On This Day: Pirate station Radio Caroline sank

Rebecca Lewis
On This Day: Pirate station Radio Caroline sank

March 20: After 16 years of tearing up the airwaves the bell finally appeared to toll for pirate station Radio Caroline.

Disc jockeys had been pop picking for Caroline since 1964 and had used the good ship Mi Amigo as their floating studio since 1972.

But on March 19, 1980, a violent storm broke out off the coast of Essex. The ship's anchor chain broke, causing the vessel to drift for 10 nautical miles until she ran aground on a sandbank.



The ship began to take in water and after struggling for eight hours with portable

pumps the four-man crew -  including DJs Stevie Gordon and Tom Anderson -  conceded defeat and were rescued by lifeboat.

At 23:58 that night the final broadcast on board the Mi Amigo was made.

"I'm sure we'll be back one way or another," said the duo. "For the moment, from all of us, goodbye and God Bless."

The ship finally sank in the early hours of March 20, leaving only the mast visible above the surface of the water.

Radio Caroline began broadcasting on March 28, 1964, from a former Danish ferry that was renamed 'Caroline'. The boat floated three miles off the coast of Felixstowe and was Britain's first pirate station.

Pirate radio broadcast pop and rock music in an effort to skirt around the record companies' control of popular music broadcasting in the UK and the BBC's radio broadcasting monopoly. The unlicensed broadcasting was actually illegal.

The colour Pathé clip featured above shows the everyday life of the radio's crew in 1965 -  a far cry from the Mi Amigo's sad demise.

In the clip the DJs spend their time choosing tracks, writing scripts and answering fan mail from some of their listeners - which numbered in the millions at the station's peak. To pass away the time the crew - which includes a young Tony Blackburn -  are also seen playing chess.

The narrator says: "You can't say life's exciting abroad a pirate radio."

Radio Caroline did resurface though after the Mi Amigo incident. In August 1983 it re-commenced broadcasts abroad the 'MV Ross Revenge'. Amazingly it still survives today and is currently legally broadcast on the internet.