How radio pirates said stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr Wilson

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Harold Wilson with with his private secretary, Marcia Williams

Harold Wilson considered military action on an abandoned sea-fort where Radio Caroline had been broadcasting and was then taken over by other radio pirates.

Other plans to scupper them included dropping Marines on to the  naval fortification off the Suffolk coast and forcing ‘the surrender of the occupants’.

The government’s focus on Radio Caroline probably happened because the station was suspected of planning a smear campaign against Prime Minister Wilson.

Sealand, a sea fort of the type at the centre of the controvesy

Documents – from the Cabinet Secretary’s separate ‘miscellaneous papers’ archive – show officials were monitoring the station, because they feared it planned to broadcast about Mr Wilson’s alleged affair with his private secretary, Marcia Williams.

A Postmaster General memo from July 1967 says that the Mr Wilson decided that the UK should ‘prepare plans to deny to pirate broadcasters the use of abandoned off-shore forts’.

If a demand to leave voluntarily was ignored, ‘the next step would be to blockade the fort or make an assault on it’.

Here, Eric Wiltsher looks back at the history of offshore radio:

The history of Offshore Radio never ceases to amaze me. However, with such a topic history is often re-written.

Recently the Cabinet Office released documentation from the era of Harold Wilson’s Labour government. The National Achieves shows the opening date of the document to be 24 July 2018 and is headed “Operation of Radio Caroline”. The report was assembled between “1967 July 4 – 1967 Sept 29”. Very strange dates.

During the period in question, the Labour government were hell bent on closing down the Offshore station and replacing them with a new government-controlled BBC service, BBC Radio 1. In defence of the BBC, I view the whole saga as a mess and the BBC didn’t have time to plan Radio 1 properly.

Radio 1 ended up being a miss mash of youth content, like the Offshore stations, and remnants of the BBC Light Programme – the later being despised by the vast majority of 1960s teenagers.

Eric Wiltsher with his daughter, Caroline, rocking on board the Radio Caroline ship

I can only assume Mr Wilson held the view that teenagers were sleeping at the time Radio Luxembourg came on at 7.00pm. Little did he know, teenagers listened with the radio under there respective pillows late into the night to hear pop-music from the legendary Radio Luxembourg.

There are suggestions Mr Wilson wanted to silence Offshore radio because he feared negative topics being broadcast about him. The truth is teenagers only saw Mr Wilson as the establishment, they didn’t care if he was a naughty boy or not. Actually, they may have been interested if he had been anti-establishment Pop music was seen by most as very anti-establishment, hence the massive listener numbers for the better run Offshore stations.

Due to the release of the Cabinet Office papers, history may have appeared to have been re-written. We will clarify much of this here.

Whilst the documents were headed with the name “Radio Caroline” the topic really covered the WWII defence Forts which did house Offshore radio stations – one operated by the late David Screaming Lord Sutch. In truth Lord Sutch didn’t do well with his station and the majority of teenagers listened to Radio Caroline and/or the very slick Radio London, Big L.

Marine offences

I do recall Radio Caroline looking at many options for additional broadcast outlets, that included broadcasting Caroline TV. However, that project fell by the wayside.

So, whilst draconian laws will always be used by governments to suppress FREE radio – there will always be those who support and enjoy the high-quality standards FREE radio offers.

If you would like to join in the debate – every Friday we have Postcard From Poprad on www.rti.fm at 12.00 noon UK time – 13.00 CET. Long may Postcard continue to be YOUR voice.

So whilst draconian laws will always be used by governments to suppress FREE radio – there will always be those who support and enjoy the high-quality standards FREE radio offers.

If you would like to join in the debate – every Friday we have Postcard From Poprad on www.rti.fm at 12.00 noon UK time – 13.00 CET. Long may Postcard continue to be YOUR voice.

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