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Laser 558 - History (8)

During the night of 4th/5th November 1985, with deteriorating weather conditions the crew on board the Communicator tried to contact their landbased representatives on a CB radio channel seeking urgent assistance because of problems with the ship's generator. On the morning of 5th November 1985 programming on Laser 558 began as normal, but at 8.30am some coded messages were broadcast asking the station's landbased representatives to contact the ship on emergency channel 16.

Programmes continued normally throughout the morning although the DJs were heard less and less frequently between records. Then at 12.21pm the music stopped and one minute later the transmitter was switched off.

The following day, 6th November 1985 the Communicator raised her anchor (with the  assistance of sister ship the Gardline Tracker) and sailed, under her own power, into Harwich, escorted by the Gardline Tracker and an Essex police launch.

With the Communicator in harbour two creditors immediately announced that they would seek to have the ship impounded until they had received the money owed to them by the Laser organisation. One creditor was Paul Rusling who had been involved in 1983 and early 1984 initially equipping the Communicator for her role as a radio ship. The other was Gardline Surveys Ltd. who claimed they were still owed  money from the original sale of the Communicator in 1983.

When the ship arrived in Harwich all crew and DJs (seven American and four British) remained on board and were questioned by Police, Customs, Immigration, DTI and Department of Transport officials. Later all Americans were allowed to leave the ship and were given one month visas to stay in Britain.

After the Communicator arrived in Harwich a DTI spokesman was quoted as saying: "One down, one to go." - a clear indication that they considered the capitulation of Laser 558 had been a direct result of its surveillance operation and that the Department now intended to continue pursuing the Ross Revenge and the two stations (Radio Caroline and Radio Monique) housed aboard her.

With Laser 558 off the air some preliminary discussions were held between the station's London representatives, OMI and the Radio Caroline organisation about the possibility of hiring airtime for an overnight service from the Ross Revenge until the Communicator was available again. The planned service would have used all American staff and been funded by advertising sold through OMI, but in the absence of any definite financial commitment by OMI the proposal never materialised. Meanwhile on land the Laser Roadshow continued to operate and DJs Tommy Rivers and Charlie Wolf made guest appearances at some venues. Communicator in Harwich

After the Communicator arrived in Harwich a temporary Prohibition Order was served by the Department of Transport because of doubts about her seaworthiness and the writ issued by Paul Rusling was also served by Colchester County Court officials, acting on behalf of the Admiralty Marshal. Effectively these actions meant that the Communicator could not leave Harwich until repairs had been completed to make her seaworthy and all outstanding debts had been paid. The company which operated Laser now had eight days to either pay off or contest the debts, or reach a compromise settlement out of Court. If nothing was done within that time the creditors  could then apply to the Admiralty Court in London for the vessel to be sold  and any monies raised used to pay the outstanding debts.

On 8th November 1985, the Department of Transport confirmed the temporary Prohibition Order and formally declared the Communicator to be unsafe .The Department also joined the list of creditors demanding payment from Laser's backers. Their claim was for the assistance provided by Gardline Tracker in raising the Communicator's anchor before she entered Harwich on 5th November 1985.  

A 'keeper' was put on board the Communicator by the Admiralty Marshal to ensure that she did not leave port until all outstanding matters had been resolved. However, it was not at all certain that Eurad SA, nominal owners of Laser 558, would spend money on the works specified by the Department of Transport in order to make the Communicator seaworthy.

The Gardline Tracker returned to sea shortly after the Communicator had arrived in Harwich and once again took up position near the Ross Revenge. From here the DTI mounted a number of surveillance and chase operations on pleasure boats carrying Radio Caroline fans out to see the Ross Revenge. But, on 13th December 1985, the DTI suddenly announced that "surveillance of the pirate radio stations in the North Sea is to end." Minister for Industry and Information Technology, Mr. Geoffrey Pattice stated:- " We have achieved our objective which is to find out who was supplying the ships. The fact that Radio Laser 558 has ceased broadcasting is an added bonus and I hope that Radio Caroline will follow their example." The cost of the operation, which lasted in total for 126 days, was estimated  to have exceeded £100,000.

With Laser 558 off the air Radio Caroline swiftly took over the 558kHz frequency for its own broadcasts in an attempt to thwart the planned new BBC local radio station, Radio Essex, using the frequency which it had been allocated. The BBC was not deterred though and denied suggestions that its new local station would be a danger to shipping by using that frequency (as had been alleged against Laser 558 some months earlier), saying Radio Essex’s transmitter power would be a fraction of that used by Laser 558.

The Communicator shortly after sailing into Harwich, November 1985

(Photo: Bob le Roi)

BBC TV news report about Laser going off air and the Communicator sailing port, 6th November 1985

Click on picture to enlarge

The Times

7th November 1985

The Times

8th November 1985

Daily Mail

7th November 1985

East Anglian Daily Times

7th November 1985

East Anglian Daily Times

7th November 1985

East Anglian Daily Times

5th December 1985

Coded messages broadcast on 5th November 1985

coded messages 5.11.85.mp3

Last broadcast from Laser 558, 5th November 1985 12.21pm

end of Laser 558 5.11.85.mp3

News reports about Laser going off air and being towed into Harwich, 6th November 1985

(Top - IRN

Bottom - ITN)

IRN News 6.11.85 Laser off air.mp3 ITN news 6.11.85 Laser off air.mp3

Radio Caroline news reporting the close of Laser 558

Caroline news reporting close of Laser 558.mp3

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Key Dates

Ship and Location




Key Dates Ship and Location Technical Staff Programmes

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