No.27: Ray Clark in conversation with Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers on Radio Northsea International, from a photo he posted on Facebook.

Ray Clark has interviewed numerous people involved with offshore radio over the years.
One of them was Dave Rogers. The conversation took place when both of them were working for Breeze-AM (where Dave was known as Keith Rogers).
Dave first joined Radio Northsea International in 1970 but the station closed down just a few days later. He returned when it resumed transmissions the following year and was on board at the time of a bomb attack on the ship in May 1971 (see The RNI Story).
He left RNI in 1972 but returned to sea in 1974 on Radio Atlantis.
We are grateful to Ray for sharing the interview with us.

click to hear audio Dave sitting in for Stevi Merike on RNI, 27th April 1971 (duration 3 minutes 41 second)

DAVE ROGERS: We were all standing around below stairs, because that's where the studios were on the Mebo II, and nobody actually realised that a bomb had gone off. It was a bit like, if you were on a ship and you nudge into the dock a bit too strongly, you know, when you're actually coming into the harbour. That was the sort of sensation we had, a sort of jarring sensation. We thought we'd been rammed by another ship. It was a very misty night, I remember. I went up on deck. Couldn't see any sign of life at all up there. Then one of the crew-members spotted this red glow down through one of the hatch covers and of course then he gave the alarm. He thought there was just a fire on board. Nobody realised of course at that time that there was a bomb but it wasn't long before we saw this little dinghy, a little inflatable dinghy with an outboard motor on, disappearing into the fog and then everybody put 2 and 2 together and obviously came up with the fact that someone put a bomb on board.
I don't remember anybody panicking as such. It was a very calm night so we knew that it was quite easy to get off the ship and (laughs) I definitely distinctly remember that, purely as a precautionary measure, I was the first person to get into the lifeboat. I thought “well it's a bit daft. I'm standing up on deck here and there's several hundred gallons of fuel on board, and there's a fire raging, and it's a bit silly that I'm standing here and not sitting in the lifeboat. So I was the first person to get off the ship.”

click to hear audio Dave Rogers and Alan West, 15th May 1971. Following the bomb explosion, the crew are abandoning ship. This clip is taken from a recording made available by The Offshore Radio Archive (duration 4 minutes 7 second)
click to hear audio Dave and Alan on the morning of 16th May comparing notes about the previous night's attack. Recording courtesy of Our thanks to Ray Robinson (duration 1 minute 40 second)

RAY CLARK: And what about the fire? It was quite a fire, wasn't it? How long did it burn for before you got assistance?
DR: We thought that there would be no way that we'd be back on the air for quite some time. We were sending out Maydays on medium wave, which of course is not really the thing to do, for a long time and apparently police stations and ambulance stations and fire stations, and coastguard stations right through Europe were jammed with people ringing up. We had rescue ships out there very quickly, fire-fighting tugs, and I tend to remember that the fire was out within literally a couple of hours. We were back on the air that night in a rather smoke-filled studio.
Obviously it wasn't very amusing at the time but one particular part of the broadcast, the Mayday broadcast, I remember... There was an engineer on board called Kurt, and Kurt was the last person to broadcast before we abandoned ship. I remember, in his very thick I think it was Swiss accent, saying “we are getting off the ship, cough, cough” and there was this mad coughing fit. And that was the last we heard of Kurt. Probably people imagined he went up in a puff of smoke!

Daily Mail cartoon

‘Here's a request from Mr. Big of Holland, who says: “Say your prayers, mine friend, you won't be so lucky a second time...”’ Cartoon from the ‘Daily Mail’, 18th May 1971, kindly provided by Phil Matthews.


Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers on Radio Atlantis, photo courtesy of Steve England.

click to hear audio Dave Rogers on the ‘Midnight Special’ programme from Radio Atlantis, 12th July 1974. This clip is taken from a recording shared on The Offshore Radio Club Forum by Hans Hendriks. Our thanks to him (duration 4 minutes 38 second)

DR: We had a very strong pioneering spirit on Atlantis because we were all there mucking-in together. We didn't have a proper crew as such. There was a guy called Steve England who was the Programme Controller but also the Captain and he used to kind of try to keep us all in check. I'll tell you what it was like. It was like going on a camping holiday. Everyone was mucking-in together. We were all cleaning out the toilets and doing the cooking and everything. And, because of that, we created a wonderful feeling of camaraderie on board which we didn't have on the other offshore station I used to work on, RNI. They (RNI) were, if you like, quote a more professional set-up in that they had a full crew which included a chef and even a steward, plus of course they had the Captain as well. So you didn't quite have the same sort of pioneering spirit, I don't think, on RNI.
RC: What about your audience? Was it just aiming for Britain or did you get a lot of continental listeners?
DR: Well the station basically was set up to broadcast to Belgium. It had quite a weak signal although our chief engineer did his best to tweak it so we could get a fairly chunky signal into England. Sadly we didn't get a very powerful signal into the UK with Atlantis however Radio Northsea International had a much, much more powerful transmitter and that was heard very extensively, right through the whole of Europe.
DR: I remember coming up towards our final few days - and of course it was a very sad period in a way - we decided to broadcast from various points round the ship other than the studio which is, of course, where we normally were. I remember distinctly that I had a microphone with a very long lead on it and I was instructed by the Programme Controller to climb up the mast that supported the aerial. There's a strange phenomenon that occurs if you climb up near the aerial in that the actual power emanating from the aerial tends to affect the microphone. And I remember that halfway up the mast I suddenly disappeared on air! (laughs) They had to quickly put a song on. They must have thought I'd fallen off the mast!

click to hear audio Dave Rogers broadcasting from the deck of Radio Atlantis's ship, the Jeanine, with Steve England and Dave Owen in a rubber dinghy, 25th August 1974. Recording courtesy of Our thanks to Ray Robinson (duration 4 minutes 38 second)

DR: (The ship) didn't have an engine on board so we were towed in to the harbour and it was definitely one of the most emotional periods of my life. We had hundreds and hundreds of people there, standing on the quayside waving as we approached the quayside and I felt really genuinely sad that the whole thing had finished; seeing those people there and obviously seeing how disappointed they were, I thought “what a great shame that it all had to come to a grinding halt”.
I think the big plus point for Radio Atlantis was that we were very much working together as a team. There weren't any stars out there. We were all very much on the same level and, because of that, we created a wonderful team spirit out there, and I think that came out in the programmes as well. The station was very friendly, very natural and was genuinely on a high for all the time I was there.

Radio Atlantis team

The Radio Atlantis team. Back row (l-r) Derek Jones, John Harding and Dave Owen. Front row: Dave Rogers, Steve England, Debbie England, Andy Anderson and Lynda Anderson. Photo posted on Facebook by Dave.

Back to Ray's chat with Nick Richards.
Ray talks to Mark Matthews over the page.

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