Johnnie Walker was on Radio Caroline South when the end came. This account is from a letter sent to members of his fan club soon afterwards:
Since that dreadful Sunday morning of March 3rd, both you and I have gone through an almost unbearable amount of worrying, of having our hopes
raised and then dashed again almost immediately, and of reading one thing in one newspaper - and then something completely different in another. We've both had part of way of living changed and something on which
we depended for happiness and enjoyment taken away. The reason for this letter is to try and make you realize just how much I lost as a person, why the tragedy happened and what my plans are for the future.
I'd done my Show as usual that Saturday night and I eventually got to bed at half past three on Sunday morning after preparing all the American records for the Hot One Hundred Show which I was going to do at midday
Sunday. After just two hours sleep Ray, the engineer, burst into my cabin and woke me up with the news that there was a Dutch tug alongside which was to tow us to Amsterdam. I
rushed up on deck to find some Dutch seamen cutting loose the anchor-chain and making fast a line to the “Mi Amigo”! Roger, Stevie,
Bud and all the others were up in the mess just sitting around with looks of bewilderment and sadness on their faces. I asked the Captain what on earth was going on and all he would
tell me was that he was carrying out his orders from his firm in Holland (the firm that supplied the ships crews, tenders etc.). So there we all were powerless to stop the “Mi Amigo” from being towed
away from where she'd been anchored for nearly four years. At the time there was a thick sea-mist hanging over and we couldn't even see the shore gradually getting further and further away. It took twenty-two long
hours to reach Holland and during that time the thoughts in my mind were of how the people who could see the ship from land would feel when the mist cleared and we'd disappeared, how Mum would worry, and of course
MOST OF ALL how YOU would feel, after waking up a little later than usual as it was a Sunday, turning on the radio to hear nothingness! I didn't know whether we would be back, when we would be back, how long it would
be and all I could think of was that I'd had no time, and no chance, to even say “Goodbye” or a “Thank YOU” for all you'd done for me. For a lot of the time as we slowly rolled across the
North Sea I, and the other boys, wept openly - for all the time we were weeping inside.
We finally reached the Dutch coast at 3 o'clock on Monday and then a further two and a half hours as we sailed up the canal to Amsterdam. There was no news for us on arrival there - still nothing in the office
at Singel 160. Reporters were everywhere and we'd been told to say nothing. Besides, we had nothing to say. We were just as much in the dark as everyone else and could answer none of the questions even if we'd been
allowed to. I told the reporters then that I was going to Spain with Robbie so that I could return to England secretly and unexpectedly.
Naturally I was very nervous when arriving at London Airport on the Thursday, but even though I'm sure that the Customs officials knew who I was, they did nothing to stop my coming in. The reasons that were given to me
in London for the tragedy were those concerning re-insurance although I've a feeling, to this day, that there was rather more to it than that. From then onwards I heard most of the developments in the same way as
yourself - in the press. I became as confused as you must have done as each report and statement seemed to conflict with the others, and that's the reason that it is only now that I am writing to you as it was
pointless writing until there was something definite to tell you. This has, as far as I'm concerned, been a lot of the trouble - people giving statements without really knowing whether or not anything that they
said was definite or not. If I'd written to say that Caroline was finished then you'd be sad but, on the other-hand I did not want to raise your hopes by saying that we'd be back.
Ross Brown was on board Caroline North. This is an extract from an email he sent to The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame on 3rd March 2003, the 35th
anniversary of the boarding:
After some payment problems with the Dutch tender company a tug arrived and a group of armed crew members took control. We waited twenty four hours
for word that payment had been arranged. This did not eventuate and the tug captain was finally ordered to tow us to Scheveningen in the Netherlands. We arrived one week later, having been delayed around the Isle of
Wight by bad weather. In the Netherlands we all settled into our HQ which was a rented house in Amsterdam and waited for word of our future. We were eventually told we could no longer be paid but to wait around as
there were efforts being made to get Caroline back on air.
Turn to a page of photos of the Caroline North ship being towed into IJmuiden harbour in Holland.
Back to the previous page.
More about the attempt to relaunch Caroline, mentioned by Ross, in part ten of ‘Caroline in the Sixties’.