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RNI - History (5)

Negotiations were finalised by 8th February 1971 and a new company, Radio Noordsee NV, was formed to look after the programming and advertising sales on the station while ownership of the radio ship itself remained with Mebo Telecommunications . Two ex-Veronica DJs, Jan van Veen and Joost de Draaier, who had been sacked by that station, were engaged to oversee the new RNI Dutch language programmes. The remainder of the airtime was to be allocated to programmes in English, with a number of former RNI and other ex-offshore DJs joining the re-launched station.

Test transmissions, in English, took place shortly after the Mebo II had returned to the Dutch coast and full programming continued in English all day for another three weeks, until 7th March, when the Dutch language daytime service started.

RNI was also engaged in a fierce legal battle with rival offshore station, Radio Veronica. Lawyers for Radio Veronica issued a writ against Erwin Meister and Edwin Bollier requesting the courts to order Mebo II into port, or failing this, to authorise the Veronica organisation itself to tow in the rival radio ship.  The hearing took place in Rotterdam on 10th March 1971, three days after the RNI Dutch Service had gone on the air and when judgement was given two weeks later the Court ruled in favour of RNI.

Radio Veronica were furious at the outcome of this case  and some Veronica directors openly referred to the need to "shut the big Dutch mouth" of RNI and secretly set about devising a scheme which, they hoped, would achieve that objective.

That scheme came to a dramatic climax  during the evening of 15th May 1971 when a rubber dinghy silently came alongside the radio ship and two of the men on board, who were familiar with the interior layout of the Mebo II, boarded the radio ship and made their way below deck to the engine room where they fixed over a pound of explosive wrapped in oil-soaked cloths on the radio ship's main fuel line.

Just as they were returning to the rubber dinghy at 10.50pm the device exploded, immediately setting fire to the stern of the radio ship. Dramatic Mayday messages were immediately broadcast on air in English by DJ Alan West and in Dutch by Captain Hardeveld.

For over half anMebo II on fire hour the crew desperately appealed for assistance, requesting listeners to phone the station's Zurich offices and to alert the authorities in Holland. Forty five minutes after the explosion Captain Hardeveld gave orders to abandon ship. The station's Swiss engineer reported in German for the benefit of anyone listening at the Zurich head office then closed transmissions on all frequencies while the DJs and remainder of the crew climbed into the lifeboats.

RNI’s tender, Eurotrip, together with the firefighting tug Volans then tackled the blaze on the Mebo II and succeeded in bringing it under control after about two hours. With the blaze finally extinguished DJs and radio crew  returned to the Mebo II and RNI's programmes resumed once again, while the Dutch Royal Navy frigate Gelderland, took up position and stood by alongside the radio ship.

Fortunately the blaze, although severe, had not damaged the station's studios, transmitter room or the DJ's living quarters and RNI was able to continue broadcasting virtually as normal. However, the whole of the stern end of the Mebo II, including the bridge, had been gutted.

An investigation into the circumstances of this dramatic incident was immediately launched by Dutch police and, acting on a tip-off they arrested the leader of the boarding party on 16th May 1971 and his two co-divers were also taken into custody later that day. The following day police also arrested Norbert Jurgens, General Manager of rival station Radio Veronica in connection with the firebomb attack.

With Norbert Jurgens in custody the directors of Radio Veronica issued a statement saying that they had nothing to do with the attack on the Mebo II. However, in a television interview on 18th May 1971, one of Radio Veronica's directors, Bull Verweij, admitted paying Jurgens to have the Mebo II brought into port, but he denied responsibility for the violent attack which had taken place in furtherance of this plan. Following his television appearance Bull Verweij was arrested by police and charged with conspiracy in planning the attack.

Mayday announcements, Mebo II bombing, 15th May 1971

RNI Mayday announcements - bombing.mp3

RNI News broadcast about bombing of Mebo II

RNI - RNI News about bombing.mp3

Mebo II fire bombing, May 1971

Mebo II on fire after the bomb attack

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ITN News at Ten report on the firebombing of Mebo II

Radio Veronica Director Bull Verweij

Press advert for the launch of RNI’s Dutch Service, March 1971

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Daily Mirror, 17th May 1971

Daily Telegraph, 17th May 1971

Sunday Post, 16th May 1971

Sunday Mirror, 16th May 1971

Record Mirror, 3rd April 1971

Launch of Dutch language Service, 7th March 1971

RNI launch of Dutch language service March 1971.mp3

RNI re-opening February 1971

RNI Re opening Feb 1971.mp3

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