Radio Caroline commenced broadcasts on 28th March 1964 from international waters three and a half miles off Clacton-on-Sea from the MV Caroline a former Danish ferryboat. After a merger with Radio Atlanta in May the original ship moved to a position off the Isle Of Man under the call-sign Caroline North. The ex-Atlanta vessel the MV Mi Amigo became Radio Caroline South. Both Caroline stations continued after the Marine Offences Act Of August 1967 but the first wave of transmissions ended on 3rd March 1968 when both ships were seized by the Wijsmuller company for non-payment of debts.
In May 1972 the MV Mi Amigo was bought by a free radio fan Gerard Van Damm and this resulted in a chain of events which saw the ship return to sea that September. The ship was in a barely seaworthy condition. With little money available Caroline supporters and particularly those with a radio engineering background, spent considerable time, effort and their own money in restoring the ship and resuming broadcasts that December. Despite returning to the airwaves the Mi Amigo and Radio Caroline had many ups and downs losing aerial masts in storms, generator problems and lack of money. Finances were stabilised by renting out daytime hours to firstly to Radio Atlantis from July 1973 and from 1st January 1974 Radio Mi Amigo. From the 30th August the ship moved from off the Dutch coast to a position in the Knock Deep due to the implementation of the Dutch version of the MOA. From here the vessel broadcast "Love, Peace and Good Music". Broadcasts arguably reached their peak in 1976 with the return of 24 hour English broadcasts utilising one of the two 10kW transmitters on board. The 50kW running Dutch/Belgian broadcasts daytime as Radio Mi Amigo and Caroline at night.
The tendering operations and support from the continent became subject to considerable pressure by various authorities and this reduced advertising income, caused shortages of essentials like food, water, fuel and generator parts. This resulted in transmissions ceasing abruptly in October 1978. Broadcasts resumed in March 1979, in Dutch and English under the Caroline call-sign. During the hiatus the ship had been damaged in a storm on New Years Day 1979 and the vessel in danger of being lost. Despite the fairly sheltered anchorage the ship broke anchor in November 1975 and September 1976 and finally on 19th March 1980. The last incident resulting in the loss of the ship the crew being rescue by lifeboat.
After much trial and tribulation Radio Caroline returned to the airwaves in August 1983 from a new ship the Ross Revenge with an all day English service. Over a year later in December 1984 Caroline resorted to hiring out the daytime hours on the 50kW to a new Dutch partner Radio Monique. Religious broadcasts also augmented the revenue. To maintain a 24 hour english service a 5kW tranmsitter was brought into use initially on 594 kHz and moving to 576 kHz. From May 1984 until its demise late the following year Laser 558 provided offshore competition and a real thorn in the authorities side with very professional Contempoary Hit Radio (CHR) format. The end of Laser 558 saw Caroline use the 558 kHz frequency. The Ross Revenge lost its anchor a couple of times but all was well. In 1987 the British government extended territorial waters from 3 to 12 miles and the Caroline ship was forced to move. The new anchorage was at the Falls Head off NE Kent. This was a far less sheltered location and this was one of the reasons the 300' mast came down in November. The structure having survived and being very stressed after the October 1987 Hurricane.The loss of the mast resulted in Radio Monique ceasing transmissions and Caroline struggled on with a jury built foremast and telescopic rear mast with a 'T' aerial in between. After attempts at using a Valcom antenna to restore two frequencies and a new Dutch station Radio 819, Caroline was forced to let the Dutch use 558 until a new aerial system was built. This was due for completion in August 1989. During the summer of '89 the IBA showed in a report that Radio Caroline had 1% of the UK population listening that's 550,000 people. Of which more than two thirds stayed with the station practically all the time. That August in an illegal action, the Dutch government raided the ship and ended true Dutch offshore broadcasts forever. Caroline struggled on but without backers with large financial reserves could no longer continue.
Yet, despite the odds Caroline survives. After being at Tilbury for many years the ship Ross Revenge is now moored on the River Blackwater being restored and maintained. Radio Caroline has, after a few ups and downs become established as a serious satellite broadcaster and tried an independent campaign for a full medium wave license. This was unsuccessful and led to the formation of Quasar Radio. Caroline did apply for one of the new community AM licenses and in May 2017 succeeded. Ofcom very quickly allocated 648 kHz with 1kW merp to cover Suffolk and the immediate surrounds. For updates visit Radio Caroline
MV Caroline (Fredericia) the original Radio Caroline ship
SB: 1977 Flashback '67 - Ronan O'Rahilly Caroline's founder with Simon Dee
Picture of MV Mi Amigo courtesy of SB taken from PS Waverley in August 1977
A 1985 Radio Monique car sticker