Eventually conversion and installation work was completed on the MV Caroline and she set sail from Greenore on 23rd March 1964. It was then that Allan Crawford fully realised the Caroline station was not destined to serve the north of England, Scotland and Ireland, but instead it was to snatch his own lucrative target area of London and the south east.
Caroline anchored briefly off the Isle of Man to ride out a storm before sailing south through the Irish Sea, giving her destination as Spain. However, on Wednesday 25th March 1964, when the vessel reached Lands End and changed course entering the English Channel, coastguards all along the south coast of England began to take even greater interest in her, repeatedly asking the Captain for his destination. Captain Baeker, in command of the vessel at the time, would only reply that he was sailing under sealed orders from the owners and refused to reveal any destination.
The authorities were so concerned by the mystery ship that for a short while Caroline was shadowed by a Royal Navy destroyer from Plymouth as she sailed through the Channel. By the evening of 27th March 1964 (which also happened to be Good Friday) Caroline had reached her destination and she dropped anchor three and a half miles off Harwich on the Essex coast.
It has been widely accepted that the first test transmissions took place at about 11.55pm that evening with a taped programme from DJ John Junkin, the first record played being Jimmy McGriff's "Around Midnight", although some reports suggest that tests were aired earlier that evening.
The test broadcasts continued the following morning, and at 12 noon on Easter Saturday, 28th March 1964, Radio Caroline officially started broadcasting. The opening announcement was made by Simon Dee and the first programme (which was pre-
Those on board the MV Caroline were uncertain about official reaction to the new station. Initially it was far from clear how the authorities would respond and the biggest concern to the Radio Caroline staff was that the ship would be forcibly boarded and seized whilst at sea. For the first few weeks there was a nervous atmosphere amongst the crew and DJs, who lived with the constant fear that at any time they could be arrested, taken back to land and prosecuted for illegal broadcasting.
Following its official opening Radio Caroline received enormous publicity in the press and on television news bulletins and word quickly spread about the new all-
Within four days of the Easter Saturday opening thousands of letters were received at the station's London office and over 300 others arrived at the shipping agent's address in Harwich. By 9th April press reports indicated that in the station's first 10 days on the air over 20,000 letters had been received from enthusiastic listeners.
The station was not popular with everybody however. After Radio Caroline had been on the air for just two days complaints were received about the station causing interference to communications with lightships and the lifeboat service.
The General Post Office asked the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on 1st April 1964 to help stop the unauthorised broadcasts. Two days later the ITU replied that it would request Panama, under whose flag the radio ship was registered, to investigate the situation. Radio-
Hostile reaction in the House of Commons to the start of Radio Caroline's broadcasts came almost immediately in March 1964, when the Postmaster General, Reginald Bevins, promised "action soon" to deal with this and any other offshore radio station. Initial questions had been raised about Radio Caroline because of fears its signal would affect the emergency services' transmissions. Some other MPs, however, spoke of more sinister matters including the dangers of subversive propaganda or publicity for obscene material being broadcast by the offshore station.
On 7th April 1964 the Panamanian authorities were reported to have withdrawn the ship's official registration and on the same day the MV Caroline sailed a mile up the coast to a new anchorage off Felixstowe, further away from the main shipping lanes.
Radio Caroline opening on 28th March 1964
MV Caroline shortly after anchoring off the Essex coast
Early Radio Caroline station ID, 1964
Click on picture to enlarge
Reginald Bevins MP, Postmaster General at the time of Radio Caroline’s arrival
30th March 1964
2nd April 1964
2nd April 1964
Ship and Location