Testing, testing, 3, 5, 5 

17 September 2015 tbs.pm/6933

Of the many offshore radio stations that existed for a brief, glorious period in the mid-1960s, Wonderful Radio London and Radio Caroline are most remembered. Big L tends to be remembered as its biggest names went on to be BBC Radio 1’s biggest names, its publicity and sound the basis for BBC Radio 1’s publicity and sound. Radio Caroline is remembered because of its almost-national coverage, thanks to running two ships, one off Essex and one off the Isle of Man.

But there were many other, some quite forgotten. We sort-off remember Radio Sutch, despite it being short-lived, because of Screaming Lord Sutch being a part of the fabric of British life for so long. It’s successor, Radio City, is also sort-of remembered – wasn’t that the one with the murder? (yes, but the murder was unrelated and took place on land). But from there it can get hazy, either because the stations covered a smaller/far away area (Radio 270, Radio Scotland) or because they didn’t last long (Radio Invicta, KING Radio).

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Also oddly forgotten are two stations that shared one boat: the top-40 based Swinging Radio England and the laid-back sounds of Britain Radio. Britain Radio having been largely forgotten outside of offshore fans is explained by its middle-of-the-road (we’d now call it ‘gold’) music policy that was aimed firmly at housewives in the home – such people do not write the history of the world, they just make sure the history happens.

Here’s the test transmission for Swinging Radio England, showing that the original plan was for the station to be on 355 metres, with Britain Radio on 227. They swapped just before launch.

Swinging Radio England, despite its name, attempted a very heavily US-influenced sound, with their DJs known as “boss jocks” and their style best described as “loud”. Although the teenagers of the day were clamouring for American-style radio, this was a step too far for many, who tuned away; the station had trouble selling advertisements and went through its startup capital like water. After six months, it was gone, to be replaced by a station aimed at the Dutch radio market.

Britain Radio survived, with a name change to “Radio 355”, dying with the Marine Offences Act on the horizon on 5 August 1967.

You Say

2 responses to this article

Nigel Stapley 17 September 2015 at 7:14 pm

Britain Radio has come back as an on-line station – http://www.355.vze.com/ – but with a bloody awful website design!

Andy 14 July 2016 at 3:16 pm

I was in my early teens at this time and I loved to tune around the medium wave band when I was meant to be asleep. Radio England was one I regularly listened to, then I’d do a quick listen up and down the band before settling on Deutche Welle (I think) which played sumptuous orchestral music. I’d often wake up in the morning with the radio quietly burbling under the bedclothes.

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