Listeners tuning in to Radio North Sea International’s (RNI) transmissions on 13th June 1970 were surprised to hear the station using the call sign Radio Caroline International. The owners of RNI had come to an agreement with Caroline’s founder, Ronan O'Rahilly, that they would mount an intensive anti-
Key marginal constituencies in London and the south east of England were targeted while a continuous stream of anti-
An important link in rallying supporters during this campaign was the Free Radio Association (FRA), which was still operated by Geoffrey Pearl from Rayleigh in Essex. The FRA provided facilities in the form of telephone numbers and addresses through which listeners could contact the station in response to on air appeals for help distributing campaign leaflets, stickers etc.
On 16th June 1970, just two days before the General Election, Prime Minister Harold Wilson personally authorised the use of the most powerful transmitter in Europe -
Against all opinion poll predictions the Labour Party lost the General Election on 18th June 1970, with many marginal seats in London and the south east being gained by the Conservative Party. Although almost impossible to quantify it is virtually certain, and now generally accepted by political historians, that the campaign mounted by RNI/Caroline during the run up to election day had a significant impact on the result of the 1970 General Election, particularly in those in London and south east marginal constituencies.
The day after the Election RNI dropped the Radio Caroline call sign -
On May 29th 1972 the two former Radio Caroline vessels, Mi Amigo and Caroline, which had lain rusting and vandalised in harbour for over four and a half years, were finally put up for sale at public auction by Wijsmullers.
MV Caroline, home to the original Radio Caroline and later to Radio Caroline North, was sold for scrap while the former Radio Nord, Radio Atlanta and Radio Caroline South ship, Mi Amigo, was sold to the Hofman Shipping Agency, acting on behalf of unnamed clients and it was assumed that she too would be scrapped.
However, an announcement was made shortly after the auction that the 'unnamed clients' were in fact the Dutch Free Radio Organisation, led by Gerard van Dam who said he planned to use the Mi Amigo as an offshore radio museum, restoring the vandalised studios to their former condition and creating accommodation for visitors wishing to stay on board the ship. The former radio ship was towed to Zaandam where, throughout the summer of 1972, volunteers cleaned, painted and restored the vessel, removing evidence of years of neglect and vandalism.
During the time that this 'restoration' work was being carried out Radio Caroline's founder, Ronan O'Rahilly held a series of meetings with Gerard van Dam and managed to convince the Free Radio Organisation that the future of the ship was not as a museum piece, but as a living radio station -
Naturally this plan was undertaken in absolute secrecy with the authorities still being led to believe that the vessel was to be converted into a floating radio museum. At the beginning of September 1972 the Mi Amigo quietly left Zaandam and was towed down the canal system towards the North Sea. Authorities at IJmuiden were told that the 'floating museum' was heading for England where there was a greater interest in offshore radio.
RNI announcing the name change to Radio Caroline, June 1970
Campaign song ‘Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Wilson’
Sung by DJs Andy Archer and Mark Wesley, with Larry Steinman, George Lazenby and Ronan O’Rahilly.
One of the Caroline buses, June 1970
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‘Chairman Wilson’ poster
Publicity leaflet for the ‘Pirate Museum’ on board Mi Amigo
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Ships and Location
A leaflet produced during the 1970 British General Election Campaign by the Free Radio supporters’ groups urging listeners to T’hink Before You Vote’
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