time. The tradition continued over the years, almost right up until we lost Mike in January 2003. Pete Chicago has been a great and loyal friend to Mike throughout those long years and the deep academic debates articulated by Mike and Peter will be sadly missed

Mike Bass, Roger & Tom Anderson

Mike with Roger & Tom Anderson in Holland

I shall forever miss the sound of the old railway doorbell at Mikes home and the cheery “werlo” ham radio expression he’d often greet me with. Much loved by all so thanks Mike on behalf of everyone from the world of “Free Radio” - Robin Banks

Mebo 2 off Holland

The Radio Northsea ship Mebo 2 off the coast of Holland

Mike Bass at 16mm cine projector

Indulging his other passion Mike was an avid enthusiast & collector of classic films & projectors

Mike Craig laces a film on 16mm projector

Mike Craig aka Mike Watts threads a 4 minute 16 mm

I've just been looking through some of your pages on the old pirate stations and noticed a picture of Mike Craig in the Mike Bass Tribute & Leenderts Monique 2 I was good friends with Mike in Herne Bay around twenty five years ago but lost touch with him when I moved to the USA. Do you know of his whereabouts or how he is doing these days if you have any info I would appreciate it. Many Thanks - Chris Palmer

Mike Bass projectionist

Mike's collection includes some rare & interesting footage all of which have been safely archived

I first met Mike in '68 through an old school friend who knew him via the Free Radio Association. He was a kind, quiet, unassuming man with a wryly wicked sense of humour & a wide range of interests apart from radio. For example photography, science, & industial archeology.
He acted as a technical guru to may of us who were interested in radio & electronics, he could always be depended on to give good advice, which he'd sometimes tease you with.

Mike really was the unsung hero of free radio, having mentored many of us who went on to become engineers, both offshore & on land. Mike is probably THE person who most enabled the early London pirate scene, as he acted as a kind of central information exchange, connecting & introducing people.
I'd not seen him for a few years, my last recollections are having a pint with him when both he & I were visiting people in Herne Bay, Kent UK. I was shocked & saddened to hear of his rapid illness & death from Peter (Chicago)

Mike will always be missed by those who knew him - Mike Craig (Watts)

Tony Allan, Mike Bass, Nic Oakley & Norman Barrington

Tony Allan, Mike, Nic Oakley & Norman Barrington outside Belsize Park underground station in 1973

Listener reader & colleague tributes ......

Enjoyed ready the tribute to Mike. How nice that you did this, Cheers, Helen Stettler
(Roger Haken's 1st wife)


You might be interested to know what we were doing at Belsize Park? I was in town during a week off the ship & had gone to visit Buster (Surely Caroline's most faithful, & probably most well know listener!) who was very ill, and in the Hampstead Free Hospital, unexpectedly I bumped into Tony & Mike in the Hospital so we visited poor Buster together (Hey, perhaps we really did have loving awareness in those days!?) later that day, I got to meet Tony's Parents in Central London - Norman Barrington


Very interesting tribute on Mike Bass, I first got to know Mike when I went to the Peter Chicago Court case at Norwich in the 1970's - Peter Anderson Churlston Torbay


Tony Pine,Mike Bass,Dick Dixon,Bob Le-Roi,Roger & Helen

Tony Pine, Mike Bass, Mike Craig, Dick Dixon, Bob Le-Roi, Roger & Helen at Flashback


I first met Mike at Flashback '67 when I'd prepared the audio visual show for the Radio Sutch & City presentation by Tony Pine. I couldn't understand why Mike was happiest in the company of the Fort Fellows, it wasn't until later I learnt that he'd helped the stations on sticks make the most of their poor transmitting equipment & so perhaps felt an affiliation for the lesser fort mortals. I bumped into Mike on a few occasions over the years, & happily recall when he came for tea at my Tankerton home. Unassuming as ever, I struggled to get Mike to open up & tell stories of his own experiences. Conversely, Mike was always generous to a fault sharing his considerable knowledge with others. Mike was a quiet unassuming fellow but always good company especially over a pint of real ale - Bob Le-Roi


Mike Bass at Zeezenders

Mike preparing audio logs at Zeezenders


I only had the opportunity to meet Mike on one occasion we had a fine weekend working together arranging all the programming of film & material for Zeezenders 20 which was held in NoordwijkerhoutI found Mike a very intelligent, calm as well as humorous guy. I sent two photos from my personal archive from that weekend - Hans Knot - Goningen Holland


Tony Allan & Mike Bass

Tony Allan & Mike at Zeezenders


Thanks for your very interesting scrapbook.“During the time of the Caroline revival in the early seventies, Mike was working with Chicago on board the Mi-Amigo in Holland preparing the transmitters for operation at sea”.That reminds me I visited the Mi Amigo, when she was a Pirate Museum in Zaandam NL. We were allowed to see every corner of the ship & as I’m interested in radio I headed for the transmitter room. I could see people working there and I remember a shelf on the wall with a lot of radio tubes. In the background I could see the coaxial cable from the transmitter and it was cut not too far from the transmitter. Anyhow, when I tried to climb down the stairs to the transmitter room, I was stopped. I asked if I could come down to the transmitter. But the answer was NO. Why? I asked. The boss says so, was the answer. Maybe it was Mike working there? And of course a couple of weeks later I had the answer to why I was not allowed there. Mi Amigo back at sea! Regards - Per Stockholm Sweden


Dick Plamer, Chris carey, Mike Bass & Robin Banks

Dick Palmer talks to Chris Carey with Mike Bass centre & Robin Banks on the Ross Revenge at Queenborough in 2003


Very nice tribute to Mike. Keep the pictures coming!

I knew Mike over the past 25 years or so, but he was such a modest man that I never fully appreciated his contribution to free radio. Even on the couple of occasions I stayed at his house in Croydon, I could never get him to open up much. We had our best chats in Birmingham, over a pint, when he used to come to meet former university colleagues. Even then, he seemed more keen to talk about steam trains! The last time I met him was at a garden party in 1999. After that, our communications were limited to the exchange of Christmas cards. A great man, sadly missed indeed - Chris Mould Birmingham


I have so many fond memories of Mike. I remember when I first met him in 1970 being a little nervous about meeeting Roger's good friend. We travelled to Purley Oaks by train & Mike met us in his faithful red minivan now owned by Peter Chicago. He gave me a very warm welcome & that was the beginning of a wonderful lifetime friendship. We spent many happy hours at 84 Mount Park Avenue where we messed about picking gooseberries, raspberries & fruit from the garden. I've subsequently found out how fond his neighbors were of him too. My own son, Michael, loved Mike too & enjoyed all his weird & wonderful gadgets & the visits we all made to the Kew Bridge Steam Museum. Mike was such a brilliant, thoughtful, man, a master of understatement, & totally unique. In our time we visited many great pubs together so cheers to the memory of Mike - Helen Stettler


Mike Bass at home in the pub

Mike Bass 1933-2003 excellent engineer, modest person & all round decent bloke

Tributes to people from the Media & Performing Arts World can be seen at Jacobs Ladder

Grateful thanks to all those that have assisted with this copy free feature, included are photographs from Mike's own & friends albums

If you'd like to add a message or photograph do mail us & we'll include your contribution

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