19 AUGUST 89:
RADIO CAROLINE IS BOARDED BY ARMED OFFICIALS…
What follows may sound incredible.
But it is the truth...
Listeners who tuned to 558khz just after midday on 19 August 1989, heard this message…
This is Radio Caroline, the radio ship Ross Revenge, anchored in the international waters of the North Sea. This is a Panamanian vessel being boarded illegally on behalf of the Dutch and British governments. There’s a Dutch tug alongside, and they’re already onboard the ship. They have already used violence against certain crew members here on board the Ross Revenge.
Similar messages were announced over the next hour, until suddenly the deejay announces that the station is going to leave the air immediately. There is silence from the most famous free radio station. After 25 years the Dutch and English authorities have silenced Radio Caroline.
Let’s return to 1964, when a radio station on board a ship appeared, and within just two weeks had 8 million listeners. Radio Caroline was the first free commercial European music station.
With five different ships she travelled through the 1960s, 70’s and 80’s - in spite of the hostility of authorities that may have liked her music, but definitely not her freedom! Caroline’s broadcasts were made illegal, were jammed, her ships were boarded, hijacked, they even sank, but she survived.
August 1989. The Dutch and English authorities are not able to control Radio Caroline and decide to board her, in international waters - which is illegal - to finally silence her.
On 19 August 1989, around forty armed officials boarded the radio ship. The stations chief engineer tried to stop them, and was hit in the face with a gun barrel. Some of the deejays locked themselves in the studio, and a dramatic hour begins, with the crew (made up of young volunteer deejays) attempting to keep listeners informed of the situation, amid appeals for help. The rest of the deejays are locked up by the boarders.
The boarders want to stop the transmitters and to bring back the ship into port. One hour later, they finally succeed in turning off the transmitters, but soon realise that it is impossible to quickly bring the ship into port. They then start stripping the ship of her contents, but this takes too much time, so they just wreck everything. The studios are stripped and vandalised, the record library of thousands of albums is taken. They are unable to remove or unassemble the transmitters and generators, so they smash them with sledgehammers.
Radio Carolines main studio after the raid
When the boarders eventually leave, the ship is in a wrecked state, with hardly any working equipment and no power.
In spite of a such an appalling situation, the crew, some of whom are injured, and most deeply shocked, they all decide to remain on board an attempt to save the ship. Thanks to the great solidarity of her listeners, Radio Caroline comes back on the air one month later. The Authorities are humiliated. They boarded Radio Caroline illegally and she was again on the air.
A new law legalising the illegal
The English government pass a law legalising the illegal, they give themselves the power to board any boat, in international waters, without agreement, with use of force, while giving the boarders of a total immunity, if a ship is "suspected of carrying radio transmitters"!
Radio Caroline is forced to stop broadcasting in 1990, while hoping to find a solution to come back on the air. But later in the year her ship runs aground on a sandbank during a storm and is eventually towed into a British port, where it is immediately detained by the authorities.
Is the adventure finished?
No, because in Europe, some still fight to make relive the legendary station from a ship at sea. Radio Caroline is part of European cultural heritage, and she must be preserved.
It is this simple idea that we try to make happen. Perhaps somewhere, a mad man wants to get involved in a mad adventure that carries the name of "liberty". If mad men had not believed that a few years ago, would there have been independent FM radio in France?
Our madness is only that of trying to save the one that was the first free radio station. Doesn't she at least have the right to live freely?
It was ten years ago, that guns were used to silence people whose only “crime” was to play music and whose inspiration was "Imagine"...