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volume 9
july 2006

The class of 1983

 





  Remembering the Voice of Peace (23)
by Hans Knot
Previous
  For this series on the Voice of Peace, Hans Knot mined his archive and unearthed some short pieces and personal diary notes about the Peace Ship and a lot of the people involved with the Voice of Peace in 1983, like Dave Asher, David Fortune, Clive Graham, Steve Growcott, Terry Keeble, Adrian Scalley, Digby Taylor, Dave Thomas, Geoff Tracey, Geoff Webster and Robbie White.
 
1 Right: Studio

The arrival of Dave Asher. The archive brought us a lot of short pieces, written to the Monitor Magazine through the years as well as personal diary messages, written down in those days. Let's see, for instance, what was happening with the Peace Ship and the people involved in 1983. It was the year the station was officially "10 Years old" and one of the deejays involved was Dave Asher, who started working for the organisation in September 1983 and picks up the story in April 1983.

"I arrived back on the Peace Ship in April after a holiday in the UK. September, but as the first six months net returned after a holiday in the U.K. At the time the line-up of DJs was Digby Taylor, Robbie White, Dave Thomas, Barry Perrins, Adrian Scalley and myself. On 28th May, 1983, the station celebrated its 10th Anniversary. Naturally enough Abie came out to the ship to make one of his now famous — or should I say infamous — speeches, full of Oh's, deep breaths, and long gaps caused by him not putting the needle on the record. He broke his own rule of "One DJ in the studio at a time" when he invited us in to sample the delights of Israeli champagne "on air." We toasted everything: the listeners, the station — the Queen ... The following day we upped anchor and sailed to one mile off the coast of Tel Aviv and all day were surrounded by yachts and windsurfers who came out either to see us, or to claim their free can of Shandy which Abie had promised to everyone who came out. Along with Abie, the ship was invaded by assorted guests and Israeli celebrities.: being Israeli we were at a loss as to who these celebrities actually were; there were a few red faces when well-known Israeli singer Ilanit was told (not by me, fortunately, that she'd never been heard of. Kol Israel TV came on to make a documentary and German TV interviewed Abie. Everyone agreed that the day had been a great morale-booster to us all — especially Abie.

  Abie is a far more pleasant person now. I've known him only for a few months, but the change is certainly noticeable. Possibly the change can be put down to the fact that he is running for Mayor of Tel Aviv and hasn't got the time to worry so much about the station. At present he feels confident he can win the election, which takes place in October. If he wins, our application for a license will have to be viewed in a more favourable light. Ever since I've been here it's naturally been a matter of great interest as to how popular the station is, and for the first time in the station's history Abie actually commissioned a survey in June. This showed that in Tel Aviv, where our target audience lies, we have 22% listenership — which could be better, but could be a lot worse: The station has an unusual sound overall. There's my Breakfast Show which is bright and bouncy with lots of "boogie" (Abie's pet hate), and in the afternoon we have an hour of Russian music. This is followed by Drive Time, which features mostly oldies and has a very MOR sound to it. I personally think the station is trying to attract too wide an audience with Top 40 music mingled with Country — and Shirley Bassey."
2 Left: Dave Asher

On short wave. In the month of August 1983 again a short letter was sent in by Dave telling that the Dutch captain was still in the ship. This in the third year in a row. But more "new" people arrived: "We have a Chief Engineer called Wang. He is Chinese and "Good Morning" is about all the English he knows; he will speak to you in Chinese, which is most embarrassing: Deckhands come and go. The DJs at present on board are Robbie White who is Programme Controller (Although Abie doesn't really trust him; mind you, I don't think Abie trusts anyone) Dave Thomas; Adrian Scalley; Terry Keeble; Geoff Tracey and myself." With thanks to Dave Asher.

Just before the end of July 1983, at 6:00 CET on the 27th, for the very first time the VOP was on the air on Short Wave using the 6240 kHz. The used power was 400 Watt and Abie was planning to buy a 10 Kw transmitter in the States; that means it was one of his many wishes in those years, one which wasn't materialized. After the first tests messages came in from Israel that more tests would be on the air in the then "future" on a variety of frequencies before finally deciding which would be the best one. Of course there were a lot of short wave DX'ers very interested to get a signal in their receiver. One of them was Alan Pennington from Oxford who made his own logging in 1983. "The first indication I received of imminent tests on SW from the station was on the front page of the June edition of "Airspec News," a free radio magazine. "VOP celebrated its tenth anniversary off Israel over the last weekend in April. Abie Nathan invited anyone to swim or sail out to the ship to salute the anniversary. A full day of Beatles music was played, as they did on their arrival in 1973. The worst moment in VOP's history was when the station remained silent for two and a half months last year because they believed they were going to be given a licence, and also because of the winter weather. However now they have passed their tenth birthday, the VOP will continue to try and help bring about peace through words and music."

  It was Media Network, from Radio Netherlands, reporting that the people on the Peace Ship had hoped to test the SW TX on the last Friday in May, but they had had trouble in matching it with a suitable aerial. "Spare parts are awaited from the USA, and tests are expected to commence in a few weeks." The BBC Monitoring Service in Caversham, Reading, reported experimental transmissions in their 28th July issue of "World Broadcasting Information" . The VOP had been heard on 6240kHz on 27th July, but they couldn't confirm the broadcasts were 24 hours, or were in parallel with 1539kHz and 100 MHz — so a relay of their usual programmes. Alan Pennington heard the evening classical music programme which would seem to confirm parallel programming. He logged the actual frequency as 6239oSkHz; but reception was very poor, even with a good aerial and receiver. Alan: "Usually I can make out there is a station there but making out much more is difficult; with severe interference from radio teleprinters and high-speed Morse transmissions on adjacent frequencies."
3 Right: Another tender has arrived

Other arrivals. Earlier on in this chapter it was Dave Asher doing a run down of deejays involved in the VOP during 1983 and Monitor reader Shaun Geraghty was so keen to sent in a newspaper cut from the local Stafford Newsletter, which was dated 22nd of July 1983: "Former Hospital Radio Stafford man Digby Taylor can claim to have represented the Voice of Peace. For Digby, a professional disc-jockey, has just returned from a nine month job aboard the last remaining pirate radio station." Just some weeks later a massive signal could be heard on 963 bringing back Radio Caroline on the air from the MV Ross Revenge, where soon Dave Asher and other former VOP deejays could be heard again, that time in Europe. But Digby wasn't one of them. On the VOP he had the job of programme controller as well as running a daily show specialising in rock and Country and Western music.

The Voice of Peace also raised in 1983 money for charities, including 5,000 dollars for the victims of a recent hurricane in Texas. Before the government of Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt, the ship regularly sailed into Egyptian waters to promote its message. Abie Nathan also planned to sail to the Lebanon to broadcast. But Digby said in the Stafford Newsletter: "We were told we would be blown out of the water if we went there. Life on board was not easy. The deejays and other staff members had to put up with atrocious food, and the ship's galley had a rat in it and was overrun by cockroaches." Before going to the VOP and working for Hospital Radio Stafford Digby was a cook in Wolverhampton and ran his own disco road show. After coming back from Israel he joined the then new Signal Independent Local Radio, based in Stoke-on-Trent.

  For a period of time it was Robb Eden, who was the representative for Abie Nathan in Great Britain. Of course it was of importance to have such a person there as most of the presenters for the VOP were from the United Kingdom. In 1983 another person came in to do that job. Carl Kingston, settled in England in that year, after many years of touring Scandinavia and West Germany with his discotheque work, had been appointed the official UK representative of the Voice of Peace. Potential recruits could contact him at that time at 0482-42169.
4 Left: Robb Eden

Some technical problems. On the ship in October 1983 were five people sent out by Carl. They are Terry Keeble and Geoff Tracy, David Fortune, Clive Graham and Geoff Webster who left for Israel on the 6th and 20th September, 1983, respectively. All had a six-month contracts. Towards the end of 1983, rumours reached us that the Peace Ship had lost its aerial mast in bad weather. However this was untrue; an ex-VOP engineer, Steve Growcott explained late 1983 what actually happened: "It all started with the generators. I went out in April 1982 for a year and two days. One of the problems that became apparent and gradually got worse was that on one of our two big generators, a Rolls-Royce engine on a Stamford generator, the voltage tended to vary a little. It became obvious it was related to the FM transmitter. The voltage control unit of the generator was picking up RF from the FM transmitter. Various tricks were tried involving capacitors and earthing arrangements and that sort of thing, and it was brought basically under control."

  On the Peace Ship the technicians had one or two problems when it did go out of control because the capacitors fell off or whatever and it had to be refiddled with. When Steve Growcott came back on the Peace Ship he organized a new voltage control unit which was supplied, went out there and was fitted in the early summer, maybe May-June, 1983. When the rain came, which would have been October-November, the water got into this new control unit; evidently a seal had gone, water got in, and the voltage from the generator shot up. Steve again: "Normally the system ran at about 230 volts and I understand it went to somewhere around the 300 mark: Several things on the ship didn't like the voltage. All the transmitters went off the air and I think something burnt out in the studio as well. It took them a few hours to get the Medium Waves back on, but the FM wouldn't have it at all."
5 Right: A look at one of the transmitters

An electrical burn-out. There had been a slight problem with the aerial matching on the FM, that again had been gradually getting worse, but it was very difficult to see exactly what these problem was, as the people on the ship at the time had not got sophisticated test-gear out there. They thought it wasn't bad enough to worry about and wasn't causing any significant problems, so it was left alone. Steve again in one of his letters: "The FT-1 aerial system consists of four elements about two-thirds of the way up the mast, with three matching stubs below it. One of these matching stubs had actually been breaking down; when the generator voltage went up the increased voltage actually killed it and it flashed over. So the FM transmitter couldn't be put back on because of this matching stub, and parts had to be ordered from the States. I don't know what the weight of these things is, but they must have been pretty heavy and difficult to get down the mast and to get the replacement up. But, they had to be fitted; they got the bits from the States and got back on; I think they were only off for around a couple of weeks."

  So, it wasn't actually mast damage from the weather, it was quite simply an electrical burn-out in the aerial system. Generators came and went like nobody's business; they changed from year to year, old ones got dumped and new ones arrived.
  Coming back to the earlier mentioned elections in this chapter I noticed in my diary a mentioning that Abie became Councilor in Tel Aviv. He was not elected as Mayor, but he did achieve office of some sort. That severely limited his time that he could spent working for the Peace Ship, which had encouraged him to appoint a Manager. He was talking about this for a long time but it never happened Abie was, in my opinion, not able to delegate responsibilities to a manager to the extent that he wouldn't always be coming down on him like a ton of bricks.
6 Left: Abie Nathan

"If this is not Ashdod ..." I would like to end this chapter with a short memory to a captain with a short contract: One accident with the new captain may not be forgotten to be mentioned. Therefore we go back to a memory from Dave Asher: "I had only been out to the Peace Ship for a couple of month when the sea was very rough and we headed out further into international waters to try and ride out the storm because the sea was actually calmer then where we normally were right next to the beach. The idea was to seek shelter from the storm in Ashdod, which is in the south. Haifa is in the north and someone must have go their compass in a twist and we ended up in the north off Haifa although we didn't realise this all the time.

The captain was trying to get in touch with Abie on the Motorola which has a certain range and if you go out of that range you can't hear anything, which we couldn't. So the captain decided to call Ashdod on the ship-to-shore radio but they didn't answer either. So we said to him: "Look, there's only two ports in Israel. If this is not Ashdod, it must be Haifa." The captain said it couldn't be the later one but we were near somewhere! Eventually Haifa port called the ship and naturally wanted to know why were we calling Ashdod when we were near Haifa. So we went in and that was when we realised he'd taken us about 150 kilometres in the wrong direction! Abie was as the same moment waiting in Ashdod and I can tell you he wasn't pleased at all. The next day he had to go to America and decided at one stage not to wait any longer and go to bed.

   
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