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Radio Caroline North - History (8)

Programming continued as normal that day with Radio Caroline North ending its transmissions shortly after 10.00pm following the regular Saturday night "Country and Western Jamboree", presented by Don Allen.

But the DJs and crew of the MV Caroline were awoken at 2.00am on Sunday 3rd MaCaroline under tow to Amsterdamrch 1968 by a loud thump as the tug Utrecht came alongside and Dutch seamen boarded the radio ship. They made for the Captain's cabin and summoned senior DJ Don Allen and the Chief Engineer to read a letter from the Wijsmuller Tender and Offshore Supply Co. stating that broadcasting was to cease , the studios were to be sealed and the transmitter crystal removed. Radio Caroline staff entered into a heated argumCutting the anchor chainent with the Dutch boarders about the legitimacy of their action, which amounted to piracy on the high seas, but with the threat of physical violence ever present  they reluctantly complied with the instructions contained in the letter.  

In what had been a carefully planned and co-ordinated operation the Caroline South ship, Mi Amigo, had also been boarded early that morning and the station put off the air. The tug Utrecht attempted to take the MV Caroline in tow at 6.00am on 3rd March 1968, but difficulties were experienced in raising the radio ship's anchor. In the end a decision was made to cut the anchor chain to release the MV Caroline and it was some twelve hours later before the tow actually commenced.

None of the staff on either radio ship knew for certain what was happening, other than the obvious fact that they had been forcibly put off the air. At first they didn't even know  of their sister ship's fate.

The tow for the Caroline NMV Caroline being towed into Amsterdamorth ship, MV Caroline, was a much longer one than for Caroline South’s Mi Amigo, lasting several days and she was shadowed for part of the journey by Royal Navy vessels. At first the crew thought the ship was heading for Greenore to be fitted with a new transmitter or, when it became obvious that this was not the case, they speculated that they may be going to take over Radio Caroline South broadcasts  from off the Essex coast while the Mi Amigo was being repaired.

Neither theory proved to be correct and the MV Caroline arrived in Amsterdam on 8th March 1968 where she was docked near the Mi Amigo. It  soon became clear that Radio Caroline would not be returning  to the air from either of these vessels in the near future. MV Caroline in Amsterdam

After their arrival in Amsterdam staff were paid off, given tickets to fly back to Britain and told to await instructions to return - instructions which never came. Some DJs decided to wait in Holland for a while to see how the situation would develop hoping that somehow the ships would be released, while others returned home to Britain immediately.  

The authorities did not stop or prosecute any of the Radio Caroline DJs when they re-entered Britain. Although the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act had been responsible for Radio Caroline's isolation it was not the provisions of the Act which finally brought about the station's demise. The real reason for the seizure of both Radio Caroline ships lay  in the financial management, or lack of it, within the Radio Caroline organisation itself. Wijsmuller's Tender and Offshore Supply Co had been contracted to provide a supply and servicing facility to both ships, but had not been paid since late 1967, although the money to do so was available from within the Caroline organisation.  

Philip Solomon, who by that time was the real force behind Radio Caroline, insisted that Wijsmuller put the ships back to sea before any debts would be paid, but the tender company insisted on payment first and continued to hold both ships in Amsterdam as security.

Nevertheless the Post Office and the British Government had achieved what they wanted all along - the silencing of the last remaining offshore broadcaster, so it seemed unnecessarily petty to make scapegoats of individual DJs.

The Radio Caroline organisation put a brave face on the situation in early March 1968, promising that the station would return once repairs had been completed and insurance arrangements sorted out. However, with the continuing arguments over unpaid bills to the tender company there was no real chance of the station's  immediate return from either the Caroline or the Mi Amigo.

Ronan O'Rahilly  then started to put together his own  package for re-launching the  station from another vessel. Together with a group of trusted ex-Caroline DJs he devised a plan to try and relaunch the station from the former Radio 270 vessel Oceaan VII. This vessel was still up for sale in Whitby Harbour and O'Rahilly, using the pseudonym O'Connor,  made a number of visits to the Yorkshire port to negotiate the purchase of the ship. He planned to anchor Oceaan VII off Frinton-on-Sea, Essex  and resume broadcasts of Radio Caroline on Easter Sunday (14th April)1968. However, press reporters obtained information about this plan and published the story of Radio Caroline's Easter return, effectively putting an end to the station’s return.

MV Caroline being towed into Amsterdam, March 1968                                  

Photo Hans Knot/ Chris Vermeuleg)

MV Caroline under tow to Amsterdam

March 1968

MV Caroline shortly after arrival in Amsterdam,

March 1968

Click on picture to enlarge

Daily Mail

4th March 1968

Daily Sketch

4th March 1968

The Times

5th March 1968

For more of Radio Caroline’s history see:-

Radio Caroline

Radio Caroline South

Radio Caroline 1970’s

Radio Caroline 1980’s

Sunday Mirror

17th March 1968

The last ever broadcast from Caroline North, Don Allen

2nd March 1968

Caroline North Final closedown 2 March 1968.mp3

Statement from the Captain of the MV Caroline accepting responsibility for the cessation of transmissions from his vessel, 2nd March 1968.

Click to enlarge

Courtesy Kenny Tosh

The anchor chain being cut.

Photo: Kenny Tosh

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Visit the Special Exhibition on the Ground Floor to see photographs of the Caroline ships after they were towed away in March 1968.

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Radio Caroline North