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Britain Radio England - Part 2

Later Radio Dolfijn, Radio 227, & Radio 355

Continuing our feature on the stations that broadcast from the Laissez Faire

The Olga Patricia moored off Frinton Essex from May 1966

The Olga Patricia became the Laissez Faire roughly translated "Leave them alone" just let 'em do it

In Part 1 of Britain Radio England Norman Barrington explained how Radio England had foolishly aired their entire jingle package

Swinging Radio England based its on air image on the borrowed WFUN jingles, which Ron O'Quinn had brought over from the States. "Blast off time, Fun Radio & Fun Spot for example were easily edited to suit Swinging Radio England's own image, the WFUN News sequence below demonstrates

Aired virtually uninterrupted by DJ's, tape machines across Europe & offshore stations in competition with SRE a few miles away were busy

Caroline DJ's stayed up most of the night editing their own call sign into the Radio England package & literally the next day began using them as their own

On Shivering Sands the City crew cut n spliced the instrumentals & used them as backing tracks for programme talk over beds & adverts

Almost every offshore radio fan too had a complete collection of the SRE jingles which began doing the rounds amongst collectors:

WFUN Miami news sequence - The WFUN DJ played all the carts in the newsroom, in the correct order as it would be done through an actual news bulletin. But without actually presenting the news this sequence is a great record of their format, hope you enjoy it   Norman Barrington - February 2006 nb@normanb.net

Audio Break

The Miami WFUN News Cartridges, played out in full this set the scene & pace of the stations output predominantly FUN with a capital F supplied by Norman Barrington

Despite a lavish launch the high profile Swinging Radio England proved to be just a bit too fast moving & brash for the tastes of a conservative mid-60's Britain

Closing on the 4th November 1966 a Dutch company Verkoopmaatschappij NV took over launching the mixed format Radio Dolfijn, affectionately know as Radio Flipper

During the day Britain's original light music format prevailed whilst in the evening it was top 40. The latter proved more popular & was adopted under the Radio 227 call sign until 21st July when the station closed down in advance of the British Marine Etc Broadcasting Offence Act of 1967

 

N.B. Controversy still continues over the antenna system

Whilst it looked like the ship had 2 separate antennas, they were apparently combined

On the demise of Radio 227 the frequency played continuous music & jingles. We've been told that onboard the ship it was decided that since 227 pulled in few listeners the combiner (diplexer) would be taken out of circuit

The Chief Engineer being on shore this operation was conducted by the Radio 355 second engineer & the DJ's. Something like 85% efficiency was gained by reverting to one a single folded dipole antenna?

Expect more on this technical aspect of radio from the Laissez Faire

 

Britain Radio too was in trouble, it's light music format had failed to lure listeners away from the established Radio 390

For the full & unabridged history of Radio 390 get a copy of our documentary CD

Radio from Red Sands

By November 1966 Radio 390 was itself in deep water, having been prosecuted under the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949

Ultimately after lengthy & costly legal entanglements & in the belief that things were untenable from a fort. Ted Allbeury resigned his post as MD of Radio 390 on the 10th of February 1967 & took with him Personal Assistant John Withers

Making the decision to close Britain Radio on 22nd February 1967 Ted Allbeury above left, launched Carstead Advertising to sell space on the new Radio 355

Before working for Ted Allbeury, John Withers above right had managed his brother Tony Withers (Windsor) in their native Australia. Tony also joined Radio 355 team as Programme Director having left Radio London through ill health

Crew quarters & conditions on the ship were reported to be fair with thought going into the overall design, Martin Kayne tells us more:

1. The radio conversion on the Laissez Faire was constructed differently that other pirate radio ships. Rather than the studio & transmitters halls being constructed within the vessel. With the Laissez Faire both the transmitter hall & the 2 more or less matching sound proof studios were built on land. Looking like 2 large Portacabins, one contained the 2 studios with a connecting door, the other the two transmitters. These Cabins were lowered through the 2 big hatch covers into the the ships hold, one in front of, & the other to the rear of the main mast. Resting on specially constructed supports they were welded to the lower deck, in fact there were several steps up to get into the studio block. The funny thing about the studios was the fact that they were like a soundproof box, you couldn't hear the generators but the air-conditioning could usually be heard on air   2. The ships marine crew were accommodated at the rear of the ship in the cabin area originally constructed with the vessel. The DJ's quarters came as an afterthought, I have heard that in the early days radio staff slept wherever they found a suitable space. However by the time Radio 355 arrived there was a sort of shanty town of timber constructed accommodation at the bow of the vessel. There were no windows or doors on the cabins, though laundered bedding, comfortable mattresses provided a quiet place on the ship fine for sleeping, perhaps aided by the pitching motion of the the vessel at anchor
     
3. I think the studio equipment is already well documented. It was one hell of an experience for me working in austere conditions of Radio Essex, then suddenly being confronted by what was then the latest broadcasting kit. Though the enthusiasm & ethos behind the people on the station was exactly the same, I certainly never expected, in my wildest dreams, to be hired by & work with the legendary Tony Windsor. In fact Tony seldom operated his own equipment preferring to use a radio engineer. However new DJ's were given this job to give them technical operators experience. At first I thought this was a baptism of fire, but soon realised there was no mistake one could possibly make that Tony would not only recover from, but turn into a jolly good joke   4. Experiences like dragging the anchor when the captain took the bold decision of lower both bow anchors to prevent the vessel entering UK waters. Unfortunately due to the wind & tides the ship turned & for some time the twin anchor chains were badly entangled to the extent they could not be pulled up! Another temporary anchor arrived along with what seemed miles of very heavy chain. This anchor was placed on the port side of the ship & the chain duly arranged in a ziz-zag pattern on the forward hatch cover & secured by rope every few metres. The idea was for a sort of controlled decent for this emergency anchor. However once this anchor was pushed over the side, using a wooden plank, the chain followed...the rope that had been indented to control the decent snapped like string. The sight of such power was awesome, fortunately the far end the chain had been shackled to a bollard which held tight, causing the ship momentarily sway to the port side. It took several days for the crew untangle the original anchor chain whilst it was gradually hoisted on deck by winch
     
5. During the last week of transmissions I was taking a snooze on my bed when I was awoken & told "Roy Bates is outside and wants to speak to you". Immediate thoughts were we are almost 4 miles offshore how can he be 'outside'? Anyway it transpired that he was alongside in a fishing boat with half a dozen other people. Everyone was a bit nervous, the military had just blown up Sunk Head Tower, Radio 390 & Radio City had recently closed & the MOA was only a few weeks away, so what would he want here? Anyway on my way up to the deck I was told, you don't invite them aboard, you don't get off this ship & you don't stand in line of sight between the bridge and their boat. Well the first two commands I understood, but queried the line of sight business. In fact the captain had refused permission for Bates & his entourage to come aboard & intended to open fire if they tried. A short but polite conversation took place, after which Bates & crew then sailed away, but I never really believed this was a purely a courtesy call  

6. I am always reminded of my time on the Laissez Faire each time I hear the Radio 355 evening closedown record. Andy Williams singing 'May Each Day' I also get the feeling that the floor should be rising & falling beneath my feet with the gentle swell of a rising tide

Happy Days - Regards Martin Kayne - January 2006

 

PS John Aston managed to break a front tooth on Radio 355 & had to rush ashore for dental treatment. I think it had something to do with them painting the ships hull. To enable them to reach the waterline the fuel & water was deliberately pumped into tanks on one side of the ship to give it a small list. The result was that some of the heavy bulk-head doors would wildly swing open & shut on their own accord without warning. John just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - Ouch!

Carstead Advertising picture of the Laissez Faire

Radio 355 tried an identical format to Radio 390 but tweaked it for a wider appeal. Interestingly Radio 390 had also taken this approach aiming at a more family audience. Old standards now shared placing with light pop music programming

Six months later with the ship owners contract expiring on the 5th August & the Marine Offences Act looming on 14th August Radio 355 decided to close down

So at just after midnight on the 5th August 1967 the crew made their last goodbyes. On 19th August the Laissez Faire left for Flushing & had her Antenna removed, then on 1st September sailed back to Miami Florida

Arriving on 22nd September 1967 in a dishevel condition it was reported that she'd encountered hurricane force winds en' route

De rigged& with her broadcast equipment removed she there are numerous contradictions over what happened to the Olga Patricia next

But it's not unlikely her history became confused either by accident or design with a sister ship the Olga Princess

Stories range from Don Pierson selling the Laissez Faire for Radio London from off the New York, & then California coast

The ship being employed as a top secret relay station in 1970 off Cuba, & even Don Pier son's himself planning to use her for his Haiti project

What is known is that an ALK Class ship, probably the Olga Princess was renamed MV Akuarius II in 1970. She later become the Earl J Conrad Junior in 1974 named after the MD of Heiney Proteins

A ship of that name was quoted still sailing in 2000 in LLoyds Ship Registry but it might be a different & later keel vessel

Another AKL ship can be seen in the movie "Mr Roberts" starring James Cagney as its cranky Captain & Henry Fonda as 1st Mate the ship was "Island Hopping" a role for which that the vessel had been originally designed. The Film sums up the boring life running endless supply missions in the Pacific

Another AKL Class ship was the US Navy's USS Pueblo which was arrested by the North Koreans for spying in 1968. She's now an exhibit in that country & prize of the cold war. The crew of the vessel were held prisoner for a year by the North Koreans but were released after diplomatic talks between the US & Communists

Finally the Bumper sticker: The Britain Radio England Car Sticker above was made of polythene & self adhesive, a giant in its day measuring some 18" x 2"

Few of these stickers have survived, once the backing had been peeled off they were difficult to preserve

One above had been stuck on paper when received but has still degraded appreciably

2/7/07 - I look forward to receiving updates from you, as I've found your site very informative and interesting. I'm sure my father will be more than happy to supply you with any further information about SRE. I'd suggest you to simply ask him any direct question. Sincerely - Adam O'Quinn

Exceptional feature so many new things about the ship & radio - Great - Arni - Begium

Remember the trailer for the Golden Goodie Weekends with every record played solid gold etc amazing - Paldron - Huddersfield

Grateful thanks to Martin Stevens, Norman Barrington, Martin Kayne, Paul Graham & the various people who've contributed to the ships history for this feature

For the range of documentary CD's in the Offshore Radio "Roaring 60's" collection, the Sealand VCD, books, & a video on the Army & Navy Forts go to Offshore Shop

For boat trips by Barge or fast RiB during the summer from Herne Bay & Whitstable in Kent to see the sights of the Thames Estuary & North Kent Coast see Boat Trips


[HOME] (c)Bob Le-Roi 2006