Caroline is towed away.

Soon after the ships were towed away Johnnie Walker sent this account of the incident to members of his fan club:

Johnnie Walker


Since that dreadful Sunday morning of March 3rd, both you and I have gone through an almost unbearable amount of worrying, of having our hopes raised and then dashed again almost immediately, and of reading one thing in one newspaper - and then something completely different in another. We've both had part of way of living changed and something on which we depended for happiness and enjoyment taken away. The reason for this letter is to try and make you realize just how much I lost as a person, why the tragedy happened and what my plans are for the future.
I'd done my Show as usual that Saturday night and I eventually got to bed at half past three on Sunday morning after preparing all the American records for the Hot One Hundred Show which I was going to do at midday Sunday. After just two hours sleep Ray, the engineer, burst into my cabin and woke me up with the news that there was a Dutch tug alongside which was to tow us to Amsterdam. I rushed up on deck to find some Dutch seamen cutting loose the anchor-chain and making fast a line to the “Mi Amigo”! Roger, Stevie, Bud and all the others were up in the mess just sitting around with looks of bewilderment and sadness on their faces. I asked the Captain what on earth was going on and all he would tell me was that he was carrying out his orders from his firm in Holland (the firm that supplied the ships crews, tenders etc.). So there we all were powerless to stop the “Mi Amigo” from being towed away from where she'd been anchored for nearly four years. At the time there was a thick sea-mist hanging over and we couldn't even see the shore gradually getting further and further away. It took twenty-two long hours to reach Holland and during that time the thoughts in my mind were of how the people who could see the ship from land would feel when the mist cleared and we'd disappeared, how Mum would worry, and of course MOST OF ALL how YOU would feel, after waking up a little later than usual as it was a Sunday, turning on the radio to hear nothingness! I didn't know whether we would be back, when we would be back, how long it would be and all I could think of was that I'd had no time, and no chance, to even say “Goodbye” or a “Thank YOU” for all you'd done for me. For a lot of the time as we slowly rolled across the North Sea I, and the other boys, wept openly - for all the time we were weeping inside.
We finally reached the Dutch coast at 3 o'clock on Monday and then a further two and a half hours as we sailed up the canal to Amsterdam. There was no news for us on arrival there - still nothing in the office at Singel 160. Reporters were everywhere and we'd been told to say nothing. Besides, we had nothing to say. We were just as much in the dark as everyone else and could answer none of the questions even if we'd been allowed to. I told the reporters then that I was going to Spain with Robbie so that I could return to England secretly and unexpectedly.
Naturally I was very nervous when arriving at London Airport on the Thursday, but even though I'm sure that the Customs officials knew who I was, they did nothing to stop my coming in. The reasons that were given to me in London for the tragedy were those concerning re-insurance although I've a feeling, to this day, that there was rather more to it than that. From then onwards I heard most of the developments in the same way as yourself - in the press. I became as confused as you must have done as each report and statement seemed to conflict with the others, and that's the reason that it is only now that I am writing to you as it was pointless writing until there was something definite to tell you. This has, as far as I'm concerned, been a lot of the trouble - people giving statements without really knowing whether or not anything that they said was definite or not. If I'd written to say that Caroline was finished then you'd be sad but, on the other-hand I did not want to raise your hopes by saying that we'd be back.
click to hear audio Johnnie Walker ending his 9pm-midnight show on 14th January 1968. This is an edited version of a recording shared on The Offshore Radio Club Forum by Hans Hendriks. Our thanks to him (duration 2 minutes 57 seconds)

Next up it is Radio Caroline's shore-based liaison man, George Hare. We asked what he could remember of that dreadful time:

George Hare


Here is a copy of my last payments to our DJs and engineers (see below). It will give you a list of the personnel that were involved at that time. I do not have a record of who was on board at the time of seizure.
Philip Solomon was the source of all the funding.
I was living in Dublin at the time, travelling weekly to Amsterdam in order to make payments for DJs and engineers on the South ship into bank accounts which I had opened for them at a local bank, and paying other expenses for staff and expenses for the Singel office.
I looked after the North Ship from the office in Grafton Street, Dublin, with my very efficient secretary Kate Muldoon who was a close friend of the Solomon family. I believe that Kate now lives in Canada.
Philip Solomon did not make me aware of any pending problems so it is lucky I had the cash in hand to pay everybody off. Mind you, in all fairness, he may have fulfilled his obligations. He did not leave me out of pocket for my ongoing expenses clearing things up.
I first realised there was a problem when transmission ceased. I can not remember exactly when I discovered that the ships had been seized.
I headed off to Amsterdam and met with one of the Wijsmuller brothers. I think that it was Bart. He was a very unhappy man. He did realise that I was not responsible for his (non-)payments, though he was very angry towards me. He drove me to where the ships were berthed. That was a sad sight. When I arrived, to my recollection, all our personnel had made their own ways home*.
* Webmaster's note: George's recollection doesn't quite match Roger Scott's. Roger remembers George meeting the Fredericia as it arrived in port, paying the DJs and then flying back to the UK with him. George says the DJs had already left, but after fifty years it would be surprising if two people's memories of such a distant event were completely identical.

And here is the page from George's accounts ledger, showing who received those final payments. It appears that some people were paid in the Dutch currency, guilders (f), others in sterling. Some of the names you may not recognise: Charles Smith was better known as north ship DJ/newsreader Charles Brown; Manfred Sommer was Caroline North's chief engineer; Ray Glennister and Morris Brown were engineers on the south ship; Gerald Frow had previously been called Gerry Burke but was then using the on-air name Henry Morgan; David Carmichael was Carl Mitchell; Don Richardson was an engineer on the mv Mi Amigo; his wife Nan worked in the Amsterdam office:


With many thanks to Johnnie and George.
We have a page of photos of the Caroline North vessel being towed into IJmuiden, another of both radio ships tied up in Zaandam harbour and one of them in Amsterdam.
Press coverage of Caroline's demise is here.
Back to the previous page.
Only a few weeks later there was an unsuccessful attempt to relaunch the station. See ‘Caroline in the Sixties’ part ten.

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