George Saunders, former Chief Engineer for Radio Caroline,
kindly sent us this interesting addition to the information concerning the life
and times of Radio London's mv Galaxy. George writes:
The history of the Galaxy (MSF 218, USS Density) as a warship, is in the book
'Dictionary of the American Naval Fighting
Ships, Vol. ll', published by the US Navy Department, Naval History Division,
Washington DC, USA. The book is available from the Government Printing Office,
Washington, but I suggest that you try for it via your public library. (Editor's
note: You can see web information on Ships
of the US Navy.) The Galaxy's basic data can be found in any old (1950s) edition
of 'Jane's Fighting Ships'. MSF ships were steel-hulled fleet minesweepers. (Editor's
note: see also 'The Wonderful Radio London Story' by Chris Elliot, published in
1997 by East Anglian Productions. ISBN 1 901854 00, and check John
S Platt's page on this site.)
When the Density became the Galaxy, it was said that she was registered in Panama.
Looking through the ITU List of Callsigns corrected to December 1963, there is
a Panamanian ship called the Galaxy, with callsign H001. This isn't 'our' Galaxy.
H001 is a Greek-owned, converted ex-British Railways steamer, originally called
the Marchioness of Graham. She was 585GRT, and built by Fairfields of Glasgow
in 1936. Photos of this Galaxy in both her British Railways and Greek incarnations
are on pages 204 and 205 of 'British Railways Shipping and Allied Fleets' by W.
Paul Clegg and John S Stryng. The book was published by David and Charles in 1971.
ISBN 0 7153 5140 0.
'Our' Galaxy was owned by a nominee company, Panavess Inc. of Panama City, Panama.
She was apparently registered in Puerto Cortes (Honduras), but I have been unable
to trace her there.
I see from my diary that on 2nd December 1970, I visited the Ziviljustizgebaude
(Civilian Law Courts) in Hamburg, for the case of Deutsche Werft AG (ship builders
and dock owners) versus Panavess Inc. of Panama. The Deutsche Werft wanted to
seize and sell the Galaxy for unpaid debts for completed work, docking fees, etc.
Panavess did not have a representative at the hearing.
My purpose was, if the ship was going to be sold for scrap, and the court found
in favour of DW, I wished to have a 'first offer of refusal' on her studio gear,
etc. I wanted a nice Gates turntable and a decent reel-to-reel tape recorder!
Unfortunately, the DW lawyers weren't interested, and I believe the studio gear
was later either vandalised, or stolen.
Also at the court hearing were three or four German teenagers who had taken the
morning off school. They helped me with the translation, and it was quite clear
that they didn't really believe I was only there for some of the studio gear.
They obviously thought that I was somehow going to buy the ship! They also told
me that the ship was then in the old Segelschiffhafen, but they thought it would
soon be moved.
The court judgement was deferred, and delivered after I had left, so I don't know
what it was, but it will certainly be in the Court Records. I phoned DW soon after
the court case and again asked if I could buy some of the Galaxy's studio gear
for my own private use. I was told, firmly but kindly, that they only wanted a
purchaser for the whole ship.
I have two souvenirs of the ship - a green towel with 'M V Galaxy' woven in red
at one end (!) and a 45rpm record issued soon after the closure. This has no maker's
label or matrix number. The label just reads 'Wonderful Radio London 45rpm Mono
Highlights'. It's obviously taken from a feed from the sound desk on the Galaxy.
There are jingles, the closing speech by Philip Birch, and the Big Lil station
theme at the end.
The studio desk on board Radio London was built by the late Martin Newton, who'd
worked for the BBC in studio maintenance. Martin then pursued the same career
with Radio Caroline, at Caroline House, and managed occasional outside broadcasts.
Martin was a very pleasant person. Having a land-based job, he hardly ever visited
the ships. I met him on the occasions when I used to sit in as Chief Engineer
at Caroline House during my shore leave. Martin joined Radio London to gain more
[George also sent a photocopy of the specifications of the Radio London's RCA
50kW transmitter. He continues:]
The one on the Ross Revenge was the same. The Ampliphase used the greatest number
of valves of any 50kW set at that time, was quite complex, and had some inherent
disadvantages not possessed by other methods [of achieving 50kW]. It's now completely
obsolete, and RCA no longer exists. Pakistan developed a solid-state exciter unit
for the Ampliphase around 1968, which eliminated most of the obscure low-power
valves. This unit is described in the ABU Technical Journal of the period.