Pirate Radio Ships

In the middle of 'the swinging Sixties' several radio ships moored just outside British territorial water to challenge the radio monopoly of the BBC. The two most popular stations were Radio Caroline (the first ship) and Radio London.

Many other radio stations located themselves on ships or on the offshore forts in the Thames Estuary.

Radio Caroline started broadcasting at Easter in 1964 on 199 metres to the south-east of England from international waters just outside the 3-mile-limit by Frinton-on-Sea, Essex. The intention was to capture a sizeable proportion of the radio audience of South East England.

Radio London on 266 metres started several months later and within a very short time these (and other) stations became incredibly successful, creating a cult following of an estimated 14 million teen-and-twenty listeners.

Radio Caroline (mv Caroline) and rival station Radio Atlanta (mv Mi Amigo) merged resources within a few months. The mv Caroline sailed anti-clockwise around the coast of the UK broadcasting all the time. She finally anchored off Ramsey, Isle of Man to become Caroline North. The mv Mi Amigo stayed offshore Frinton to become Caroline South.


UK MapJolly Roger flag
Popular day trips were organised from Walton-on-the-Naze out to the pirate ships. The (nearly) famous boat named 'Viking Saga' used to circle around the radio ships (see my photos below). In the evenings dedicated listeners parked their cars on top of the cliffs at Frinton flashing their headlights at the ships offshore in response to the banter from the D-J's. Heady days indeed !!


Radio caroline
"Ding-Ding" Radio Caroline
(mv Mi Amigo)


Radio London
"Big-L" Radio London
(mv Galaxy)

These two pictures were taken using my Kodak 'box-brownie' in the summer of 1965



Here is a time-line of the more important events in the UK Pirate Radio History.

Station names are colour-coded to ease recognition in the list of fast changing events.


March 28: Radio Caroline, the first UK off-shore pirate radio station, goes on the air.

May 9: Radio Atlanta pirate radio ship - moored of the coast of Essex, England - goes on the air.

May 27: Radio Sutch founded by Screaming Lord Sutch - later a regular parliamentary candidate and founder of the Monster Raving Loony Party - goes on the air from the Shivering Sands Fort in the Thames Estuary

June 3: Radio Invicta, another UK pirate radio station, goes on the air from Red Sands Towers in the Thames Estuary.

June 5: Manx Radio broadcasts its first programme from a caravan. The initial potential audience for commercial radio programmes was estimated to be 2,500.

July 2: Atlanta and Radio Caroline merge. mv Caroline sails to the Isle of Man. Mi-Amigo stays put.

July 13: Radio Caroline North starts transmissions on 197m offshore Ramsey, IOM.

September: Radio Sutch changes its name to Radio City.

November 24: Manx Radio, the first legal land-based commercial radio station in the British Isles, officially goes on the air.

December 18: Radio Invicta closes down.

December 19: Radio London, goes on the air. Regular programmes began on December 23.


King Radio: pirate station goes on the air from the former Radio Invicta installation at Red Sands Tower in the Thames Estuary.

September 25: Pirate station King Radio is renamed Radio 390.

September: Radio Essex pirate station goes on the air from Knock John Tower in the Thames Estuary.

December 31: Radio Scotland pirate ship goes on the air at 23:55.


May: Radio England and Britain Radio stations go on the air from a ship in the Thames Estuary.

June 4: Radio 270 pirate ship goes on the air, broadcasting to northern England from off the Yorkshire coast.

November 14: Radio England pirate ship begins transmissions in Dutch and changes its name to Radio Dolfijn.

December: Radio Essex pirate station is successfully prosecuted in UK but is renamed BBMS (Britain’s Better Music Station) pending appeal.


January: BBMS pirate radio station closes after the failure of its appeal against conviction.

February 8: Radio City closes at midnight.

March: Radio Dolfijn pirate station becomes Radio 227 and starts broadcasting in English again. Britain Radio becomes Radio 355.

July 23: Radio 227 closes.

July 28: Radio 390 closes.

August 6: Radio 355 closes.

August 14: Many stations plan shutting down due to impending introduction of Marine Broadcasting (Offences) Act at midnight. Radio London station closed at 15:00; Radio Scotland and Radio 270 closed just minutes before midnight.
Radio Caroline is renamed to Radio Caroline International and keeps broadcasting....

August 15: The Marine Broadcasting (Offences) Act comes into force. This has the effect of outlawing pirate radio in UK, and making criminals of any person or businesses involved in any way with the broadcasters.

August 30: The Marine Offences Act become law in the Isle Of Man.

  March 3: Both Radio Caroline ships (broadcasting as Radio Caroline International) were raided in a well planned operation organised by the Wijsmuller company (who were owed £30,000 for tender services for the ships).
A short message was read out to DJs, staff and crew, then both ships were towed to Holland. Eventually they were put up for auction in May 1972.


January 23: Radio Nordzee International test transmissions start from the ship Mebo II offshore Holland. Official start of broadcasting at 6pm February 28 on MW (1578kHz - 105kW), FM (102Mhz - 1.2kW) and SW (6210kHz - 2 x 10kW).

UK Government commence jamming of RNI.

June 13: Radio Caroline International used RNI MW transmitter on 1230kHz for a week prior to UK General Election.

For a long and interesting historical account of RNI go here

  Both of the Radio Caroline radio ships remain in harbour in Amsterdam, Holland.

  May 29: The radio ships mv Caroline and mv Mi Amigo were put up for auction.
Caroline was sold for scrap and broken up. The Mi Amigo was also sold but saved from the scrapyard by a Dutch Free Radio enthusiast.

September: The Mi Amigo was sailed into the North Sea and re-fitted. From it Radio 199 started test transmissions.

December: Radio Caroline returns on 199 metres for a few days from mv Mi-Amigo with a mix of English/Dutch programming before the crew took over the ship and had it towed to Amsterdam.

  January 2: mv Mi Amigo returns to sea and Radio Caroline transmissions resume, with Dutch programmes during the day and English at night.

April 2: Radio Veronica got washed up on the beach after hurricane force winds. Radio Caroline provided an emegency service for Veronica for about 10 days.
  May: Radio Caroline International began test transmissions on 773kHz (389 metres) after the installation of a new aerial mast. By the end of May Radio Caroline was successfully transmitting on two frequencies (259 and 389 metres).

July: The 259 metres transmitter was used by Radio Atlantis for day-time programming to Holland and Belgium. In the evening the station changed name to Radio Seagull and played album tracks to an English audience.

October: mv Mi Amigo's new aerial collapses, Radio Atlantis/Seagull continue on low power until Christmas while a new is antenna was constructed.
Caroline two frequency window sticker
When was this window sticker released?

  January 1: Radio Mi-Amigo replaces Radio Atlantis.

February: Power is increased to 50kW. Radio Caroline comes back on 259 metres replacing Radio Seagull.

August 31: prior to the introduction of Dutch Marine Offences Bill
Radio Nordzee International closes down. Dutch broadcasters Radio Veronica, Radio Mi-Amigo and Radio Atlantis also close.

Radio Caroline continued on 259 metres for another remarkable but difficult four years ([reportedly] being supplied from Spain) until March 1980 (?).

1974 - 2003

Any info/stories about Radio Caroline during this period will be greatly appreciated.

Can you help me bring this history up-to-date.

Please e-mail me.


Radio Caroline is still on the air - as an official satellite radio station!
Former pirate radio station Radio Caroline continues broadcasting
- in digital on Astra-2 satellite at 11.585GHz/H (SR 27500, FEC 2/3)
- in digital on the Worldspace AfriStar satellite
- and on the Internet.

The Official Radio Caroline website is here

For a detailed Time Line of major radio/tv/satellite and broadcasting events please visit:


mv Mi Amigo
mv Mi Amigo - Caroline South
mv Caroline

mv Caroline - off Ramsey, Isle of Man -
Caroline North


For more details of this interesting era in British Radio Broadcasting visit these sites:

This link takes you to a site with superb jingles and loads of history about the pirate ships and forts:

and this link gives an all-round narration of events involving several pirate stations:


and, try here for even more history and loads of photos on a Web-site and a CDROM for only €20

The Official Radio Caroline website is here

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