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volume 3
september 2000

Rare pictures from radio's past


  Radio London: 5. On board of the Galaxy
by Gerry Bishop, Hans Knot and John S. Platt
  On board of the Galaxy life was determined by the daily broadcasting schedules. Sometimes, however, unexpected things did happen. People got ill and lifeboats had to be called for help. One time even a fighter plane crashed near the Galaxy.

Side view of the MV Galaxy


Dave Dennis in studio

3 Life on board of the Galaxy was not always as quiet as the photographs above and below suggests. Incidents did happen on board. On 24th February 1965 Walton lifeboat was called to Radio London to attend to a DJ who had a temperature of 105 degrees. The doctor diagnosed gastric flu and concluded that he was not as seriously ill as had been thought. It was decided to leave him on the Galaxy as the journey back to land would make him worse.
  Mark Roman and Norman St. John

Cartoon on seasick deejays


Of course there were more cases of sickness, especially sea sickness. The North Sea is one of the unkindest seas in the world when the wind has blown from the Northeast for some days. The general movement of water around the British Isles combined with these north easterly winds often had the disc jockeys being sick, even whilst on air. These kinds of events generated many tall stories. Here is one: "On one occasion the Galaxy had suffered very rough seas for several weeks and part of her hull gave up. A large hole appeared and water gushed in, to the surprise of the crew in the mess but lateral thinking saved the day. Tony Blackburn (photo right), a disc jockey, assessed the size of the hole, rushed to the cold store grabbed a frozen chicken which he then stuffed in the hole." So the story goes, but have you ever seen a frozen chicken saving a minesweeper? Indeed, but there is some truth to this tale. Sometimes there really were holes in the hull of the Galaxy, but most of the times they were filled up with more conventional material, like concrete. Sometimes, however, frozen meat was put to this purpose, but mostly pork meat, which expands while defrosting.

7 Another incident happened on the 19th April 1965, when a USAF F101 Voodoo jet fighter was en-route from Europe to Bentwaters in the UK. The tender Offshore One, which served Radio London, was approaching the ship when one of the disc jockeys noticed a parachute in the air. The tender turned towards where they estimated it would splash down. The pilot was almost unconscious when he hit the water and someone dived in the sea to rescue him. They got him back to the Galaxy, made a call for a lifeboat and medic and looked after the man until they arrived to take him to Parkeston Ouay. Later the pilot, First Lieutenant John Wynn recounted what had happened to him on his flight from his base at Laon in France to Bentwaters in Suffolk.

German paper reports about saving of American pilot (click on the picture for a larger piece of the article)

9 Wynn told: "I'm only alive today because of the existence of your offshore radio stations. After taking off from France on a training mission I had to eject from my aircraft at near supersonic speed, about 10 miles from the British shore. This was in an area away from the normal shipping lanes so I thought I had no chance of rescue. When I drifted down I had a fractured shoulder and twisted knee from the shock of the wind impact when I ejected. I knew I was going to die because no one, even without injuries, could survive in those waters for more than 30 minutes in those sea temperatures. To make matters worse I had lost my life raft during the ejection. When I drifted out of the clouds I saw two ships, I knew I was the luckiest man alive and I had a chance to live. Although I was feeling light headed and numb, I guided the chute as far as I could towards my only hope and managed to cut my boots off. Then a small boat, which turned out to be the tender serving the offshore radio stations, changed course and headed towards me. As I hit the sea I was very weak but managed to loosen my chute somehow, I was completely exhausted when the crew pulled me aboard some twenty minutes later. I was given warm clothes and a drink which was a lot better than all the sea water I had swallowed."
Listen to the exclusive live-report on Radio City and Radio London on the rescue of an American pilot
  Promo post card
11 Just a few days after the crashing, on 23rd April 1965, Walton lifeboat was again called to the Galaxy after a message had been received saying that the chief engineer, Jim Rastenhoff was seriously ill. Dr. E. Clifton Johnson who went out with the lifeboat decided to bring the sick man ashore, and he was taken from Walton Pier to a Colchester hospital where he was kept for observation.

Keith Skues

13 The lifeboat and the doctor were called again on 20th August 1965 when Captain W. Bunninga was taken off with suspected appendicitis. He was taken to Clacton hospital but later released. However early on the 9th September 1965 he was taken off the Galaxy by the lifeboat and rushed to hospital in a serious condition.
  Deejays and crew sitting together in the in messroom

Staff and deejays aboard the Galaxy


MV Galaxy

  The sound fragment on this page is copyrighted. It is used here according to the rules of fair use and academic quoting. Look here for other pictures and documents of Radio London (1964-1967).
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