MV Ross Revenge

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The MV Ross Revenge is a radio ship, formerly the home of Radio Caroline, as well as having supported Radio Monique and various religious broadcasters. She was constructed in Bremerhaven in 1960, and initially served as a commercial trawler, notably taking part in the cod wars of the 1970s. Following her decommissioning, she was purchased by Radio Caroline and outfitted as a radio ship, complete with 300-foot antenna mast and 50 kW transmitter. Her broadcasts began on the 20th of August, 1983; her final pirate broadcast took place in November 1990. She ran aground on the Goodwin Sands in November 1991, bringing the era of offshore pirate radio to an end. She was, however, salvaged, and is now maintained by the Caroline Support Group, a group of supporters and enthusiasts.

Flag flown by trawlers of the Ross fleet, usually also painted onto the funnel of the ship

Service as a Trawler (1960–1983)[edit]

The Freyr was built in Bremerhaven, Germany by Seebeck for the Icelandic Government. She was registered in Reykjavik and carried the registration RE 1.

In August 1963 she was sold to Ross Fisheries and renamed "Ross Revenge", registration GY 718 (home port Grimsby). In this capacity, the ship was involved in the cod wars of the 1970s.

The Ross Revenge holds the World Record for the biggest catch. In 1976 she landed a catch of 3,000 kits (approximately 218 tonnes) of Icelandic cod at Grimsby, subsequently sold for a world record price of £75,597.

After serving as a diving support ship from 1979 to 1981, she was taken to the Cairnryan breakers' yard in Cairnryan, Wigtownshire, Dumfries and Galloway on the west coast of Scotland, not Rosyth in the Firth of Forth on the Scottish east coast.[1]

Radio Caroline (1983–1991)[edit]

MV Ross Revenge, home of Radio Caroline from 1983

While moored at the Cairnryan breakers' yard, the Ross Revenge was found to be suitable for use in the Radio Caroline project. As a result, Seamore[who?] purchased the Ross Revenge for £28,500. The ship was subsequently registered in Panama to Grothan Steemship Lines, Incorporated. It is worth noting that both Seamore and Grothan[who?] were influenced heavily by Ronan O'Rahilly.

In April 1981, the Ross Revenge was towed from the Cairnryan breakers' yard, and arrived in Solares five days later. Come Autumn, work began on converting her into a functioning radio ship. Her transmitter mast, at 300 feet (92 metres) above sea level, was the tallest mast ever fitted to a ship.

Early in 1982, new investors were found for Radio Caroline. Of these, the principal investor, James Ryan, was later arrested for fraud. Chains he had placed on the Ross Revenge would later be removed prior to her drydocking. On the 23rd of September, she was registered as a pleasurecraft in Panama with registry number 9625-POXT, and her callsign was HP-4344. In May 1983, Caroline Communications[who?] acquired full legal ownership of the Ross Revenge, whereafter she was drydocked and given a protective coating. Insurance problems regarding the lifeboats would prevent the Ross Revenge from setting sail until the 4th of August.

Ross Revenge sets sail[edit]

At 15:00 on the 4th of August, the MV Ross Revenge set sail under the command of Cpt. Martin Eve. Problems with the engines forced the ship to be towed to its anchorage. On the 8th of August, the Ross Revenge dropped anchor in the Kentish Knock. The next day, a test transmission was made on 963 kHz, some time after which the Ross Revenge shifted anchorage to the Knock John Deep.

On the 20th of January, 1984, the Ross Revenge lost her anchor and drifted south onto a sand bank two miles within British waters, and broadcasts were stopped. Broadcasts resumed two days later, at which time she had returned to her anchorage. On the 3rd of March, a force twelve storm necessitated the dragging of the emergency anchor. A new anchor system was installed and operational two days later.

On the 10th of June, 1987, Radio Caroline closed down for "maintenance" at 07:00; in fact, the Ross Revenge sailed to a new position near South Falls Head, in anticipation of the forthcoming Territorial Sea Act[2] that extended British territorial waters to twelve miles (from three). This was announced when broadcasts resumed at 16:54 that day.

On the 20th of November the same year, the ship started to list to 25° due to exceedingly rough weather. Five days later, force eight storms hit the ship; transmissions ceased abruptly at 02:51. The antenna mast had broken at its base and collapsed into the sea. Other than this, the ship sustained very little damage[dubious ] . The next day, parts were delivered for a makeshift aerial. By the 27th of January, a new mast had been built, but required adjustment.


From Radio Caroline's inception, small vessels originating from the English coast brought newspapers, discs, crew, and DJs to the Ross Revenge. Diesel was brought in weekly from Nieuwpoort via the Zeemeeuw, hired in 1984. During and following the "Eurosiege" of 1985, in which the Dutch naval minesweeper HNLMS Makkum was anchored near the Ross Revenge, the skipper of the Zeemeeuw deemed it too risky to continue ferrying fuel, and so Radio Monique acquired the use of the Poolster, again operating from Nieuwpoort. In 1987, they changed to using the Bellatrix, operating out of Dunkirk.

On 6 November 1988 two new aerial masts were taken out to the Ross Revenge. On 4 January 1989 were taken aboard to give the ship as much stability as possible while erecting the new transmitter masts. On 12 February the front mast had been rebuilt bar one section, and the shortwave aerial had been restored. The work on the two new masts continued until May.

Armed Raid[edit]

On 19 August 1989 armed representatives of the Dutch Government boarded the Ross Revenge. The Volans, a Dutch Water Police tug, contained a boarding party of about 30 armed men, including Dutch, British, French and Belgian officials. The boarding party removed studio equipment, records and tapes. The aerial array was taken down, parts of the transmitter were removed, and other components were smashed with sledgehammers.

The staff and DJs were determined to keep the station on the air despite the raid, and on 1 October the station reopened on low power, using a makeshift transmitter and new studio equipment. Broadcasts were initially on low power and the station suffered equipment failures and temporary blackouts, but over the next few months the technical hitches were ironed out and transmitter power was increased.

Abandonment and Retaking[edit]

At the end of November 1990, the Ross Revenge suffered a power failure, which resulted in the ship being unlit for several nights. Trinity House warned the station that the ship must be lit during the hours of darkness, to comply with maritime regulations. As the Ross Revenge was low on fuel, and the main generators had failed due to disuse, a small petrol generator was being used to power the ship. During force nine storms on the 10th of December the Ross Revenge suffered another power failure, the small petrol generator having been thrown around the deck, and the supplies of petrol having been washed over the side by waves. The crew called the station office, who in turn called the Dover Coast Guard. The coast guard contacted the ship, and a helicopter was sent out at 23:00. By 23:45 the Ross Revenge was completely evacuated.

The next day the crew from the Trinity House vessel Patricia boarded the Ross Revenge, checked the stores and general condition of the ship and then left. By dawn the Dover Coast Guard were reporting that the Ross Revenge was abandoned. North Foreland Radio and other coastal stations issued hourly reports warning shipping vessels that the Ross Revenge was unmanned and unlit. On the 14th of December a successful boarding attempt was made, and at approximately 11:00 Peter Chicago (main engineer) regained control of the Ross Revenge. He was joined by Tony Collis, who had advised Chicago of rumours of foreign tugs on their way to claim the Ross Revenge for salvage.

Ross Revenge runs aground[edit]

On the 19th of November, 1991, storms built up across Europe. Consequently, very high seas with north easterly winds were experienced by the crew of the Ross Revenge. By the early hours of the next morning force ten storms were battering the Ross Revenge, and eventually the main anchoring system failed. Dover Coast Guard asked other sea traffic to confirm that the ship they were tracking was the Ross Revenge. At 03:50 the Ross Revenge grounded on the Goodwin Sands. The crew contacted Dover coast guard and a helicopter was sent from RAF Manston, and at 04:45 the Dover tug Dextrous was on her way. At 05:35 the crew of the Ross Revenge made contact with the Ramsgate lifeboat, which had also been sent by the Dover coast guard. At 06:58 the lifeboat became stuck on the Goodwin Sands, but her crew managed to free her. At 06:57 hours RAF Manston Sea King helicopter 166 took the crew of the Ross Revenge off the ship. On the 21st of November, the Dextrous managed to get lines on the Ross Revenge and successfully pulled the Ross Revenge off the Goodwin Sands. The Ross Revenge was then towed back to the Eastern Docks at Dover.

Following the near shipwrecking, the ship has been maintained by an association of enthusiasts called the Caroline Support Group (formerly, the Ross Revenge Support Group).

In October 1993 the Ross Revenge was anchored off Bradwell in the River Blackwater in Essex, within sight of the Bradwell nuclear power station (latitude 51° 44" North, Longitude 0° 52" East). In August 1995 the Ross Revenge was towed to Clacton on Sea. In September the vessel was moored near Southend on Sea and in the middle of that month it was moored at the end of Southend Pier. On the 25th of September the Ross Revenge was towed from Southend to the Thames Quay, West India Docks in Docklands, London by the tugs Horton and Warrior. In February 1996 the ship was towed from South quay, Docklands towards Ailsa Perth Marine's shipyard at Chatham, Kent and put into dry dock. In August 1997 the MV Ross Revenge was moved to Queenbourgh, Isle of Sheppey, by the tugs Lady Morag and Lady Brenda. On the 21st of June, 1999 the ship was towed to Southend-on-Sea Pier. The ship left Southend on September 28 under tow from the tug Horton and is now moored on the River Medway in Kent at ship berth No. 24.

On Christmas Eve 1999, the MV Ross Revenge, still anchored in the River Medway, broke its moorings during high winds and ran aground on a sandbank. Two tugs were radioed by another ship moored nearby and managed to pull the Ross Revenge off the bank and tow it into Sheerness harbour. The two people on board were both unhurt. Although the ship was not badly damaged, the salvage was extremely expensive. On January 8, 2000 the vessel was moved back onto the moorings at Queenbourgh. From July 2003 the Ross Revenge was moored on the River Medway at Strood/Rochester, just downstream from Rochester Bridge.

Present Day[edit]

Restoration work on the Ross Revenge has been ongoing. In August 2004, she was used for (legitimate) Radio Caroline broadcasts on 1278 kHz, while berthed on the River Thames at Tilbury. This was funded by the UK National Lottery organisation. As is usual with Restricted Service Licence broadcasts, transmission power was restricted to one watt. Following broadcasts, she remained berthed at Tilbury, and restoration work continued on the studio, which was completely reconstructed. General restoration and refitting of the ship took place during 2004–2006, including the fitting of a new central heating boiler, improvements to the electrical system, repainting of the ship, and refurbishment of the Mess Room and Crew Quarters. Also a new transmitter mast is built on the Ross Revenge. A photo of this new mast is now available on


During the Summer of 2008 a planning application was lodged with the Council of the London Borough of Bexley to position the vessel next to Erith pier, with the consent of W. M. Morrison who had previously restored the pier as part of a supermarket development. The application was given the case reference 08/07453/FUL and may be inspected on the authority's web site, where representations are invited. The initial intent is to moor the ship there for a six-month period, during which time a Restricted Service Licence permitting short range broadcasting might conceivably be sought. The planning application gives no guarantee of public access, but this might be a more practicable proposition at Erith than at the busy international port of Tilbury.

It is worth noting that Bexley has some association with popular music through sometime local residents such as Kate Bush, Max Bygraves, Dorothy Squires and John Paul Jones (musician). Certain Erith tower block(s) have been associated with ad-hoc onshore pirate radio stations since the demise of the offshore variety.


Built: Bremerhaven, Germany, 1960

Gross Tonnage: 980 tonnes

Length: 67m

Beam: 10.3m

Draft: 6m

Main Engine: Werkspoor 10-cylinder Diesel, dual turbo.

Main Engine Output: 2400 hp

Maximum Speed: 18–22 knots


  1. ^ The MV Ross Revenge
  2. ^ Territorial Sea Act, 1987

See also[edit]

Ross Tiger Preserved trawler of the Ross fleet, berthed at Grimsby's National Fishing Heritage Centre

Coordinates: 51°27′18″N 0°21′26″E / 51.455073°N 0.357262°E / 51.455073; 0.357262