THE RADIO NORTHSEA STORY.
RADIO NORTHSEA INTERNATIONAL.
In 1969, after being involved with the refitting of the MV Galaxy - former home of Radio London , Edwin Bollier and Erwin Meister started to set up their own station.
The 124 foot 347 ton Bjarkoy was purchased and renamed Mebo. The Ship had been built by Tronsjems M/V at Trondheim in Norway. After work to convert her into a radio ship had started it was decided that a larger ship was required. The Mebo was then fitted out to become a supply tender for the new ship, Mebo II.
The Silvretta was built in 1948 by De Groot and Vliet at Slikkerveer Holland, she was 630 tons and 186 feet long. The ship was renamed Mebo II and then converted into a radio ship in the same shipyard that built her.
The Silvretta was purchased for £25,000 and a further £65,000 was spent on converting her to a Radio ship.
22nd January 1970, the Mebo II left Slikkerveer for an anchorage off the Dutch coast.
23rd January. At 22:30 test broadcasts started on 6210 Khz and 102 Mhz, with non stop music, announcements about the Radio Northsea International* were made in German by Horst Reiner and in English by Roger Day.
* Note the spelling of the station name. Dutch and German promotions used the name Radio Noordzee International, English promotions used Radio NorthSea International. Painted on the ship was an alternative - Radio Nordsee International.
11th February. Test broadcasts commenced on medium wave 1610 Khz / 186 Metres.
18th February. With the arrival of DJ's on board, live test broadcasts start.
28th February. 06:00 Official opening of the the station with German programmes. The German schedule was 06:00 - 08:00, 18:00 - 20:00, with English programmes 08:00 - 18:00 and 20:00 - 24:00.
4th March. The German evening service was extended to 21:00, with the English service following until 02:00.
23rd March. In the late afternoon the Mebo II set sail for the English coast, anchoring off Clacton at 09:00 the next morning.
The medium wave transmitter caused extreme interference to Walton on the Naze Coast guards, who had to increase their transmitter power by ten fold just to stay in touch with the lightships and Trinity House vessels.
27th March. Having been made aware of the interference the medium wave transmitter was switched off at 13:25.
1st April. The shortwave transmitter went off air, and the station was off air on all frequencies.
10th April. The station returned on 102 Mhz and 1578 Khz / 190 Metres.
15th April. The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) commenced jamming the medium wave frequency from the Naval radio station at Rochester, Kent, UK with a 800 Hz tone. It was stated this was being done at the request of Italy and Norway. At 20:30 RNI left the air.
30th April. 21:00 RNI was back on the air on 1385 Khz / 217 Metres, and a new FM frequency of 100 Mhz, but the jamming continued.
13th May. A frequency change to 1230 Khz / 244 Metres was made.
18th May. The jamming recommenced at the request of Czechoslovakia, or so the MPT claimed, but RNI stated they had permission from Czechoslovakia to use this frequency.
The Navy transmitter had a power of 10,000 Watts, so not only achieved it's aim but also interfered with BBC Radio 1 in much of the Kent area.
28th May. RNI started to try and dodge the interference by jumping between 1227 Khz and 1232 Khz every fifteen minutes, but the jamming followed, and the frequency jumping was given up.
30th May. A demonstration is held outside the Post Office station at Beacon Hill, in Kent.
The British Labour Party called a general election for the 18th June. It was the first time eighteen year old's had been given the right to vote. RNI had made it clear that if the Labour party was returned to power they would close down.
13th June. RNI changed its ID to Radio Caroline International.
14th June. In London, a rally was held in support of Radio Northsea. A protest march took place from Hyde Park to Downing Street and then to Trafalgar Square.
16th June. The Clacton on Sea lifeboat took off four crew members.
17th June. A plot of land owned by the Marconi Company at Canewdon, Essex was taken over by the authorities. Army personnel erected two marquee tents, one for the 500,000 Watt RCA transmitter, which was run at an estimated 200,000 Watts and the other housed the power generators. The site was heavily guarded at all times by armed army personnel.
20th June. The station reverted back to RNI.
27th June. A frequency change to 1382 Khz / 217 Metres was made to avoid the jamming.
30th June. The Canewdon transmitter was switched off, but was replaced by the less powerful transmitter at Rochester, Kent.
1st July. The 6210 Khz service returned (it had been used in the last week of June for tests on 9940 Khz).
2nd July. Rogaland Radio (a Norwegian coastal station) started broadcasting on 6210 Khz. The transmitter was used in upper sideband mode and put out the message "Our aim is to clear the channel of unauthorised and out of band transmissions". The ITU list of coast stations shows that Rogaland was only authorised to use 516 Khz and 1729 Khz.
14th July the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications stated the jamming would continue while RNI stayed on air.
23rd July. RNI closed down at 10:55. With the aid of a crane ship the Mebo II lifted it's anchor and sailed back to Holland.
24th July. 07:00 RNI recommenced broadcasting, FM was once again on 102 Mhz, but jamming did not restart. Interference was however being caused to Hilversum 3.
30th July. 13:45 all broadcasts stop.
3rd August. 06:00 short wave returned on 6205 Khz. 09:00 medium wave returned on 1385 Khz / 216 Metres.
4th August. 04:00 FM resumed on 96 Mhz.
5th August. 06:00 a new short wave transmitter was on air on 9940 Khz. Programmes were now all in English and ran from 06:00 to 03:00.
12th August. Kees Manders announced that he was the commercial director of RNI. RNI's managing director, Larry Tremaine, denied this and said nothing had been agreed in writing. Kees Manders had been involved with Radio Veronica, Edwin Bollier and Erwin Meister invited him to start a Dutch service from the Mebo II, and offered him a directorship in RNI. Edwin Bollier and Erwin Meister became angry when Kees Manders leaked the story out, and immediately ceased all agreements with Kees Manders.
17th August. A storm put the medium wave transmitter out of action.
22nd August. Medium wave broadcasts resumed. FM was once again moved to 100 Mhz, but this caused interference to the medium wave service and work began on another medium wave frequency change.
24th August. 08:00 medium wave broadcasts restart on 1367 Khz 220 Metres.
27th August. Dutch PTT seized ship to shore radio equipment found in the Park Hotel (Scheveningen) bedroom of the owners of RNI.
29th August. 13:30 Kees Manders made his way in the tug Huskey to the Mebo II. Kees Manders climbed aboard the Mebo II and demanded that the ship be taken in to Scheveningen, his demands were rejected and was told to leave, when he left, he threatened to cut the anchor chain and tow the ship in.
The crew broadcast the events, and those on board the Huskey prepared to use a water cannon on the aerial mast, the tug Eurotrip was spotted, and the raiders made off. Later the Dutch frigate Van Nes arrived and stood by in case of further trouble.
22nd September. The 100 Mhz and 9940 Khz transmitters split from the 1367 Khz and 6205 Khz transmitters to form a "World Service".
23rd September. This service was short lived, at 21:00 a message was received from the tender De Redder saying that the station was to close down at 11:00 the next morning.
Programmes continued all night, DJ's broadcasting their final programmes. At regular intervals the message "RNI is voluntarily closing down because of pressure in the Dutch government to close down the offshore stations, our directors feel it would be better for the people of Holland if we close down, and let Radio Veronica stay on air".
24th September. At 11:00 RNI closed down.
A crew from Veronica took over the Mebo II, which stayed at its anchorage. Reports in the press stated the ship was to be sold to an African concern, but nothing came of it, then the true reason for closing leaked out, Radio Veronica had paid RNI 1,000,000 Guilders to stay off air for two months.
5th January 1971. The Captain on board the Mebo II was tricked into going ashore, and Edwin Bollier took control of the ship.
January. Test broadcasts were made off the coast of Belgium with the station ID of Radio Marina, the station owners were a right-wing organisation and were only heard for two hours.
Many legal arguments followed, it was revealed that RNI had taken 1,000,000 Guilders in bank notes to the Veronica offices, but they had refused to accept them.
The Mebo II was moved to Cadzand, on the Dutch boarder but the anchorage proved very rough, and the ship went back to Scheveningen. Test broadcasts began, but with no station ID.
14th February. Station ID of RNI resumed. DJ Stevie Merike announced "This is a test transmission from Radio Northsea International broadcasting on 220 metres medium wave band, 1367 kilocycles, and on channel 44 that 100 megacycles in the FM band, and on 6205 kilocycles in the 48 metre band. We're very pleased to have you around. May I cordially suggest that you call up your friends on the telephone and let them know that RNI is back".
20th February. 15:00 programmes officially commence in English. After the Man of Action theme finished DJ Alan West introduced production director Victor Peli, who announced "A new and different chapter of RNI begins at this time. on behalf of the owners, Mr Meister and Mr Bollier, I would like to bid you welcome to the new Radio Northsea International. In the years to come RNI will bring you the best possible entertainment". The opening record was "Nothing rhymed - Gilbert O'Sullivan.
7th March. Dutch programmes introduced between 09:00 - 16:00, presented by joost de Draaier and Jan van Veen (former programme directors from Radio Veronica).
10th March. Radio Veronica took Radio Northsea International to court. Veronica claimed that a payment of 1,000,000 Guilders was paid to RNI to cease broadcasting, but they were back on the air. RNI counter claimed that they had tried to repay the money as they wished to resume broadcasting.
The Court ruled that no decision could be taken, as all the problems occurred in international waters. Because the radio ship, Mebo II, was controlled by Meister and Bollier they could continue to broadcast.
March. During March a new postal address was given out for record requests, PO Box 117, Hilversum, Holland.
15th May. 07:40 Tom van de Linden and Two men, left Scheveningen in a rubber dingy, three hours later they arrived along side the Mebo II. Two of the men climbed aboard and lit a fire in the engine room, and made off. Immediately there was an explosion and the stern of the ship quickly caught fire. SOS calls were sent out on the broadcast transmitters and the ship to shore link.
23:50 The tug Eurotrip took ten crew off the ship, leaving only the captain, transmitter engineer and ships engineer on board. The Dutch Royal Navy frigate Gelderland stood by, while the fire fighting tug Volans doused the stern of the Mebo II with water. (the Volans was involved in offshore radio history, 18 years later, when Dutch authorites used her in the raid on Radio Caroline in August 1989). By 02:20 the fire had been extinguished.
16th May. Broadcasts resume, as the studios and transmitters had escaped damage. Damage estimated at £28,000 was caused in the fire.
The three men made it back to shore and sunk the dingy and hid the frogman suits, but within a few hours they had been captured by the police.
17th May. Norbert Jurgens, the advertising manager for Radio Veronica was arrested and questioned about the fire.
18th May. Bull Verwey, a director of Veronica, was arrested and detained.
20th May. The two directors and the three frogman appeared in court in The Hague. The Veronica organisation admitted they had paid the frogmen 3,000 each to put the station off the air or tow the ship into port, but not to set the fire. The court case was held over until September.
June. Short wave tests start on 9935 Khz. A "World Service" was introduced on Sundays on both short wave frequencies.
21st September. The two Veronica directors and the three frogmen received one year jail sentences.
22nd November. The Mebo II lost its anchor and started to drift. Broadcasts stopped as the ship entered Dutch territorial waters. The lifeboat Bernard Van Leer, a Royal Dutch Navy Neptune aircraft, a helicopter and the tug Smithbank all raced to the Mebo II's assistance. By 11:00 the Smithbank had the Mebo II in tow, and at 16:30 RNI was back on the air.
27th March. The transmitter which had been used for short wave broadcasts on 9935 Khz had been converted to 773 Khz and was tested.
24th May. Test broadcasts are made on 773 Khz.
30th September. Just after 12:30 a second medium wave service commenced on 1562 Khz / 192 Metres. DJ Tony Allen opened the station with the ID of RNI 2. This frequency had been used by Radio Veronica until 12:30 when they moved to 558 Khz.
2nd October. RNI 2 left the air, never to be heard again. It was disclosed that it was to show advertisers that in an emergency the station was capable of transmitting on another frequency. But, it was also said it was done to lure away Radio Veronica's audience to RNI.
24th October. The English service failed to commence, the Dutch director, John de Mol, had decided that as the English service did not pay its way, it was not worth keeping on the air, and sacked all the English staff. This had been done without the authority of the Swiss owners, who were furious.
3rd November. English service recommenced.
12th November. The World service returned to 6205 Khz, and went out every Sunday.
26th January. Tests commence on 9780 Khz, irregular test broadcasts are made for the next few weeks.
23rd February. The ship lost its anchor and drifted towards the coast, and broadcasts ceased.
24th February. A new anchor was fitted. And the ship sailed back to it's old anchorage.
25th February. 12:00 broadcasts resume after thirty-six hours off air.
2nd April. A severe storm caused damage to the aerial systems on the Mebo II.
3rd April. Low power broadcasts resume on medium wave and short wave.
24th April. FM service restarted.
27th May. The world service closed because of technical problems. At the same time the Zurich office handed all work over to the Dutch office.
July. The medium wave transmitter was giving trouble, it was one of five prototypes made by RCA, and the only one which was still in service.
21st July. The campaign to keep RNI on the air as a legal station began.
Free stickers were given away in many town centres. The sticker contained a tear off portion for the owner to send back to RNI pledging five Guilders a year. Thirty-thousand people replied, unfortunately a minimum of fifty-thousand replies were needed to become a licensed station.
Radio Veronica carried out a similar scheme and exceeded the required number, and was granted a licence in 1975.
21st October. A storm causes more damage to the FM service and it had to leave the air.
31st October. The FM service returned, but at a reduced power of 250 Watts.
November. More transmitter problems occur, no fully qualified engineers were aboard the ship, Mr Meister went out to the ship and carried out the repairs himself.
11th November. The English service was extended and the station started a twenty-four hour format.
December. By mid December all three transmitters were back on full power.
With the world wide oil shortage the station cut back on broadcasting hours.
The transmitters started to brake down more frequently, they were in need of an overhaul after three years continuous use, again the Swiss owners had to carry out repairs themselves after approaching the radio engineers on the other offshore stations failed.
Holland was preparing it's own Marine Offences Act, and was expected to take effect on 31st August. The station stated that it would close down on the 31st August, as it had no intentions of breaking any laws.
30th August. The final English broadcast went out between 20:00 - 24:00
31st August. At 18:00 a special farewell service was broadcast hosted by Ferry Maat, it had been intended to close the station at midnight but at the last minute was changed to 20:00. A final broadcast went out at featuring all the staff and management, at 20:00 the station closed after playing the RNI theme and ending with the sound of a sinking ship.
1st September. The Dutch Marine Offences Act came into force.
It was planned the ship would enter harbour for an overhaul then sail to Italy and broadcast as Radio Nova International from the gulf of Genoa. The new station was to be in honour of the Royal Park Hotel in Zurich, Switzerland which was owned by Edwin Bollier.
Bad weather prevented the Mebo II from being towed to the De Groot van Vliet shipyard for one week.
9th September. The Mebo II arrived at the shipyard. Customs officials sealed the cabins, in which the records and other studio equipment had been placed.
The Mebo II was dry docked, and twelve inches of crustation was removed from the ships hull.
The Mebo had similar treatment and after repainting had been renamed 'Angela'.
The transmitters were given a full overhaul, both studios were dismantled and three smaller ones and a new record library built in their place. The mast was extended by sixteen feet to one hundred and eighty-five feet, two new short wave aerial systems installed and a second medium wave aerial system was added, so that on arrival off the coast of Genoa, Italy, an English service could be broadcast at night. Some 20,500,000 Guilders had been spent on the overhaul.
10th October. Both ships were seized, the new Dutch laws did not permit ships to carry transmitters except for maritime communications.
10th December. The courts decided that both ships could leave port, once the transmitters had been removed from the Mebo II. It was pointed out the Mebo II was registered in Panama, and transmitters counted as cargo.
25th March. The appeal was heard and it was agreed that the ship was under the jurisdiction of Panamanian law.
2nd January. The court case was finally settled, under the condition that the Mebo II sailed within two months and would not transmit from European waters for two years, a bond of 250,000 Guilders was ordered and a fine of 5,000 Guilders for having a radio ship in Holland after the 31st August 1974 was made.
Two 10,000 Watt RCA transmitters from the Veronica ship Norderney are put on the Angela, which causes the Dutch PTT to investigate, and the intended departure date of 12th September is postponed.
November. Both ships were dry docked again, the hulls cleaned and repainted.
10th January. Both ships tested their engines by sailing around the harbour.
13th January. Custom officials carry out pre sailing checks.
14th January. It was confirmed that both the Mebo and Mebo II were going to be used by the Libyan Government. At 11:45 both ships left the harbour and sailed down the canal towards Rotterdam. Problems with the authorities arose because a full crew was not on board. A new crew was taken on while in Rotterdam, and supplies were taken on board at Slikkerveer harbour.
15th January. The Mebo II damaged two ships when she collided into one of them. A detention order was placed on the Mebo II. Arrangements were made to pay the owners of both ships and the detention order was removed.
16th January. 10:30 the Angela headed seaward followed by the Mebo II. Captain van der Kamp was put in charge of both ships.
20th January. Both ships took shelter off Brest, France due to bad weather until the 28th.
1st February. Both ships entered the Mediterranean Sea.
2nd February. Both ships entered Ceuta, Morocco, and took on supplies.
9th February. Both ships arrived off Tripoli, but were not allowed into port because of problems with the ships papers, papers referred to the ships as Mebo and Mebo II.
14th February. Both ships entered the harbour, the crew of Cape Verde Islanders were paid off and another Dutch Captain took over.
Both ships were hired by Colonel Ghadaffi while land based transmitters are installed by Mebo Ltd for the Peoples Revolutionary Army.
5th April. The Mebo II was renamed El Fatah, and was now owned by the Libyan Government, the ship would officially broadcast programmes for the SPLAJBC. At the same time the Angela was renamed Almasira.
Both the Almasira (ex Angela) and the El Fatah (ex Mebo II) were used for target practice by the Libyan Navy, and sink in the Gulf of Sidra, Mediterranean Sea.
Adapted from Jim Parkes "Encyclopedia of Offshore Radio" by Chris Edwards, Offshore Echo's magazine. December 1996