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The Radio Tower Project - Part 3

Issue : 4 Updated : 6th February 2019

The full and true story of the ill fated Offshore project to launch a Pirate Television Channel and Radio station from the Sunk Head Fort

Part 3 of the 6 part feature : The Dream Fades

Radio Tower request form holder

Radio Tower Shop Record Request Form Holder

Reg Torr trading as TD Radio & Television, a retail outlet in Colchester had the inspiration for a Tower Television, an idea that proved costly in wasted money and resources

One of the last 1960's Offshore Broadcast operations the Tower project paid a high price and wasted time trying to gain sufficient investment a Television Channel

Bill Rollins Studio booth Dave Simser & Bill Rollins

1. Meanwhile down below Bills Rollins still testing on 236

2. The Radio Tower studio cubicle with Dave Simser lending a hand

3. Bill Rollins with Dave Simser watching

Chris Gosling

Chris Gosling close-mics in an ever desperate attempt to be heard

Bill Rollins, Dave Simser, John Boulter

Bill Rollins, Dave Simser & John Boulter

Dave best remembered for his compulsive polishing of the brass wick holder on the Forts drip fed ancient paraffin heater

John Waters

John Waters testing 1-2-3 Tower Radio Calling begging for help


Radio Tower John Waters

Job vacancies for Vision and Radio Engineers, and DJ's

John later said that Tower's failure was due to a lack of money, time wasted playing around with television and general mismanagement

Attempts to improve conditions were made with Eric Sullivan joining in the work to clean up the Fort, accommodation and sleeping areas

The studio was rebuilt comprising, a pair of odd record decks, a Collaro, and Garrard LAB 80, an unknown vintage tape machine, a crystal microphone all fed into a passive mixer

Initially power was derived from batteries which were charged by a small unbranded Diesel Generator, with a second GM and later an Onan Generator following

Deck Plan of Sunk Head

Naval Fort plans of the top deck how Sunk Head was used by Tower Radio/Radio Tower

N.B Remember all the lower deck levels of both legs were flooded

1. 12 volt Charging Generator along with 12 volt battery bank

2. Sleeping area, a wall was added in-line with the office to increase area of 3

3. Studio opposite door on back wall

4. Galley

5. Store Room

6. Generator Room with 1st a GM (General Motors) later Onan Generator

7. Toilet/Wash Room as originally built

8. Food store with original bath boarded over

9 & 10. Storage

Sunk Head Fort from air

Aerial pictures of the Sunk Head Fort

Sunk Head Fort from air close up

Showing the radar top house clad with polythene and the interesting antenna array

In deep most often choppy water supplying the Fort was always difficult, on another occasion similar to 'Offshore 1' the 'Maarje' was dragged beneath the Fort whilst off loading stores using a make-shift block and tackle hoist arrangement over a 3.7" gun barrel

Concentrating on radio broadcasting a transmitter wavelength of 1268kHz 236 metres was selected, with a new call sign of "Get a Fix on 236" Radio Tower continued tested

Sunk Head Fort from air close up

The Sunk Head Fort from the air

Frequency changes were made with Radio Tower fluctuating between 1260-1270kHz

Sunk Head Fort from air close up

Like all the equipment the antenna was improvised, known as the windy aerial it more often than not took a tumble and had to be hastily re-erected

Despite being flooded in the lower levels the brave on-board swam around exploring the depths of the legs

With 300 gallons of water, food, paraffin and diesel oil onboard, plans to take out the GM (General Motors) Generator were in hand in a bid to increase power to 200 watts

To get round Customs clearance a tale was hatched that the 'Maarje' had broken down and needed a new engine, hastily engineers (Waters and Massen) were called who confirmed a faulty engine

Sunk Head Fort from air antenna

John Boulton, Terry Lambeth and George Short proudly fly a banner proclaiming Tower Radio/ TV from the radar top house

With officials keen to see the 'Maarje' leave port, permission was given for her to sail

In thick fog the journey from Brightlingsea took some 13 hours, once aboard the GM Generator failed to produce the required power a larger replacement was sought

Robin Garton & His Band - Burke's Law

The Martello Record label, yes it really did exist

With the new generator it was hoped to raise power to 5kW, on or around 24th March it was announced that proper programmes would commence on 21st April from 7am - 7pm

But the only transmitter aboard was the old Canadian Army Communications Wireless Set #52, even modified was capable of producing little more than 75 watts


Robin Garton Band playing 'Burkes Law' 1965

Robin Garton - Let's Go Bowling


Robin Garton Band playing 'Let's Go Bowling' 1966

Big T records - Sno Good

7" singles from the Robin Garton Walton-on-Naze recording studio

You'll notice the change in colour and label layout with Big T Martello now prominent

It was proposed that commercial elements would be woven into programmes which would have a wide appeal to minority group interests, such as farming, industry, politics, education, religion and health

Dave Simser

Dave Simser doing his level best to be clean

Social output would include Birthdays, Engagements, Anniversaries and Wedding Announcements

Office notes from 1965

Office Notes (November 1965)

Music would comprise about 40% of the output with hardly original or inspiring specialist programmes; a 78rpm record programme with very old Oldies, obscure Long Player (LP's/Albums) Shows

Tower Report

Photo Journalists report by Martin Stevens for Life Magazine (Saturday 1st January 1966)

Communal living

Illustrating the communal living conditions on Sunk Head with Chris Gosling, Bill Rollins and John Boulter

Finally, in January 1966 the TV idea was given up in favour of radio, this was due to lack of investment, many attempts to raise finance and gain advertising had fallen short of expectations

But the story from Radio Tower was that the British Government had warned them off

Local Press March 1966 Dutch Press March 1966

Local and Dutch Press (March 1966)

The station would be very different to the other Pirates, it would have had Offshore Radio's 1st Local News Service

Dave Simser in his bunk

Dave Simser turns into his bunk for the night

Dave Simser years later recalls Fort conditions as diabolical; filthy dirty, cold and damp throughout with cold sea water ablutions, wet sleeping bags, lack of food and supplies in general, even though the Fort was surrounded by water there sometimes wasn't a drop of fresh to drink

Keep Fit

Daily Sketch (18th March 1966)

The Sun 18th March 1966 Daily Mail

The Sun (18th March 1966)

Daily Mail (18th March 1966)

Local Press April 1966

Local Press (March 1966)

Shipping in Black Deep

Shipping in the Black Deep

Daily Telegraph

Daily Telegraph (April 1966)

In the first week of April an Onan 15,000 VA diesel generator was taken out on the 'Maarje' but with inadequate winches the generator was dragged along the deck and smashed, taken ashore for repair at Onan's Ipswich base, it went out a few days later on the 'Venus'

Sunday Express

Sunday Express Sunday Express Sunday Express

The Sunday Express (1st May 1966)

With funds exhausted Radio Tower was never to launch a proper service

Black deep is a busy sea lane

The busy sea lane off Sunk Head

With those on the Fort seldom knowing what was happening ashore and vise versa, by their own admission the project had been poorly managed from start to finish

Leaving Sunk Head Fort

Leaving the Fort behind

The final noise came from Radio Tower as the Sunk Head Fort goes off with a bang in the the next issue of the Radio Tower Television story in Radio Tower TV - Part 4 (The End, not quite)

Web Site Message from: Chris Gosling - Highly entertaining pages, Cheers! - Chris Gosling, Tower TV Radio Project

For the features on the Radio Forts navigate from the ScrapBook Index

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