Britain Radio

The Olga Patricia was built in 1944 at Wheelers Skipyard in New York, as a landing craft, 167 feet long and 562 tons. After the war she was used as a cargo vessel and carried back to the U.S.A. bodies of G.I.'s killed in Korea. At the start of 1966 she moved from the Panama Canal Zone to the Dodge Island Skipyard at Biscayne Bay, Miami. Here she was fitted out surrounded by a security screen that would have done credit to the F.B.I. Visitors were told the ship was being fitted out for oceanographic research, but one of the men working on the ship told a reporter that he was a DJ, and had a contract promising him 28.50 per week with free food and board. A press conference in London on 20th April 1966 revealed that two radio stations were to start broadcasting from the ship in a week or so. Transmissions were due to start on 30th April 1966, but the ship had still not arrived at her anchorage.

The first test broadcasts went out on 3rd May 1966, but if the ship had in fact arrived at her anchorage or not cannot be discovered. These tests were on 1320kHz (227 metres) with a power of 55kW, from the Continental Electronics transmitter. Tests were spasmodic to start with and trouble was experienced with the equipment. At the start of June the station, together with its sister station, Radio England, had received more than 300 letters regarding the tests. On 3rd June 1966 a transformer failed and a new one had to be obtained from Dallas. This same day Italy complained about interference being caused to Rome II by Radio England, and once the transmitter was repaired the stations swopped frequencies. Britain Radio was now on 845kHz (355metres), but because of the complaint transmitter power in the evening was reduced to less than a quarter of its daytime power.

On 19th July 1966 it was announced that both Britain Radio and Radio England had applied for licences to broadcast from land. Needless to say one was not granted. The Olga Patricia dragged her mooring on 4th September 1966, one mile or so towards Harwich, Walton lifeboat in the area on another call made sure that all was well. History was made on 29th September 1966 by M.M. McLaren, the Ratepayers candidate in a by-election for Harwich Town Council, when he advertised on the stations, but the legality of the broascast was doubtful. If the broadcast had any effect will never be known, but he won by 260 votes.
Although popular, Britain Radio did not attract the audience it had hoped to lure away from Radio 390, being too brash in its presentation while still trying to be relaxed. As a consequence the station closed down on 22th February 1967, around this time a gale caused damage to the 210 feet high mast which needed a trip to Amsterdam for repairs. The station was replaced by Radio 355.

Do you remember those 'Golden' days of Offshore radio? If you wish to add anything to these pages then please E-Mail me
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