Knock John sea fort in 2002 . Radio Essex was based on Knock John Fort, an ex-WW2 fortification in the outer Thames estuary. (Courtesy of Paul Peters)
On the left Paul Peters aka Paul Freeman, real name Terry Palfrey at age 16 in 1965 taken at Radio Essex on Knock John sea fort. On the right 2010 photo of Paul.
(Editor's note: Shortly after posting the Radio Caroline page on our website, I was contacted by Paul Peters aka Paul Freeman, real name Terry Palfrey, who lives in the south of England. He mentioned in his email that he was a "British Pirate DJ" for a brief period in 1965 when he was 16 years old. Here is a portion of a radio interview with Paul conducted in May 2006 by David Stafford for the program "Home Truth" at the Southampton, England studios of BBC Radio 4. Our thanks to David and Paul for permission to use portions of the program and to Paul for several of the photographs appearing on this page Paul Peters can still be heard on the radio. These days you can listen to his Fabulous 50's Radio show on Forest FM in the U.K., on several stations in the U.S.A., including KFMJ the oldies station in Alaska, and in the Falkland Islands and in New Zealand )
Paul's love affair with the wireless began when he was a lad back in the 1950s. He’d take himself off to see the big transmitting masts at Brookman’s Park and spend hours staring up at them dreaming that one day his voice would be emanating from their harsh and ugly mysteries. Then one day his dad gave him a tape recorder and Paul started to make his own programs. From the Home Truth's Southampton Studio he tells David Stafford more about his passion.
The Knock John Tower towed out to sea August 1 1942. During the tow the crew was onboard the tower and stayed on the tower as she was placed into position. (Courtesy of Marine Broadcasters)
And this is how the supplies got onto the fort....pulling them up from the tender onto the fort. One of the jobs of the Radio Essex deejays. (Courtesy of Marine Broadcasters)
Pirate Radio Essex DJ Paul Peters
Equipment being store in one of the rooms inside one of the tower legs.
Mark West in Radio Essex studios. Later in his career he was known at Mark Wesley on Radio Luxemgborg. (Courtesy of Marine Broadcasters)
Broadcasting from Knock John sea fort
During World war II defense forts were built around the coast of Kent and Essex in the U.K. There were two types of forts built, Navy and Army forts. On the Navy forts there was a crew of about 100, on the Army forts as much as 265 men lived and worked to defend Great Britain against enemy ships and aircraft.
In the post war years the forts were abandoned and forgotten until the mid 1960's when they were discovered by groups of people with the intention to start offshore radio stations (pirates). All the forts were outside the three mile limit in international waters. The first offshore broadcast ever from one of the sea forts was on May 27, 1964 by Radio Sutch, the last ever broadcast from a sea fort was on July 28, 1967 by Radio 390.
Location of Britain's Sea Forts
The map above shows the approximate position of the British forts situated off the Kent and Essex coast. "Roughs Tower" was never used for offshore radio broadcast and today is occupied by the Bates family which has been converted into a micro-nation named Sealand. In the mid 60s Bates owned and operated Radio Essex on the "Knock John Tower". The "Sunk Head Tower" was used for a short time by Tower Radio. "Tongue Sands Naval Fort" was situated some 6 miles of the Margate coast and was planned to become Radio Kent, a sister station for Radio Essex. The Great Nore Army Tower was destroyed in 1961, because she was in a shipping lane and a hazard. Shivering Sands Army Tower was home for Radio Sutch and later the legendary Radio City. Red Sands Army Fort was always the home of the sweet music stations, Radio Invicta, KING and the classiest of all offshore broadcasters Radio 390, a true red carpet station. The first offshore broadcast ever from one of the sea forts was on May 27,1964 by Radio Sutch, the last ever broadcast from a sea fort was on July 28, 1967 by Radio 390.
Knock John Tower
Shivering Sands Tower in 1966
Roughs Tower (Today call Sealand)
Red Sands Tower
Sunk Head Tower was destroyed by the Royal Engineers in the late 1960s.
Tongue Tower fort collapsed in a storm in 1996.
Nore Army Fort was badly damaged in 1953 when the Norwegian ship Baalbeck collided with it, destroying two of the towers, killing four civilians and destroying guns, radar equipment and supplies. The ruins were considered a hazard to shipping and dismantled in 1959–60.
Johnny Walker, Paul Peters and Tiggy Walker (Johnny's wife)