During the Summer of 1965, Roy Bates, a former fisherman, decided that after the success of Radio Caroline, that he would enter into the radio business. After visiting the unoccupied forts in the Thames Estuary he decided to use the Knock John Tower.
After several months of preparations he returned to the tower only to find that Radio City staff had occupied it, eventually he "persuaded" them to leave. Much off the original wartime equipment was restored and made use of. An ex USAF radio beacon transmitter was converted for use as the broadcasting transmitter.
Around the clock
Test transmissions started on 27 October 1965, on 1351 Khz with a power of about 1,000 Watts. Regular broadcasts commenced on a frequency of 1353 Khz, on 7 November. Radio Essex was the first "Pirate" radio station to provide "around the clock" entertainment.
Roger Scott in the studio Michael Cane
On 28th September 1966, Roy Bates was served with a summons, alleging that on the 16th August he had contravened Section One of the 1949 Wireless Telegraphy Act, by using a transmitter without a licence from the Knock John Tower. Conducting his own case, Mr Bates pleaded guilty, but claimed that the Knock John Tower was in International Waters (stating that French and Belgian trawlers fished there and nothing could be done to stop them). He was found guilty and fined. Against his solicitors advice the station stayed on the air while pending an appeal.
Knock John, former naval fort
BBMS (Britains Better Music Station)
The station changed it's name to BBMS on 6 October 1966 and the frequency changed slightly to 1349 Khz. The station was fined £100 for broadcasting from within territorial waters on 30 November. The station closed down due to lack of funds, on Christmas Day 1966. All the transmitting equipment was transferred to nearby Roughs Tower, but the station never restarted.
An appeal against the Magistrates decision failed at Chelmsford Quarter Sessions, on 17 January 1967. It was stated by the judge "It appears to this court that the Knock John Tower is about 1 1/2 miles inside inland waters"
In late 1967 Roy Bates turned the Roughs Tower into the Principality of Sealand, a sovereign state with it's own passports and postage stamps. In 1997 Sealand celebrated it's 30th anniversary.
Roy & Joan Bates by Sealand
Radio Essex and BBMS deejays
Vince Allen, Michael Cane (Martin Kayne on Caroline & RNI), Dick Dixon, Guy Hamilton, Graham Johns, John Knight, Tony Mandell, Richard Palmer, Harry Putnam, Roger Scott (Arnold Layne on RNI), David Sinclair, Chris Stewart (John Aston), Van Sterling, Guy Vernon and Mark West (Mark Wesley on RNI. Roy & Joan Bates.
to Sealand back to Radio 390 go home