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Radio Caroline 1980s - History (10)

The transmitters on board the Ross Revenge were too large to move so it was decided to dismantle them, but this was achieved by smashing the equipment with sledgehammers rather than  simply cutting wires or pulling plugs. A similar fate befell the generators except one which the boarders were persuaded to leave intact as it was needed to provide navigational lights for the Ross Revenge, as required by international maritime law.

When the Volans left the Ross Revenge later that day all Dutch staff from Radio 819  as well as two British staff were on board, having voluntarily agreed to leave the radio ship following reassurances by the authorities that they would not be arrested when they returned to Holland. All British staff remained on board the radio ship.

In an attempt to justify their incredible actions against the Ross Revenge the Dutch Office of Justice stated that for over 12 months there had been complaints from several countries about interference to maritime transmissions caused mainly by the shortwave transmissions from the radio ship. The Dutch Minister of Justice, Mr. Mijnsen, said that rumours of planned new offshore stations joining Radio Caroline and Radio 819 at sea had also been an important factor in their decision to mount the raid when they did. It later became known that the raid had been some eighteen months in the planning.

There was some speculation about the validity of the registration of the Ross Revenge at the time of the boarding and questions were raised about whether the Dutch authorities had again, as with Radio Paradijs in 1979, committed an act of piracy on the high seas. However, the people behind Radio Caroline were confident enough of their legal position to instruct London maritime solicitors, Richards Butler, to institute proceedings against the Dutch authorities and the DTI on behalf of the owners of the Ross Revenge, Grothan Steamship Lines, alleging piracy, assault and criminal damage - estimated to be in the region of half a million pounds.

At first the British DTI denied that it had taken part in the boarding of the Ross Revenge, claiming that their officials had remained on the Landward observing the operation. However, DTI officials did board the Ross Revenge and journalists who visited the radio  ship during the raid were able to identify and photograph at least one of them. The Department later admitted its involvement and a spokesman said, "the Dutch authorities asked for our (technical) officers to render assistance to make equipment safe, and this was given."

A press release issued by Peter Moore on behalf of Radio Caroline the day after the raid stated:-

“The Canadian directors of Radio Caroline said they were 'shocked and horrified at this act of piracy'. They said that having taken urgent legal advice they would be bringing charges of piracy, assault and criminal damage against the authorities and against the individuals concerned. ... It seems that both the British and Dutch Governments are now involved in a 'deniability exercise'. The British Department of Trade and Industry issued a statement claiming that no British officials were involved in the boarding, and that the UK officials were in another vessel keeping surveillance. Journalists who went to the scene yesterday spoke to a DTI official, who identified himself as Mr. Jim Murphy. He identified himself while he was actually on board the Ross Revenge and was interrogating the crew. Photographic and video evidence exists of the wholesale damage created during the raid. The Dutch raiders were also drinking heavily and left behind a large number of bottles which have now been removed from the ship. The Radio Caroline legal advisers are having these bottles tested for fingerprints, for use in the forthcoming legal actions to be taken against both the Dutch and British authorities and the individuals involved. “

As a result of the raid there were immediate problems for Radio Caroline in arranging supplies of fuel and food for the people still on board the Ross Revenge - in the past tendering had been undertaken by the Dutch. Temporary permission was received from the DTI in Britain for supplies to be taken from a British port so long as a radio station was not broadcasting from the Ross Revenge.

A month after the raid, on 17th September 1989, the Caroline Movement listeners' group organised a demonstration in London to show support for the station and for those members of the crew who had remained on board the Ross Revenge. Caroline Movement members were asked to donate records and food parcels which were later taken to the Ross Revenge for the benefit and comfort of those still on board. The Caroline Movement also launched a 'Caroline Legal Fund' to help raise finance towards the legal action being taken against the Dutch Government and their hired raiding party.

Meanwhile on board the silent Ross Revenge engineer Peter Chicago, almost single handedly, managed to rebuild a medium wave transmitter from spare parts he had hidden away before the raid and from the wreckage of the short wave transmitter. This remarkable feat enabled Radio Caroline to return to the air within six weeks of having had virtually all its equipment smashed and taken away by the Dutch and British authorities.

The first test transmission, on 558kHz, took place on 30th September 1989 with a weak tuning tone. Further tuning tones were heard during the morning of 1st October 1989 and shortly after 12 noon Caroline 558 returned as promised, with two DJs, Caroline Martin and Dave Asher sharing the programme hours until close at 6.00pm.

The station managed to keep up a 12 hour schedule for the rest of October 1989 with more DJs gradually re-joining the Ross Revenge - yet again Radio Caroline had managed to defiantly provide a service for its listeners, despite all the efforts of the authorities to silence the station for good.

Having failed to close Radio Caroline by force another tactic to try and silence the station was adopted by the authorities at the end of October 1989 when it was announced that the new London ILR station, Spectrum Radio, would be allocated the 558kHz frequency. Spectrum Radio itself, which had connections with landbased pirate radio operations and a definite empathy for Radio Caroline, were not at all happy about being used by the authorities as a means to silence the offshore station's transmissions.


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News report about the raid on the Ross Revenge, August 1989


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Sunday Mirror

20th August 1989

Sunday Times

20th August 1989

The Caroline studio re-built after the raid on the Ross Revenge

Broadcasting equipment on the deck of the Ross Revenge ready to be loaded on to the Volans