In March 1965, when Ted Allbeury was called into sort out KING Radio, he decided that a different format was required. He raised £20,000 to buy out most of KING Radios backers. An RCA 10,000 Watt transmitter was purchased, a 297 foot aerial mast was constructed on top of one of the towers, which itself was eighty-five feet above sea level. Two studios were custom built to designs used by New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation. Each contained two turntables, microphone, seven channel audio mixer and two tape recorders. Each studio was air conditioned. Two of the original fort generators were brought back into use, and together with new ones, produced 160,000 Watts of power, enough to run everything on the Red Sands fort complex.
At 16.00, on 23rd September 1965, Radio 390s first test was made on 388.1 metres (773khz). Glen Miller's Moonlight Serenade being the first record played. Regular programmes commenced on the 25th. The station met with an enormous success. Unlike the other offshore stations Radio 390 was aimed at a more mature audience. The quality of signal put out over most of England was much to do with the success. A maximum power of 35,000 Watts was used, most times running at 10,000 Watts.
In June 1966, it was announced that a new service, Radio 390 North would begin from a ship anchored off Colwyn Bay, Wales. The ship was probably to be the Cheeta II, but was involved in a legal argument over ownership, and the second service never took to the air. Neither did the planned FM service from Red Sands.
Ted Allbeury with summons
Summons from Post Office
The General Post office had direction finding equipment focused on the Thames Estuary where they received broadcasts from Radio 390. On 17th August 1966, two policemen attached to the Post Office Investigation Department called at Radio 390's London office, and warned them that they were broadcasting without a licence. The management informed the Post Office Investigation Department that they did not need one.
On 21st September, David Lye, Secretary of Estuary Radio went to Scotland Yard to investigate claims that Radio 390 was to be seized. When he arrived he was served with a summons for illegal broadcasting. The next day Ted Allbeury was issued with a summons, for unlawfully use of wireless telegraphy equipment contrary to the 1949 Wireless and Telegraphy Act. On the 24th November, at Longport Magistrates Court, Canterbury, Kent, Edward Allbeury (Managing Director) and David Lye (Secretary) representing Estuary Radio, appeared before three magistrates, Mr Donald Andrews, Mr Sam Brealy and Mr Francis Gowan, on charges brought about under the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949. Estuary Radio claimed the station was eight and a half miles from land. After a second day in court and lengthy debates, the Magistrates found Estuary Radio Limited guilty and imposed a fine of £100. Both men were given absolute discharges. An application by Mr John Newey on behalf of the Postmaster General to confiscate the equipment was denied.
A prerecorded message by Ted Allbeury was taken to the fort by John Withers from London. Just before 23:00 it was broadcast, "Hello there this is Ted Allbeury speaking. I cannot believe this is the end. I am advised that it might take three or four weeks for an appeal to be heard. If we won we would start broadcasting immediately. However, if we lost it would mean that we should have to cease broadcasting from the fort. I should expect to make some alternative arrangements. For now all I can say is what I have always said - take care of yourselves and god bless". DJ Steven West then announced "We are now closing down" the National Anthem was played and Radio 390 closed down.
Mealtime on Radio 390
Estuary Radio employed a hydrographer to establish if the sandbank "Middle Sands" was ever exposed at low tide, which the High Court had held as making Red Sands inside the limits. The hydrographer's findings stated that "Middle Sands" was always covered with at least five inches of water at low tide. Radio 390 returned to the at 23.30 on 31st December 1966. The first record played was "This could be the start of something big".
Ted Allbeury then announced "It's great to be back on the air again with you all. We're back on the air and furthermore we shall stay on the air this time. We have new evidence that the fort is at least a mile and a half outside territorial waters. The survey was executed in accordance with Admiralty practice and the GPO will have to summons us again if they feel they have a case".
On 13th February 1967, the General Post Office issued twenty-eight summons, issued at Rochford, against Radio 390. It was alleged that on four days in January, the accused were involved in broadcasting without a licence. Two days later, Ted Allbeury resigned as managing director of Radio 390, and set up his own advertising company, Carstead Advertising Limited, which was to become Radio 355. David Lye, former company secretary stepped in to continue the day to day running of Radio 390, Josephine Lundberg and Peter James ran the London office.
On 17th February, the General Post Office was accused of "shopping around" to find a court that would convict Radio 390. Sir Peter Rawlinson, QC asked the Queen's Bench Divisional Court for leave to seek an order stopping Magistrates at Southend on Sea from hearing the twenty-eight cases against Radio 390. Sir Peters application was turned down by Lord Justice Winn.
Rochford Magistrates heard twenty-eight summons of illegal broadcasting brought against Estuary Radio Limited and it's directors, on 22nd February. Four summons were issued against Ted Allbeury (as managing director), four against David Lye (as company secretary), four against John Gething, four against Christopher Blackwell, four against John La Trobe, four against Michael Mitcham (as directors) and four against Estuary Radio Ltd.
The Royal Navy gave evidence that Middle Sands were uncovered at low tide, showing a photograph of Lieutenant Commander John Mackay standing on the sands next to a Union Jack. Estuary Radio Limited was fined £200, and the directors £40 each.
Back to court
In March, the Post office, in a civil action, issued a writ seeking an injunction to stop Radio 390 from broadcasting. In early May, the General Post Office commenced a new High Court action to silence Radio 390. Mr Justice O'Connor was asked to decide if Red Sands Fort was within British Territorial waters. The case was adjourned until the 23rd May, when evidence from several hydrographic witness about the location of Red Sands Fort was heard. On 25th May, Mr Justice O'Connor ruled the station illegal. A stay of execution was granted until the appeal was granted. The appeal was heard, on 28th July but rejected. Lord Justice Sellers said "There is no reason why you should broadcast any longer. All you have to do is to cease broadcasting eighteen days earlier than you would have to have done", meaning that the Marine Offences Act became law on August 15th.
A message was taken out to the fort, and at 17.00 it was read out by Edward Cole. The station then closed down at 17.10. Christopher Clark played the last record - The House that Jack built by Alan Price.
Radio 390 presenters
David Allen, Paul Beresford, Wolf Byrne, Christopher Clark, Edward Cole, Brian Cullingford, Lee Gilbert, Graham Gill, Roger Gomez, Jonathon Hall, Mark Hammerton, Peter James, Sheldon Jay, Gordon Johns, Dominic Lefoe, Samantha Leigh, Jack MacLaughlin, Robert Randall, Mandy Raven, Mike Raven, John Ross Barnard, Roger Scott, Clement Shaw, David Sinclair, John Stewart, Alan West and Stephen West.
on to Radio Essex back to Invicta & KING go home