An early 1960s Philips valve mains radio. The owners were lucky to afford this set. This is because it possesses the Medium Wave, Long Wave and VHF wavebands.

Radio Piracy on the High Seas


For those who think that pirate radio went away after the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act came into force in 1967, or indeed, was all just a bit of harmless fun (apart from various confrontations with the UK government) it's time to think again. Such was the competition for advertising in the pirate radio sector, underhand and sometimes violent tactics.

Radio North Sea International's (RNI) ship, the Mebo II.
An example was Radio North Sea International (RNI), owned by Swiss Company Mebo Telecommunications, which broadcasted for five years in the early seventies from international waters off the coast of England, Holland and Germany. On August 29, 1970 DJ Andy Archer interrupted his programme to announce that the station’s ship, the Mebo II was facing a threatening situation and was possibly about to be hijacked by personnel from competitor station, Radio Veronica.

Worse was to happen on Saturday, 15 May 1971 when at 22:50 DJ Alan West interrupted his live programme to say there had been an explosion and that the ship was on fire.  In what turned out to be a very real radio drama, a bomb had been thrown and had exploded on deck.

Behind the attack were Norbert Jurgens, the advertising manager at competitor station Radio Veronica. He and Veronica director Bull Verweij were promptly arrested and questioned by Dutch Police. Verweij later appeared on Netherlands television to tell how he had paid a man 12,000 guilders (approximately £1,100) to force Mebo II into territorial waters. Once in the three-mile limit, the ship would have been liable to arrest or confiscation by creditors. In September 1971, all five suspects re-appeared in court, where it became clear how the plan had been developed and implemented. Their motivation was advertising money and adventure, and all of the conspirators were sentenced to one year in prison.
Take a listen now to the whole event, I promise you it’s more gripping than the best BBC Radio 4 dramas!

Radio Northsea International (RNI) 220 metres medium wave - Alan West, Bombing by Radio Veronica 22.50hrs Air Date: May 15, 1971. Duration: 7 minutes.

The headquarters of the Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation (RBC) located in the nation's capital, Salisbury, April 1975.


Being interested in politics, history and the media (particularly radio) and doing some historical research on the southern Africa sub-continent I've decided to include these vintage audio recordings from Radio Rhodesia in the 1960/70s on this Other Radio Nostalgia page for broadcasting oddments.
Harold Wilson and Rhodesian
Prime Minister Ian Smith
outside 10 Downing Street
following Rhodesia's
UDI in 1965

Rhodesia (originally called Southern Rhodesia), you will recall was a self-governing autonomous British colony in southern Africa that eventually became Zimbabwe in 1980. However, between 1965 and 1980 power was illegally usurped from the British Government (which had planned the colony's independence) by a white minority regime led by head of the Rhodesia Front party and the country's Prime Minister, Ian Smith.

The late Sally Donaldson, RBC Announcer
and Presenter of 'Forces Favourites'.
Smith took power in 1965 via the notorious Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from the United Kingdom (one of only two countries ever to do so, the other of course being the United States of America).

This was a futile attempt on the part of Smith and the Rhodesia Front to stave off what Harold McMillan had called "the wind of change" blowing through Southern Africa in the 1960s. Black majority rule (as had happened in Northern Rhodesia in 1964 which was thereafter called Zambia) wad a precondition of the UK's Wilson government before the colony would be granted independence from Britain.

For the next fifteen years Rhodesia (which was never recognised by the United Nations or the international community) became a household name in Britain, as the pariah state and wayward colony fought an ever increasing and hopeless guerrilla bush war against insurgents and freedom fighters (backed by Cuba and the Soviet Union) from Mozambique and Zambia demanding black majority rule. It was a country that had lived with war for so long, its population, black and white simply knew no other life. Rhodesia, subject to full UN sanctions, international pressure and this bloody bush war eventually capitulated.

Luke Mnkandla broadcasts on Radio
Rhodesia, playing a Neil Diamond album.
Of interest here, UDI had led to the corruption of the pre-existing Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation (RBC). Based in the capital Salisbury, it had originally been created and modelled by Britain, like so many other colonial broadcasting services on the BBC.

These recordings are a fascinating insight into the history and society of a beleaguered isolated country who had experienced war for so long, its inhabitants, black and white, knew no other life. Time was running out for Rhodesia and yet, when you listen to the recordings, especially the pop programmes, it is difficult to envisage that tens of thousands of people at the same time were being killed and maimed in a bloody bush war between the Rhodesian security forces and black insurgents from neighbouring states.

The audio is particularly interesting because the output sounds so familiar, and yet so very different to the UK (the security service announcements requesting vigilance against 'terrorists'). It's propaganda of course by an Apartheid-lite regime that conjures up images of rolling savannah where herds of wildebeest roam in peace, 

The programmes sound a little like the BBC World Service in the seventies with some popular hit music, along some classical music and speech output.  All things to all people, plus propaganda of course. Apparently the station was funded by the state plus commercials... so be prepared for advertisements from presumably sanctions-busting companies (some of which you'll be familar with and are still well known brands today).

The RBC would later become the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) when black majority rule elections finally took place in 1980. By that time the country had been re-named Zimbabwe under its leader, Robert Mugabe. 

Radio Rhodesia, RBC, Gallo Chartbusters Saturday Show, 1976

Radio Rhodesia, RBC, Lyons Maid 'Hits of the Week' and International News

Radio Rhodesia, RBC,PM Show (Umtali),Bright and Early Show,Radio Jacaranda (Salisbury),Gallo Chartbusters followed by the news

Media Network, December 28, 1985. Rhodesia - Answering Back From Francistown

This Radio Netherlands programme is about British Prime Minister Harold Wilson's failed attempt in 1966 to establish a powerful British medium wave/AM radio station on an adjacent frequency to the medium wave/AM service of the RBC's Radio Rhodesia in Francistown, Bechuanaland (now Botswana). The service was designed to counteract the propaganda of the Ian Smith's illegal UDI regime in Salisbury, Rhodesia. The 50kW BBC anti-Rhodesian medium waves AM station (equipment indeed from Continental Electronics, originally bound for the Mi Amigo/Radio Caroline) was only a couple of kilohertz spacing away (9/10 kHz) from Radio Rhodesia. The BBC had told Wilson that the station would take 6 months to set up whereas Harold Robin set the Bechuanaland one up in 4 weeks!!!


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