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The Radio Tower Project - Part 3

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

Part 3 of the 5 part feature: The Dream Fades

Issue: 3 Updated: 5th February 2016

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 & resources

One of the last 1960's operations the project paid a high price in wasting time trying to gain sufficient investment for its aborted 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

With 300 gallons of water, food, paraffin & diesel oil onboard, plans to take out a General Motors GM 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 & needed a new engine, hastily engineers (Waters & Massen) were called who confirmed a faulty engine

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

With officials keen to see the Maarje leave port, permission was given for the replacement engine (generator) to be loaded & the Maarje set off to the Sunk Head, in thick fog the journey from Brightlingsea took some 13 hours

Apparently the generator failed to produce the required power & a larger replacement was sought

John Waters

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

Audio Break

John Waters desperate to get some help out on the Fort advertises jobs for vision engineers, radio engineers & DJ's

John later said that Tower's failure was due to a lack of money, time wasted playing around with television & general mis-management

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

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

Initially power was derived from batteries which were charged by a small unbranded Diesel Generator, with a second GM & finally an Onan 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(s)

7. Toilet/Wash Room as originally built

8. Food store with original bath boarded over

9 & 10. Storage

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 & gain advertising had fallen short of expectations. But the story from Radio Tower was that the British Government had warned them off

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 & the interesting antenna array

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

Keep Fit

Daily Sketch 18th March 1966

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 testing

Sunk Head Fort from air close up

The Sunk Head Fort from the air

But frequency changes continued 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 & 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

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 & smashed, taken ashore for repair at Onan's Ipswich base, it went out a few days later on the Venus

Sunk Head Fort from air antenna

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

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 Wireless set #52, even modified was capable of producing little more than 75 watts

Robin Garton & His Band - Burke's Law

The Martello Record label, yes it really did exist

Audio Break

Robin Garton & His Band with the instrumental 'Burke's Law' 1965

Robin Garton - Let's Go Bowling

Audio Break

Robin Garton 'Let's Go Bowling on Big T Martello Records 1966

Big T records - Sno Good

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

You'll notice the change in colour & label layout with Big T Martello now prominant

  The Sun 18th March 1966

The Sun 18th March 1966

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 & keep fit

Dave Simser

Dave Simser doing his level best to be clean

Social announcements would include Birthdays, Engagements, Anniversaries & Wedding Announcements

Office notes from 1965

Office Notes from November 1965

Music would comprise about 40% of the output with hardly original & uninspiring specialist programmes; a 78 show, Really Old Oldies, Long Player (LP's) or Albums as they're known today

Communal living

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

Local Press March 1966 Dutch Press March 1966

Loacl & Dutch Press March 1966

The station would be very different to anything else from the other Pirates, & would have 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 & damp throughout with cold sea water ablutions, wet sleeping bags, lack of food & supplies in general, even though the Fort was surrounded by water there sometimes wasn't a drop of fresh to drink

Local Press April 1966

Local Press April 1966

Shipping in Black Deep

Shipping in the Black Deep

Sunday Express 1st May 1966

The Sunday Express reports 1st May 1966

Working solidly for 11 months from boarding in May 1965 until relinquishing Sunk Head Fort on 28th April 1966, Radio Tower was ultimately to suffer the indignity of failure

Black deep is a busy sea lane

The busy sea lane off Sunk Head

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

With those on the Fort seldom knowing what was happening ashore & 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 comes 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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