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Radio Caroline 1980s - History (15)

Although silent the Ross Revenge remained at sea, but supplying the ship became a major problem in view of the legal uncertainties. Ultimately for the safety and comfort of those on board an agreement was entered into with the DTI about supplying the Ross Revenge from British ports, the so-called 'Section 7 Truce'.

In order to achieve this the support organisation - known as the Ross Revenge Support Group (RRSG) – had been established in February 1991 initially as an arm of the Caroline Movement. Before it could start delivering supplies to the Ross Revenge however, legal advice was obtained on such an undertaking. That advice indicated that a written undertaking should be supplied by the owners of the Ross Revenge to the DTI that although at sea the ship would not be involved in broadcasting in contravention of the British law. The situation would of course change if the Ross Revenge and Radio Caroline were granted registration and licences to broadcast legally by any (Third World) country.

On 12th February 1991 Richards Butler wrote to the DTI on behalf of Grothan Steamship Lines Inc. giving an assurance that the Ross Revenge would not be used for illegal broadcasting and on that basis the RRSG was able to officially arrange tendering and supply facilities for the ship.

A further meeting was held in June 1991 between the DTI, the new Radio Authority and representatives of Radio Caroline (including solicitors Richards Butler) as well as the RRSG. The Director of the Radio Communications at the DTI, Barry Maxwell, confirmed to those present that the Agency had no objection to Radio Caroline broadcasting, under licence, from the Ross Revenge and David Vick, Head of Development at the Radio Authority, confirmed that Radio Caroline could apply for an advertised licence, as could any organisation, the only restriction being that no one involved in such application had been prosecuted under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949, or the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967 within the last five years.

Another outlet for Radio Caroline's programmes was found in July 1991, via Al Weiner's Radio New York International shortwave service. A series of half hour taped programmes outlining the history of Radio Caroline were presented during RNYI's output over the powerful 100Kw transmitter of shortwave station World Wide Christian Radio. Further possibilities of utilising shortwave broadcasting facilities were also explored by Radio Caroline in late 1991, using the services of Radio Fax, based in Ireland,

Meanwhile, a caretaker crew of three or four people continued to look after the Ross Revenge which remained anchored at sea, but silent, pending a decision on the future of Radio Caroline.

Throughout 19th November 1991 there were fierce storms raging in the North Sea with Force 10 winds and heavy seas. Early on the morning of 20th November 1991 Dover Coastguards reported tracking on their radar screens an unidentified ship, drifting southwards. Attempts to contact the ship on the emergency channel had been unsuccessful, but a helicopter eventually located and identified the vessel as the Ross Revenge. However, the helicopter pilot was also unable to make radio contact with the silent radio ship.

At 3.50am  on 20th November 1991 the Ross Revenge hit a sandbank and for the first time the skeleton crew aboard the vessel became aware that the ship had drifted about 15 miles from her anchorage. They immediately contacted Dover Coastguard and were informed that the radio ship had grounded on the notorious Goodwin Sands, graveyard to hundreds of unfortunate ships over the years. A Sea King helicopter from RAF Manston was scrambled and arrived at the stranded radio ship shortly after 4.00am. However, at that time the skeleton crew refused assistance and decided to stay on board the Ross Revenge, leaving the helicopter to return to base.

Three quarters of an hour later the Dover Harbour Board tug Dextrous was despatched to the Goodwin Sands to take the Ross Revenge in tow and  at about the same time the Ramsgate lifeboat was launched.

The Ross Revenge crew were still very reluctant to abandon their vessel and after checking the ship for damage decided to remain on board. The crew ascertained during this inspection that only a small amount of water had entered the vessel through a broken porthole and apart from that the radio ship appeared to be in a satisfactory condition. However, within an hour of that inspection taking place the crew became more and more concerned for their own safety when the Ross Revenge suddenly started to list dangerously to starboard as the tide receded.

Click on picture to enlarge

London Evening Standard

21st November 1991

The Times

21st November 1991

Lloyds List

21st November 1991

News reports about the grounding of the Ross Revenge and the ship in Dover Harbour  November 1991.

News reports about RSL broadcasts in April and August 1992

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