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Radio Caroline South - History (2)

On 5th March 1965 the station staged its first live concert ‘Sounds of 65’ at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon to further promote the format change. The concert was compared by Radio Caroline DJs and featured live appearances from groups including The Moody Blues, The Yardbirds, Jimmy James and the Vagabonds amongst others.

In May 1965 Ronan O’Rahilly persuaded jazz organist, Jimmy Smith, to play live from the Caroline ship. The live concert had originally been intended to take place on Caroline North , but due to Jimmy Smith’s other commitments  it was re-arranged for Caroline South. However, when Smith and his colleagues arrived at the Mi Amigo  on 5th May it proved impossible to get the equipment  down the narrow passageways into the studio, so the concert took place from on deck.

In the mid 1960s Britain was involved in a diplomatic argument with Rhodesia, (a British territory in southern Africa that had governed itself since 1923) whose government led by Ian Smith threatened to unilaterally declare independence from the UK and become an independent sovereign state.

The British government had plans to establish a propaganda radio station to pump information into Rhodesia against the plans of Ian Smith and his government. In a debate in the House of Commons Prime Minister Harold Wilson stated that he wanted to improve BBC World Service reception in Rhodesia, but "There are difficulties in this connection, and, if we have to borrow on the experience of an organisation known as Radio Caroline, we shall not hesitate to do so."

Radio Caroline, through Ronan O’Rahilly and Allan Crawford, did make offers to help and there were ‘off the record’ meetings with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Caroline indirectly helped when it agreed to the diversion of a transmitter which it had on order from Continental Electronics in America to be used by the British Government at a relay station in neighbouring Becuanaland to broadcast BBC programmes into Rhodesia. Press reports at the time indicated that in retaliation the Rhodesian Government planned to set up an offshore station off the British coast, but nothing ever came of this. (See press report in the NEWSSTAND column, left)

During 1965 financier John Bloom, (whose business activities involved selling imported washing machines at  drastically reduced prices by direct sales which cut out traditional retailers), expressed a strong interest in taking over Radio Caroline. His company Rolls Razor had become well established in the market but several manufacturers obtained injunctions to stop it selling equipment at below the fixed retail price. His operation was eventually forced into liquidation after a long postal strike and the withdrawal of a major backer.

After entering into initial discussions with Radio Caroline Bloom pulled out of negotiations to purchase the station after it became impossible for him to establish the true ownership of the radio ships - due to the convoluted company structure which had been put in place.

In August 1965 Radio Caroline South increased its hours of transmission with the introduction of the "Party Time" programme from 9.00pm -12 midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Also about this time a new shift pattern was introduced for the DJs, giving them two weeks on the ship, but only one week ashore instead of two as had previously been the practice.

This change in shift rota coincided with the sudden departure (either because they were fired or had resigned) of a number of the early Radio Caroline DJs. These departures, ostensibly over the revised working arrangements, revealed a deeper problem facing Radio Caroline and in particular Caroline South at the time. An internal inquiry  had criticised many of the DJs for sounding unenthusiastic about the new "Good Guys" format,  perpetuating an out of touch station image and playing too much inappropriate music - they lacked the commitment to compete effectively with the much more vibrant Radio London.  

A Gallup poll in the autumn of 1965, the results of which were not published at the time, showed that in its primary target area Caroline South had only a 0.9% audience share compared to Radio London's 14.7% and the BBC Light Programme's 30.4%. Radio Caroline's advertising income fell dramatically during 1965 - Radio London was picking up all the lucrative commercial contracts and the bulk of the Caroline network's revenue was coming as the result of national campaigns, which included the coverage area of Caroline North. In effect Caroline North was subsidising the operation of its sister station.

A new more powerful transmitter was ordered from Continental Electronics for Radio Caroline South in an effort to improve the station’s signal, but this was delayed when the original transmitter was diverted for use by the British Government in Rhodesia.

However, attention turned to the possible use of one of the Thames Estuary Forts as a base for Caroline South, so that the Mi Amigo could anchor off the North East coast to improve national coverage. Talks were held with local businessman Don Robinson, but nothing came of this plan and Robinson went on to launch his own offshore station serving the North East and Yorkshire - Radio 270.

The plan was to use either Roughs Tower or Knock John Fort and Caroline sent people to both forts to claim occupation rights. The ‘occupation’ of Roughs Tower by Radio Caroline continued from August 1965 into 1967, and preparations were made for it to be used as a base for the station, including the installation of a helicopter landing pad. However, the Caroline personnel were evicted in 1967 by a team led by Essex businessman Roy Bates who had even bigger plans for the Fort (see page 6)   (See two personal recollections of Caroline’s occupation of Roughs Tower by Terry Bate and Jane Moore - click the icons in the Interactive Zone (right).

The Radio Caroline personnel occupying Knock John Fort also made preparations for it to be used by the station.  However, again Essex businessman, Roy Bates, who was planning to launch his own offshore station, (Radio Essex) twice forcibly ejected the Caroline team from Knock John Fort  and, after the second occasion, Radio Caroline decided to abandon its plan to use the Fort.

In September 1965 Caroline South’s management turned attention to Radio City, based on Shivering Sands Fort. Project Atlanta Chairman, Major Oliver Smedley approached Reg Calvert the owner of Radio City about a possible merger.  Having similarly lost the base for his own planned second station, (Knock John Fort) to Roy Bates's Radio Essex  and wishing to step back from day-to-day management of Radio City Calvert agreed to meet with Smedley and Allan Crawford.

It was envisaged that as part of the merger deal Radio Caroline South would be transferred to the Shivering Sands Fort, while the Mi Amigo would sail either to the north east of England  or the Bristol Channel,  to provide  a  third outlet for the Caroline network.  

An agreement was reached that Project Atlanta would arrange for the installation of a 10Kw RCA transmitter on Shivering Sands which could be used to provide an improved signal when Radio Caroline South transferred to the Fort. However, when  the equipment was eventually delivered to the Fort by Project Atlanta/Caroline staff, it was found to be 25 years old, part of it fell into the sea and had to be recovered and it was generally in such a poor condition that it failed to work properly. This transmitter, which Oliver Smedley had obtained second hand from a radio station in Fort Worth, Texas was later to feature significantly in the battle for control of the offshore airwaves.

Radio City’s owner, Reg Calvert

News Stand

Click on picture to enlarge

Daily Express

?? August 1965

A 1965 documentary showing life on board Caroline South and at Caroline House in London

Murray Mints

Murray Mints advert.mp3

Television Mail

14th January 1966

Promotion for Caroline Club film about Radio Caroline South

Caroline Film promo.mp3


Reveille advert.mp3


Key Dates

Ship and Location




Key Dates Ships and Location Technical Staff Programmes

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DJ Simon Dee with Jimmy Smith on board the Mi Amigo, 5th May 1965.

The programme for the ‘Sounds of 65’ concert

Press adverts for the ‘Sounds of 65’ Concert

Click image to enlarge

Felixstowe Times

14th August 1965

Back to Britain Gallery


Back to Radio Caroline South

Radio Caroline South RCS History 2a

Daily Mail

17th April 1966