On 3rd June 1964, test broadcasts from Radio Invicta were heard being made on many frequencies. From 17th July, 06.00 18.00 regular broadcasts began on 306 metres (985khz) with a power of about 750 Watts, with a range of about seventy-five miles. After 18.00 severe interference was caused by Radio Algiers.
Radio Invicta, owned by Tom Pepper, Charles Evans & John Thompson, was based on the former Army Fort at Red Sands in the Thames estuary. Station offices were at 35 Bouverie Square, Folkestone, Kent.
On 24th July, two men signalled the passing ship "American Champion" with mirrors that they needed help. An air sea rescue helicopter was sent from RAF Manston in Kent, and discovered the station was short of water, and arranged for one-hundred gallons of drinking water to be taken out.
In October, Radio Invicta claimed they were the UK's first all night station. Later in the month deejay Ed Moreno announced that the station was being boarded. It turned out the boarders were a naval survey team making a friendly visit.
Tom Pepper drowned
On 16th December 1964, Tom Pepper (real name Harry Featherbee) took supplies out to the fort in his thirty-six foot launch "David". He started for home at 11.10 with third engineer Martin Shaw and DJ Simon Ashley. As the launch slowly disappeared into the distance staff on the fort could hear the engine giving problems. Late that night the body of Tom Pepper was found washed ashore on Reeves beech, Whitstable, Kent. Despite a helicopter search the other bodies were not found. Some months later, a badly decomposed body was washed up on a beach in Spain. A tape belonging to Radio Invicta, which was on the body, was the only clue to its origin.
Off the air
The 20th December saw the station go off the air. Fuel had run out, and no lighting, heating or cooking facilities available. The next day Southend life boat was called on to deliver supplies to the fort, the stations own supply vessel was held up by heavy seas. The Whitstable fishing boat Mallard, loaded with food and fuel also managed to reach the fort.
At an inquest on the 22nd, the East Kent coroner said he was not convinced of the seaworthiness of the launch "David" and recorded an open verdict on the deaths of Tom Pepper, Simon Ashley and Martin Shaw. He advised the station there should be a communications link between the fort and the shore.
After the inquest Mrs Featherbee took over the station. A newspaper report said that the pop group the Bachelors were to buy the station, but this was denied by the station.
At the end of January 1965, several SOS broadcasts were made, firstly for drinking water. In the second, a doctor was taken out by helicopter after DJ Bruce Holland had fallen and injured his head, he required seven stitches in the wound. In February, Kent coast guards claimed that Radio Invicta blocked the international distress frequency for two hours, after their heating system broke down.
Radio Invicta closed down in the middle of February and was soon replaced by KING Radio.
Radio Invicta deejays
Chris Allen, Simon Ashley, Gary Brandem, Johnny Caine, Bob Graeham, Jeff Godfrey, Bruce Holland, Eddie Jerold, Ed Laney, Johnny Lark, Ed Moreno, Pete Ross, Tony Silver (Phil Perkins engineer), Neil Spence (Dave Dennis), Lee Taylor and Paul Wayne.
Soon after Radio Invicta closed, KING Radio was heard on 25th February 1965, with test broadcasts on 985khz. New equipment was brought into use to improve on the quality, and new ownership with Charles Evans, David Lye & Kent businessmen. Test broadcasts were made during March, on 1259 Khz and then on 1267khz. The results proved that the signal was of a much higher quality. Regular broadcasts commenced on 236 metres (1267khz) on 24th March. The format consisted of middle of the road music.
The station was not a great success, and only attracted an audience of about 20,000 listeners. David Lye called in his friend, Ted Allbeury, to help improve the station. His suggestions saw KING Radio close down and a new station Radio 390 launched. KING closed down on 22nd September 1965. A tape was broadcast asking listeners to retune to the new station on 390 metres (773khz).
Red Sands in 1978
KING Radio deejays
John Ross Barnard, Clive Berry, Brian Cullingford, Bruce Ford, Peter Glosit, Roger Gomez, Mark Hammerton (Mark Sloane), Johnathan Harvey, Ed Hinkins, Bruce Holland, Sheldon Jay, Eddie Jerold, Paul Leevey, John McGowan, Mandy Raven, Mike Raven, John Stewart (John Aston), Jay Thompson, Jeff Tyse and Stephen West.
to Radio 390 back to Radio Tower go home