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Sunk Head Reflections - Part 5

Issue : 2 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 5 of the 6 part feature : The Forts history the Radio Transmitter and Technical Forum

Sunk Head under tow

"Flashback" Sunk Head Fort was built as an heavily armed early warning defense platform in World War II, designed by Guy Maunsell construction was by the Posford Company at Red Lion Wharf Gravesend in Kent on the River Thames

Fort Number 2 was delayed as the Admiralty pondered over the type of radar (RDF) Radio Direction Finding equipment. At one stage they altered the specification from that fitted on Fort #1 Roughs, then changed their minds wasting some 5 weeks

3rd March 2012 - I have found an interesting vessel in Shoreham Docks called the 'Challenge', there is a wonderful picture of her towing one of the Forts to site.If anyone's interested there's a working party on her most Saturday Mornings and she is open to the public at this time. Kind regards - Tony Lake

Steam Tug Challenge

The 'Challenge' assisted in towing at least two of the Navel Forts out of Gravesend/Tilbury, Sunk Head (U2) and Knock John (U4) - Ed

Sunk Head under Tow passes

Fort #2 named and commissioned HM Fort Sunk Head on 1st May 1942

The two 9 Ton 3.7" Heavy Anti-Aircraft Guns were tried and tested the next day at Gravesend

Sunk Head under Tow passed Crae & maintainence Crew

On the 22nd May at 13.45 Sunk Head Fort was towed from Red Lion Wharf across the river to the Coaling Jetty at Tilbury to be Degaussed

Awaiting a break in the weather towing out commenced on 1st June 1942 with grounding accomplished on 2nd June at 22.30 off Walton-on-the-Naze

In the early hours of the 3rd June 1942 Sunk Head was ready for action

Pictured above right ERM Jock Bell, STO Murdoch, and STO Darky Campbell in December 1946

Sunk Head Bofors in June 1942 Sunk Head 1946 Sunk Head Fort

Above left Same view different time period: Manning the 40mm Bofors Gun & the Lantern and Radar Tophouse on 1st June 1942

Above a 23 man watch of serving men comprising Officers, Gunners, Cooks, Stewards and ratings pictured in 1943

In June 1944 a violent storm carried away the entire Dolphin on Sunk Head along with its half ton Derrick and engine. Thereafter transfer of supplies in choppy seas was made using a breeches buoy arrangement

N.B Roughs lost their Dolphin in the same storm which also tore away part of the D-Day Mulberry Harbour in Normandy

Above right Sunk Head in 1946 with PO/MM George Turner of the care and maintenance crew, Sunk Head claimed a kill tally of 6 aircraft and 6 flying bombs "doodlebugs"

Decommissioned in 1945 care and maintenance crews took over until final abandonment by the MoD in 1958

Fort Guard and maintenance man John Boulter recalls his time along with Terry Lambeth as 20 year olds aboard Sunk Head Fort from September 1965 - April 1966


Tower Radio recalled by John Boulter - Recorded on 11th March 2015

Radio Tower Transmission Equipment

The transmitter, generation plant, associated studio and related electronic equipment aboard the Sunk Head Fort

A forum to add your comments recollections and experiences of Tower Radio, Tower Television/Radio Tower

A Canadian Army Wireless set #52

A Canadian Army Wireless set #52

The set was intended for voice communications and could be used as a ground station or in a vehicle

Weighing 255 Lbs the small unit was 44" long, 17.5" high and 14" deep

Operation was between 1.75 - 16MHz but with a crystal calibrator any frequency could be set within 5KHz

In the description it states "There is also a nice canvas curtain which covers the front to protect the set from weather and dirt"

Intended as an a Army field speech communications unit it was hardly an ideal choice for an Offshore Station

TX section of Canadian Army Wireless set #52

Pictured above the transmitter section of the a Canadian Army Wireless set #52

Technical Forum

The Canadian Wireless set 52 was designed & built in Canada by Canadian Marconi

Presumably Tower were only using the transmitter section, right hand side of unit and possibly the aerial tuner, the box on top

The centre box is the rotary generator that supplied the HT volts and the receiver is the left hand box. They may have used the generator set bit to allow running from batteries as Radio Sutch did with the first Radio Sutch transmitter, I believe a 19 set? For a picture of this unit see Sutch & City Pics 4 I vaguely recall all that kit in a store room on the Radio City Fort in 1965

The 52 TX is a set I am very familiar with; as configured for the military they produced about 75 watts carrier on phone Amplitude Modulated (AM) if you were lucky

I bought three of them from a surplus dealer in Tottenham North London, who had piles of them, for use as the transmitters for Radio Free Caroline in London at the end of 1968

We never succeeded in getting them to work well as they were too complicated, so they were stripped & the bits used to build a couple of simpler transmitters

Circuit attached (RFC copy gif). Unfortunately because of all the mucking around Radio Jackie beat us to air by two or three weeks - Mike Craig (Watts)

Dave Porter

What a sad story, the project had all the ingredients to turn out as it did:

* No finance
* No engineering knowledge
* No antenna height for either MF [bad enough] or TV [even worse]
* No decent txs
* Too far from the coast, on TV you would lose all the field strength before you got to the beach
* Antenna system for Band 1 TV looks substantial, they might have got that right but no mast height

With grateful thanks to Mike Craig and Dave Porter for the input to the output

Web Site Message from: Mark Hampson

Dear Sirs, I am currently building a site for the Martello Caravan Park in Walton-on-the-Naze.
I am trying to put together a brief history of the park and its historic Martello Tower of which still stands today. Through search engines I found your website & have read the history of Tower Radio with a great deal of interest. Archives of this park have proved hard to locate, its previous history is somewhat sketchy. Regards Mark Hampson Esquire Marketing Ltd.

21/10/09 - I discovered the Tower Radio story by accident. George Short was my uncle and was a wonderful man. Everything he did was fun in my young eyes, I was only 16 at the time. I believe George died of Prostate cancer in 1968 but I think his widow Pamela still lives in Colchester. I be live that my three cousins Julie Linda and Dianne also still live in the area. I live in California these days but still remember the days when every kid had a tranny tuned to one of the pirate radio stations. Thank you so much for the story - All Best David Williams

For a technical description & appraisal of the Canadian Army Wireless set #52 see VMARS Newsletter from August 1999

For the complete Sunk Head Fort Tower Radio/Radio Tower story navigate from Radio Tower Part 1

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

See a brief history on all the Thames Estuary Forts navigate from Fort Fax

For a range of documentary CD's, the Sealand VCD on the Navy Forts go to Offshore Shop

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