Part Nine: Towed away, March 1968

Although the two Caroline ships were continuing to broadcast, behind the scenes, it was a tough time. The isolated DJs had to endure long stints at sea and dreadful tender journeys when they did finally get some leave. And, for the bosses, the financial situation was proving difficult.

With the ships being supplied and crewed from Holland, the station's money problems were exacerbated when the UK devalued the pound in November 1967. With only a limited income, bills weren't paid on time and, as the months passed, a substantial debt built up with the Wijsmuller tug and salvage company. This firm was responsible for crewing and servicing the two radio ships and, as the money owed reached £70,000, one of the Wijsmuller brothers decided that enough was enough. In an effort to get his money, he ordered his men to impound the two Caroline vessels.

Anchor chain cut

Caroline North's anchor chain is cut. Photo courtesy of Manfred Sommer.

On March 2nd 1968 Caroline North's programming finished, as usual on a Saturday, with “Daffy” Don Allen's Country & Western Jamboree. Soon after the station closed for the night the ship was boarded by men working for Wijsmuller. Caroline North never returned to the air.

click to hear audio Don Allen opening and closing the Country & Western Jamboree on Caroline North, 2nd March 1968, not knowing that it was to be the final programme on the station (duration 2 minutes 28 seconds)

On the mv Mi Amigo, the crew of Caroline South were unaware of the happenings on their sister ship. Their station closed down as normal at 2am on 3rd March with Andy Archer playing Cinderella Rockefella by Esther & Abi Ofarim as his last record. The Sunday morning programmes commenced with non-stop music three hours later. As Roger Day was preparing to kick off his Breakfast Show at 5.30, a similar boarding party intervened. The station was silenced before he could say a single word on air.
The studios were locked, the anchor chains cut and the two broadcasting ships were towed away by the tugs Utrecht and Titan. (There are photos of Caroline North's journey in Manfred Sommer's scrapbook.) Radio Caroline was gone. There was silence on 259. And the listeners were totally in the dark about what had happened to their favourite radio station. There was additional confusion because Caroline South had previously announced that the station would be off the air on Monday 4th for generator repairs.

click to hear audio Roger Day on what turned out to be his last Breakfast Show on Radio Caroline South, 2nd March 1968, warning that the station would be off the air on Monday 4th (duration 1 minute 31 seconds)

signed document

The document signed by Caroline North's Captain, Senior DJ and Chief Engineer, kindly provided by Manfred Sommer.

The Caroline North ship was towed by the Wijsmuller tug Utrecht and the South ship by the Titan but correspondent John Thomas wrote to The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame to query this. He wrote: “As you know for many years every description of the Wijsmuller tugs towing the Carolines away in March 1968 state Titan for Mi Amigo and Utrecht for Fredericia. Logical as Utrecht was a much larger and more powerful tug than Titan (about 3500 horse power against about 1200). I am enclosing a photo showing the Fredericia under tow, which I obtained from Skyphotos or Fotoflite (they are one and the same now), and you will clearly be able to see TITAN on the tug.”
John went on to say “Maybe the towing started with the tugs as described but I think it is unlikely that the company would send another tug to swap over the towing part way through a voyage.”
In fact it seems that is exactly what did happen. As can be seen from the diary written by Caroline North's last DJ, Roger Scott (see over the page), the Titan (in fact he called it the Titanic!) took over the towing part way through the journey. This is confirmed by the Bureau Wijsmuller website's history of the Titan.

The Fredericia under tow

The Titan

The Fredericia under tow. Both pictures from Skyphotos, courtesy of John Thomas.

Part of the same photo with a magnified view of the tug to show its name, Titan.

The ships were taken to Holland (there are some excellent photos of the Fredericia being towed into IJmuiden harbour here) and there they stayed. The station's management demanded their return. Wijsmuller demanded its money. Neither side was prepared to back down. It was stalemate - and Caroline remained silent.
It was the end for Radio Caroline - in the sixties.


The telegram, sent by Johnnie Walker (real name Peter Dingley) to his colleague Robbie Dale (real name John Robinson), telling him that Caroline was gone. Robbie was on holiday in Spain at the time. Scan kindly provided by Robbie.

Some of the Caroline DJs have shared their memories of this sad event. See next page.
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