I recall my brothers listening to the wavery AM RNI signal in their messy, cold bedrooms in the early '70s. It was simply another popular listening option in a country where legitimate commercial music radio had yet to arrive.
RNI, Radio Northsea (Nordsee) International was the most famous of the second generation of offshore pirate radio stations. The UK anti-pirate legislation of 1967, however, meant that operating a station from a boat was increasingly challenging.
January 1970 saw the first transmissions from the ship, the colourful Mebo II, off the Dutch coast. It began broadcasting regularly on 11 February 1970, anchoring five miles from Clacton in March 1970.
Having outlawed the '60s pirates, the UK government was in no mood to be dallied with by those exploiting the lack of similar legislation in other European countries. Jamming began in April 1970; at which time RNI responded with pro-Conservative messages in advance of the election in June 1970, not least because Conservative policy then was certainly more favourable to legitimising commercial radio. After a Conservative victory, however, the jamming did not cease.
RNI's colourful life featured many international commercial and contractual disputes, manifesting themselves in attacks, jamming. a fire-bombing and a potential boarding.
When rival factions fell out in 1970, dramatic action ensued. On Saturday, August 29th, 1970, a tug called 'Husky' approached the RNI ship, accompanied by a launch with one of the protagonists, a Dutchman called Kees Manders, on board. Andy Archer was on-air and, realising the seriousness of the challenge, broadcast on-air appeals as you can hear on this audio. After threats to squirt water on the mast and to cut the anchor chain, the potential boarders disappeared into the mist, with the Dutch Royal Navy standing by.
Presenters on board RNI over the years included included Steve Merike, Roger Day and Andy Archer. The station's theme tune, 'Man of Action' by the Les Reed Orchestra, was utterly suited to this most dramatic of stations. Its real presence afforded a fitting backdrop to VO announcements about bombs, fire and boarders. The breaks in the melody made hitting the right bridges in the tune really easy, even when one's life was under threat.
The service closed at the end of August 1974.