RADIO LONDON - the Ultimate One!

Colin Lees wears out the batteries in both his trannie and his torch

I remember how dull radio used to be, until that day back in December '64, when I first heard Radio London on 266.

How things changed from then on, so much so that I was never without a radio. One record in particular that reminds me so much from those early days of Lil was 'Paper Tiger' by Sue Thompson, played frequently, along with a few other memorable 'climbers'. In those early days, the selection of records on board the Galaxy was limited, but things soon changed as they increased their power. Big L swiftly became the most popular station around, as the music from the Fab 40, and the DJs with their very catchy jingles, soon made Lil the number one sound.

So to 1997. As sometimes happens, through the media, I heard that Radio London was to be brought back to life for a period of 28 days on a special restricted licence. I could not believe my luck when I heard this news, though I did ring round a few people just to verify that this broadcast was actually going to take place and it was not a hoax. After many phone calls, things turned out as I'd hoped they would. I remember as I travelled down to Walton that afternoon on the coach I couldn't wait to hear the old station again. As the coach got nearer to Walton I couldn't contain myself any longer and reached for my radio. When I tuned in I was truly amazed by the sound, it was as though the station had never gone off the air all those years ago. It was wonderful hearing that familiar format once more.

As to the final evening of 13th August 1997, it had been a great day, and Geoff Cook, Mandie King and myself decided we would go down to the beach. We considered various ideas and finally came up with not 'Frinton Flashing' but 'Walton Flashing'! As we settled down on the beach that night we tuned-in to the music coming from the Yeoman Rose. There had been a few suggestions on the station that evening as to how to end things on air and we discussed it amongst ourselves as we listened.

As the hour approached 9.00 p.m., it was time for the final Roman Empire. Mark had already said on a previous show that, back in '67, he had experienced the daunting task of having to say goodbye. Now he said, "I'm doing it again, how can you hang a man twice?" With 9.00 p.m. approaching, we all had our torches at the ready and on the hour, Mark began his final show. Though at times on the beach the signal became lost due to a high-power foreign station on the same frequency, through changing direction of the radio, Lil's signal was with us once more.

Halfway through Mark's show I decided to walk along a very narrow jetty which seemed to go out for quite some way, to get a bit closer to the ship while we were all flashing at the Yeoman Rose and trying to do this in time with the music. It was not always possible, as Mark pointed out over the air that we were slightly out of rhythm and needed to do it more in synch. Shortly after Mark had said this, the air-sea rescue helicopter arrived to investigate what all the flashing was about, perhaps concerned that the Yeoman Rose was signalling for help. We must have caused quite a stir for them to have come out, and with the helicopter right above me I made a hasty retreat until they had flown away.

After a short break and with no further sign of any helicopters, we decided to resume the flashing. Not always in time with the music, we carried on signalling the ship and by this time my batteries were starting to fade. With only half-an-hour of Mark's programme to go, my torch had just about had enough, but we kept things going right to the end when midnight arrived and Mark started to say his goodbyes while playing his theme. It was all very sad, but all of us one the beach had great fun on that final evening of Lil's broadcasting.

Radio London may not be on the air any more but she is still very much alive in our hearts.



Sadly, Colin died in November 2013, aged 64.

Colin warns Tommy Vance about the pitfalls of attempting to flash in synch

© Colin Lees & Radio London 1999

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