opened up the throttles and we rounded the stern of
the ship which houses the world' s most famous radio
station. There they were in white paint on that beautiful
red hull the words "Ross Revenge Panama" . We
tied up along the starboard side and were greeted by
ten or so smiling faces. Some familiar some not, but
there was John Lewis shouting greetings to our host,
Peter Chicago, Mike Barrington, some of the crew, a
couple of the Dutch DJs and Susan Charles who, in the
middle of presenting the Knock Deep Tea Party, had put
on a suitably long album track to come out and say hello.
a scramble up the rope ladder and over the side of ship
we were aboard. I was surprised how low the side of
the ship was. It could only have been about six feet
above the side of our vessel. John asked that we assemble
towards the middle of the boat at the base of the aerial
mast. As you look up the aerial it just doesn't seem
possible that 300 feet of latticed metal can stand there
like that in the middle of the sea. It is a sight that
defies description. Quite breathtaking. The only sound
is the chattering of the generator exhausts towards
the bows and the feeling of stability underfoot is quite
peaceful after the previous 2-and-a-half hours of ducking
and diving across the sea. We moved back along the starboard
walkway past the various entrances to the ships inner
companion way and then under the covered portion of
the walkway which is directly under the afterdeck.
very careful not to trip over Raffles, who was wandering
about investigating the visitors, we climbed a ladder,
through a hatch and onto the afterdeck. Sure enough
there was some washing hanging up to dry in the stiff
breeze, but only blankets, not items of a "delicate"
nature now famous for getting blown away! It was here
that the memorial service was to be held for Ian. The
various members of the crew, DJ' sand our party duly
assembled. Les presented John Lewis with a ship' s bell
which had been engraved by Ian with an inscription regarding
the Ross. As we gathered around, our host, John, who
had been a close friend of Ian' s, made a speech and
told of Ian' 8 skills as an engineer, his lifelong support
of Radio Caroline and how he is missed by those who
knew him. Peter Chicago also said a few words
and the group then moved to the deck rails at the stern.
Ian' s ashes were cast on the sea followed by two bouquets
of flowers. A very sad moment. With heads bowed this
was followed by a one minute silence during which I
felt a bit of an intruder at an occasion which was really
a rather special and private moment for Ian' s family.
As a further mark of respect Susan Charles read an obituary
for Ian at 20.00 hours during her programme and asked
the listeners to observe a one minute silence with her.
afterdeck has LA CAROLINE 519 ( recently repainted from
319) painted right across it in large white letters.
No doubt it was easier to stay with good old fashioned
meters and to alter one number instead of going the
whole way, replacing it with 576! I had a brief chat
with Peter Chicago who explained that they had been
working on the aerial during the week, the cause of
the recent breaks in transmission, but owing to the
wind, today had not been ideal. I commented that I wouldn'
t fancy going up there in any weather to which he just
smiled a knowing smile. Moving back down to the walkway
I stepped into the inner companion way passing the entrance
to the engine room. What I could see by poking my head
around the door looked very clean and neat.
on I stopped at the door to the kitchen - sorry galley.
A cooker, a microwave cooker, pots and pans, a tea urn
and a huge fridge freezer the doors of which are covered
in radio stickers from every station I have ever heard
of and many more. A pause to take a photo and then moving
along the companion way towards the rear of the ship
I stepped into the mess room. Surprisingly large, on
the far side a large comfortable looking sofa going
along the wall and around the corner. To my left a long
table laid for ten places with knives, forks, plates,
ketchup, etC. No doubt for an evening meal once we had
moved off. At the right hand end of the room a wall
mounted 26" TV, a video and impressive stock of tapes,
another fridge (no doubt for the GBH) and everywhere
people chatting. Copies of the Sunday newspapers were
gratefully received by the ship' s company.
Collins spoke with me for a while describing how things
had been on the VOP and how the climate was altogether
somewhat better than what the North Sea could offer.
He happily agreed to lead me to where the action is.
The studios. Back into the walkway, this time going
forwards towards the front we reached some stairs. Up
to the Bridge where the maritime radio was talking to
itself and calling "Seagull - come in please" . A ghost
from the past perhaps, I thought as I passed. Behind
the Bridge is the neWsroom, a microphone, typewriter
and an out of order telex, which normally works on a
short wave link with the neWS agencies, a TV and a large
cupboard. "Peter Philips' cabin" , said Dave Collins
pointing to the cupboard with a chuckle.
Back out of the neWsroom and up another flight of steps
into the 963 studio where Walter Simons, one of the
Monique presenters, was on hand to explain which bit
did what. He also kindly handed out some Monique car
stickers which were received by eager hands.
studio is quite roomy with the console on the opposite
side to the door, the turntables sunk into a bench surface
on the right-hand wall with records racked above and
around onto the wall behind me. On the left of the console
are the tape machines with the jingle cartridges racked
above. The cassette deck, with its LED level meters
blinking away, was playing one of the regular Sunday
night religious programmes. On the left hand wall is
the large window through to the other studio normally
used by the 576 service. This studio is presently not
in use. Dave explained that they are currently redesigning
it and this was evident by the lack of equipment and
masses of loose wires not joined to anything in particular.
of the door and Andy Johnson stopped by to say hello.
I remarked, that he obviously hadn't given up the weed
as he was happily puffing away on a freshly lit ciggy.
" A new campaign in October" he said "when I'll be looking
for ideas from listeners on how to give it up" . I wonder
. Back down the stairs and into the record library,
a long narrow room with a wall sofa at one end, a desk
and a very full library of albums and singles. I was
just about to have a browse when I heard someone calling
"Everyone back to the boat, Alex is worried about the
tide" . My heart sank, I hadn' t seen nearly half of
what I had wanted to.
request to Dave Collins, "Where' s the new studio and
have We got time? "Follow me, they can' t go without
you" he said, "more' s the pity" I thought. Back along
the companion way almost to the end, aright turn and
then a left. There is was, the new studio. Quite small
by comparison with the old one but very compact and
neat. A cosy 5ft wide by 8ft long with the console at
the far end under a porthole. On the right the record
decks with carts and albums racked above. With her back
to me Susan was presenting her programme. As I stepped
through the door I noticed the orange bulb above my
head light up as she opened the mike. The studio monitor
fell silent, a short pause while the album track came
to an end heard only by Susan through her headset and
a few million listeners through their radio sets.
is Caroline on 576. Good evening from the Knock Deep
tea party" she said gently into the mike. The second
turntable began to move, a futher period of silence
and then the studio monitor came to life again. Removing
her headphones Susan turned to say hello, "would you
mind if I take a couple of photos?" I enquired, "oh
sure but hang on a moment" . A quick rearrangement of
her hair, a nice smile and click. Before I could say
thanks I was concious of a hand on my shoulder "come
on we've been looking for you and Alex wants to move
A quick dash through the walkway and back to the rope
ladder. Unfortunately when swinging myself over the
side of the Ross my camera holdall gathered a similar
momentum and caught John Lewis square in the middle
of his back. He wasn' t too impressed, but if it hadn'
t been stopped by John' s somewhat solid frame it could
well have ended up at the bottom of the North Sea. Back
on our boat everyone was calling out their farewells
to John, Fergie, Mike, Walter, Peter and several other
crew members and presenters as we pulled away from the
Ross. The ship looked very large, secure and warm in
the darkness as We headed once again out into the choppy
sea. We moved quickly and very soon only the deck lights
of the Ross could be seen behind us, its silhouette
having merged with the night sky.
Passing the Dioptic Surveyor within about 400 yards
we could see the various aerials, listening probes and
other electronic paraphernalia which are festooned all
oVer the vessel. Looking carefully, the lights on the
console of the spectrometer she carries could be seen
flashing through the portholes in her hull. But no sign
of interest in ourselves as We sped towards the MV Communicator.
stern of the Communicator' s orange hull loomed out
of the darkness. On top was the huge white satelite
dome. As we rounded the stern, John, with the aid of
a bull horn announced our arrival asking for someone
on board to have a pencil and paper handy. Unfortunately
we were only going to go alongside for about 20 minutes
and not go aboard. John wanted to pass on some messages
and requests from listeners which had been received
on the Info Line following the recent announcements
put out by Laser regarding the Eurosiege Campaign. As
we came alongside there was Craig Novak with a clip
board and pen at the ready. Alongside him looking down
at us from the deck rails about 12 feet above was Chris
Carson, Jonelle, Tommy Rivers and another familar face
usually associated with engineering duties elsewhere.
messages and so on were called up as we chatted to the
assembled party. In fact it is quite difficult to hold
an intelligable conversation with someone 12 feet above
you from a rocking boat in a stiff wind. But we did
and the Laser jocks certainly seemed pleased to see
us. I had seen photos of Chris before and in person
she is a very attractive lady. A great smile and of
a most pleasant disposition. She could play with my
fine tuner any time. Looking upwards the wires of the
aerial system could just be seen high above the deck
picked out by the various flashlights going off around
me. "Where' s Charlie" enquired one of our party. "He's
on air" said Chris "but hang on". After a few seconds,
to a lound cheer from our craft, Charlie Woolfe appeared,
leaning over the deck rail. Fiona commented later that
the reception he had received was the sort normally
associated with royalty. But he was the "superstar"
the events of the following night it is unfortunate
but possible that we were the last Anorak party to have
seen "the man" on board the Communicator. Time was pressing
and we had to make for home. A last minute flurry of
people calling out for dedications and requests, an
autograph book passed up to Charue for signature and
waves of farewell. Once again back into the darkness
heading towards the Kent Coast which was not yet in
sight. As I sat at the back of the afterdeck and looked
out into the nothingnesS 1 realised how isolated life
on the North Sea must be.
back at the Ross Revenge, the Communicator
and the spyboat as their lights grew fainter in the
gloomy night I reflected on the past few hours. What
an experience. I had waited 20 years to do it and it
was all over but it was something I would always remember
. The Harbour was very calm and peaceful as we went
ashore saying our goodbyes and going our different ways.
Driving back along the motorway, deserted but for the
occasional haulage truck heading for London, it was
a strange feeling listening to the car radio. There
it was "Caroline on 576" coming from where I had been
only 3 hours before. A familiar message came to mind
"From a point at sea. . . . . to the centre of your
mind. . . . ."