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volume 3
february 2001

Raiders of the MEBO II


  RNI Memories (3)
by Hans Knot
  On January 7th, 1971 Meister and Bollier succeeded in stealing their ship back from under the nose of Veronica's captain. Two earlier attempts at capturing the MEBO II at sea failed. The first one was organized by Manders and Heerema on Saturday August 29th, 1970 out of disappointment for a denied directorship of the planned Dutch Service. A few weeks later, on September 19th of September 1970, a second try was made by 29-year-old barber Mario Welman from Amsterdam, one of the most eccentric people in the Amsterdam flower-power scene of the late Sixties.

In early 1970 the work to rebuild the MEBO II into a radio ship was not yet completed. The plans for the colourful ship proved rather expensive and the young enterprise had some financial problems. Meister and Bollier approached Veronica's owner Bull Verweij, who furnished a million Dutch guilders to complete the ship. However, there was one condition: the people of RNI promised never to broadcast Dutch programmes. When the ship finally was at sea and transmitting its programmes, this promise was violated, which angered the Veronica organization. As Meister and Bollier were out of money again, they next decided to sell their ship to their competitors. Again Veronica paid the large sum of one million guilders, but this time also sent its own captain, a Dutchman, with his own crew on board of the MEBO II to prevent the transmissions.

2 In January 1971, regretting their decision to sell their ship, Meister and Bollier decided to steal it back. On January 7th, approaching the MEBO II with a tender, they alarmed the captain by telling him that his wife was seriously ill. As the radio ships were excluded from official radio communication facilities, the captain had to leave the ship to use the one in the tender. With the captain tricked away off the ship, Meister and Bollier captured the ship with guns in their hands. A few court cases took place, in which Veronica's directors tried to get hold of the ship again. The judge wouldn't take a decision as the whole affaire took place in international waters. In those days the offshore radio stations had the nick name "pirate stations," though their transmissions from international were not illegal. The raid of Meister and Bollier on the MEBO II, however, really was an act of piracy — and in respect to the MEBO II not the first one. In the short history of the MEBO II, when Meister and Bollier owned the ship themselves, there had already been two other attempts to steal the ship.
3 The MV MEBO II after its first arrival in Slikkerveer (1969)

Those who listened to RNI on Saturday August 29th 1970 suddenly heard the station's programmes being interrupted around 1.30 hrs CET in the afternoon. The deejays informed their listeners that there were two ships in the neighbourhood of the MEBO II, the MV Viking and the tug Huski. The Viking drew alongside the radio ship and a famous Dutchman from the world of entertainment, Kees Manders, climbed aboard the radio ship to talk with the captain. Some weeks before these happenings the Swiss owners had asked him to work on plans to start a Dutch service and promised him that he would become the director, if he succeeded in getting a Dutch service on the air.

4 Manders was always in for publicity and told the news of his "appointment" to several newspapers, although no documents had been signed yet by the Swiss owners. Just in the last week of August he heard from the owners that he would not get the job due to the fact he had made the plans public. Manders and his friend ir. Heerema, who was earlier co-founder of the REM-island, now tried to capture the MEBO II for themselves. The captain, however, did not yield to their demand to let the ship be towed into Scheveningen harbour. So Manders left the radio ship and from that point on he threatened to cut the anchor chain and tow the ship in himself.
RNI calling its listeners for help after being raided by Heerema and Manders (1970)
5 In the meantime the deejays were broadcasting a live account of what was happening, while calling for help. As the situation became more serious, they even armed themselves with patrol bombs, knives and so on. They made themselves ready to repel the boarders, as the crew of the Husky prepared to use a water cannon on the transmitting mast of the MEBO II. A dangerous thing to do with a high voltage transmitting mast! The deejays warned in their programmes that this would certainly mean death for the crew of the Husky. Many listeners wanting to know more, called the telephone desk of the Grand Hotel in Scheveningen, were the Swiss owners were staying.
6 Larry Tremaine, Michael Lindsay, Spangles Muldoon and Andy Archer (August 1970)

The threat of publicity did work. When the station's tender, the MV Eurotrip, arrived the raiders made their way off to Scheveningen again. Later in the afternoon the Dutch frigate Van Nes arrived and stood by in case of further trouble. The happening was transmitted on air for some 90 minutes while during the evening a 3 hours programme was presented by Andy Archer, recalling the events of the day and playing requests for the crew members of the Van Nes. Archer, enjoying the event and his naval public of boys in blue, made a real show of it.

7 On September 19th of September 1970, panic could be heard again in the radio programmes of Radio Nordsee International, when deejays told listeners that a boat, which they knew nothing about, was anchored near the radio ship. They even talked about raiding plans again, but after ten minutes the announcements suddenly stopped and nothing further was heard on the air. Some days later, on the 23rd of September, during the news there could be heard that there were again problems around the radio ship.
8 Meister and Bollier in Slikkerveer (1969)

In Scheveningen harbour, 29-year-old barber Mario Welman from Amsterdam, had hired a boat to take him to the MEBO II. When the boat arrived near the radio ship, Mario asked permission to come onboard, which was refused. When he heard this, he told the captain that he would come aboard to capture the ship as well as taking control over the station. He tried to do what he promised, but when he climbed on deck the crew immediately caught him and locked him up in a cabin.

9 At first the crew told him that if he wouldn't go back with the boat he would be thrown overboard. When the skipper of the boat, Scheveningen 18, refused to take Mario back to harbour, the captain of the radio ship made contact with Erwin Meister, one of the Swiss directors of MEBO Ltd. At that time Meister was staying at the Grand Hotel in Scheveningen and he promised the captain that he would go to the ship personally to get the madman off the radio ship. Erwin Meister phoned Tom van der Linden and asked if he'd be willing to go out to the MEBO II with him, adding that he would of course be paid well. Tom, who later became known as one of the three men who did the bomb attack on RNI in May 1971, agreed to take Meister out on his small boat, the MV Redder (MV Saviour).
10 After they arrived alongside the MEBO II a talk was held in the captain's cabin with Mario Welsman. The former barber told Meister that he heard some rumours that RNI transmissions would soon stop. He added that he had acted, because he thought the MEBO II was such a beautiful ship that he could not see it disappear from the millions of listeners and as well as he didn't want to see the crew and deejays out of work soon. When this was not enough, he told Meister that he had permission to buy the radio ship and that he could sign a contract with Meister in the name of Freddy Heineken, the multimillionaire owner of Heineken Breweries. However Meister was not impressed by Mario's stories and ordered the crew to guard the man and get him off the ship at the first opportunity.

Probably Mario had phoned a reporter of the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf telling he would go out to board the ship. The same morning a journalist hired the MV Dolfijn (MV Delphin) from the Vrolijk Company to go out and see what would be happening in international waters. After long talks between the captain of the MEBO II and the captain of the MV Dolfijn, the latter agreed to take the mentally disturbed Mario back to Scheveningen harbour. On the journey back home Mario told the journalist, that he'd wanted to stay a bit longer on the radio ship but that the deejays didn't want him.

12 Some years before Mario Welsman had made headlines when starting up a chain of very expensive barbershops in the Western cities of the Netherlands. Many famous people were invited to the first official opening in Amsterdam, where a champagne party was held. Within a year all ten shops were closed as the shop fitting bills were never paid and Mario was declared bankrupt. Mario again made the headlines in 1980, a day after John Lennon was killed. He told the Dutch newspapers that there was only one clear-minded person left in the world after the death of Lennon, which of course was Mario Welsman himself. Years went by before the world heard again from Welsman. September 1992 brought us the news of the sudden death of one of the most eccentric people in the Amsterdam flower-power scene of the late sixties.
13 Transmission mast of the MV MEBO II

The rumours Mario had heard abut the close-down, however, proved to be true. After Mario was taken back to shore. Meister returned to Scheveningen in the late afternoon. Later, in the evening he contacted the radio ship from his office in the Grand Hotel. He ordered the close-down of the station the next morning, as he claimed he'd sold the radio ship to an African country. He added that it would be better for the people in Holland that RNI closed down in favour of the Veronica organisation and stop the Dutch authorities acting against the pirate ships. Here, we've already told the real story how the board of directors of Veronica bought Meister and Bollier out of the MEBO II radio ship. This story has been known now for many years. At that time, however, RNI's close-down caused much confusion.

14 The day after the close-down of RNI in 1970 several newspapers reported in their own words: "The MEBO II now is nothing more than a beautiful coloured ship as the station closed down forever yesterday morning. The silence on their wave lengths seems to cool down the Dutch government for a while who thought that two stations off the Dutch coast would be too much for their legal broadcasting system. A spokesman of Minister Klompé; told us that there will be no action taken against Veronica. The Minister will propose a wider variety of programming on Hilversum 3 as well as longer daily broadcasts so the pop station can compete better against the commercially programmed Radio Veronica."
15 QSL Card (1970)

Another newspaper reported that the deejays had announced several times that the Directors from MEBO Ltd. in Zürich didn't want to disturb the success of Radio Veronica and that this was the reason for the close-down. Although the final programme mentioned that the radio ship would enter Scheveningen harbour the same afternoon, this didn't happen as it was thought that too many creditors would be waiting to chain up the radio ship. 'Larry Tremaine, spokesman of MEBO Ltd, at Scheveningen harbour, told the newspaper that talks had been taken place with Dutch PTT (GPO) during the previous week. They had been told that the Dutch government would pass a version of the MOA if the radio ship didn't go off the air'. After a phone call to the head office of the PTT it was clear there were never talks with anyone of the RNI organisation, as it was considered an illegal organisation which was not registered to run a radio station.

16 The directors of MEBO Ltd didn't tell the truth, but neither did the directors of Radio Veronica. As yet another newspaper asked for their comments, they claimed they knew nothing about nothing: "We've heard that they closed down, due to financial reasons. About the rumours that we had a regular contact or even a contract made up with the Swiss owners, we can only say that these are only rumours." In the same report Meister stated that if there were another chance to restart the radio station within two months, they would immediately do it again. He also added that the offer of the African State of 10 Million Swiss Franks couldn't be refused.
  The sound fragment on this page is copyrighted. It is used here according to the rules of fair use and academic quoting. Take a look at the index of RNI Memories for other installments of this series.
  2001 © Soundscapes