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Radio Caroline South - History (4)

Radio Caroline South, beleaguered throughout 1965 by the loss of advertising revenue to Radio London, a series of on-air staff changes, an unsuccessful format change and, most significantly, a general lack of cohesive management, now found itself off the air altogether for what appeared likely to be an indefinite period while the Mi Amigo was undergoing repairs.

However, an unexpected helping hand came from Scandinavia, where the last remaining Swedish offshore station, Radio Syd, had itself been forced off the air on 18th January 1966 due to extensive pack ice forming in the Baltic Sea. The station's owner, Britt Wadner, had her ship Cheeta 2 sail south for safety intending to anchor her in the comparatively warmer waters off the Dutch coast near the Radio Veronica vessel until weather conditions in the Baltic improved. However, after hearing of what had happened to the Mi Amigo she immediately offered to divert the Cheeta 2 to England to provide a temporary base from which Radio Caroline South could recommence broadcasts.

Cheeta 2 arrived off Cheeta 2 Harwich on 31st January 1966, just eleven days after the Mi Amigo had run aground, but Radio Caroline South's broadcasts could not restart immediately because the Swedish radio ship was only equipped for FM transmissions. Bad weather conditions prevented the necessary modification works being carried out for some days and it was not until 12th February 1966 that test transmissions for Radio Caroline South were able to start from the Cheeta 2, but they were only on a very low power.

When regular programmes eventually began transmissions had to be restricted to 10.00am-4.00pm because reception during the hours of darkness was impossible on such low power, even in nearby Essex and East Anglia. The transmitter on board Cheeta 2 constantly caused trouble and Caroline South was off the air again from 20th to 26th February 1966 and from 28th February to 6th March 1966. Various items of technical equipment had to be brought from the Mi Amigo in Holland and installed on board the Cheeta 2 to boost her power and  eventually regular broadcasting hours were re-introduced.

Unfortunately for Caroline South more problems followed in late March 1966 when the Cheeta 2 was buffeted for three days by gale force winds. On 25th March 1966, with the station again off the air Cheeta 2 began to take in water and the tender Offshore One came alongside to assist with the pumping operation. Cheeta 2  sailing under her own power, with Offshore One alongside, headed for port, however, engine trouble on the radio ship brought an abrupt halt to this voyage and both vessels were forced to drop anchor overnight.

The following day  Cheeta 2 was towed into a shipyard at Lowestoft for repairs. This work was completed by the end of March and Cheeta 2 left Lowestoft  with broadcasts from Radio Caroline South starting once again on 2nd April 1966

Meanwhile, since the end of January 1966 the Mi Amigo had been in Holland undergoing repairs and the opportunity was taken by Radio Caroline management to install a new  50Kw  transmitter, enabling the station to compete more effectively with the powerful signal of rival Radio London.

On 5th  April 1966, the Mi Amigo, now fully repaired and with new radio equipment on board, left Holland arriving off the Essex coast two days later.  Test transmissions started on 17th April 1966, but within a few hours a short in the aerial mast brought these broadcasts to an abrupt halt. Bad weather prevented engineers repairing the aerial immediately  but one of the station's DJs, Tony Blackburn, managed to climb the mast and remove the rogue wire which had been causing the short circuit. Test transmissions were then able to  resume on 25th April 1966.

Throughout this time normal Radio Caroline South programmes were still being broadcast from the Cheeta 2 and some DJs from Caroline North were brought south to help with the test transmissions from the Mi Amigo. For a few days there were two separate programmes being broadcast under the call sign  of  Radio Caroline  South,  but at  6.00am on 27th April 1966 the Mi Amigo was able to resume responsibility  for the station's  regular  programming - on  the  new  wavelength announced as 259m. Cheeta 2 continued to relay these transmissions for  three days and DJ Robbie Dale stayed on board to make announcements asking listeners to re-tune to the new frequency.

With a new powerful transmitter and new frequency giving improved reception across southern Britain broadcasting hours for Radio Caroline South were gradually increased  to 24 hours a day with effect from 6th August 1966.


Cheeta 2, temporary home to Radio Caroline South


News Stand

Click on picture to enlarge

Britt Wadner, Ronan O’Rahilly and DJ Colin Nicol (front) on board Cheeta 2

Mi Amigo undergoing repairs and a refit in Zaandam, February 1966

Tony Blackburn on 259m from the Mi Amigo and Graham Webb on 199m from Cheeta 2

April 1966

Caroline South testing on 259 and link up with Cheeta.mp3


Horlicks advert.mp3

Cheeta 2 entering Lowestoft for repair March 1966


History

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