Saturday, 30 January 2016


I think Simon and I now agree that the air driven nail chisel hammer is not the correct tool for removing all the peeling paint and loose rust down below. At a rough estimate there is about 1700 sq ft to tackle (Photo 1331) and the chisel method is too slow and too exhausting. The photo shows only the rear 25% of the lower deck area!

   So, we are looking at DIY blasting and we have come across a ‘28 Gallon Abrasive Sand Blaster with Built in Vacuum’ (Photo 1332).   

The blurb states that it not only blasts, but it vacuums up the debris and even sorts the crud from the abrasive material.  It sounds good, but I wonder.  If any of my readers have any experience of such machines, or can advise on other perhaps more suitable models, please get in touch.

Saturday, 23 January 2016


For those of you who wonder why Simon took on this monumental task (I am one of them) and how he has remained enthusiastic and optimistic through some pretty difficult times, the obvious answer is the sense of achievement when progress is made – especially against those difficulties. The other answer is the pleasure that his habitat often gives him. In spite of some inclement weather at this time of year, there are tranquil periods to be enjoyed. Recently he removed one of the pictures which cover the windows in his living quarters, and created an instant ‘picture window’ (Photo 1321).  

The views and (absence of) sound-track are so much better than those of his flat in London (Photo 1322). 

To cap it all the swans come calling (Photo 1323).


Saturday, 16 January 2016


Talking of detective work, Mervyn Hagger has been corresponding with me and given me a brand new take on pirate radio stations. He is firmly of the opinion that a lot of people have been and still are repeating myths originated for the specific purpose of creating obfuscation, and consequently everything from BBC to Wikipedia archives (which he reckons are always dodgy), are parroting back stuff that is entirely bogus.  The real story of offshore radio is somewhat mind-boggling and it is not the story that the fans of offshore radio (1960-1968), think that it is.
    Arnold Swanson was Canadian by birth.  He had no money and was a vacuum cleaner salesman and not an expert in anything - except conmanship. On top of which he was exposed in the British press as a fraud, and in Canada he was convicted of 'Saville-like' crimes and his wife divorced him.
    Thompson had spent time in Canada.  There was obviously a split-off from Thompson by Swanson, but Thompson retained a lucrative underwriting radio sponsorship, while Swanson seems to have gained control of the Lady Dixon, while Thompson had a mere 70 ton motor boat.
    This and more from ‘proper’ researchers like Mervyn,
Chris Edwards (Offshore Echos Magazine) and Jon Myers (Pirate Radio Hall of Fame). I very much welcome guidance from such stalwarts to keep me away from untruths and Chinese whispers, such as the often quoted origin of Cormorant – the Victoria Shipbuilding Co.  I discovered that no such firm existed and she was built by  the Cork Harbour Docks and Warehouse Company, who owned the Victoria dock.
    Mervyn sent me one tit-bit that Chris Edwards found during his research at the national Archives, Kew – I really must get down there!  This is an extract from an official memo dated 13 February 1962.

The Controller,
Further to my report dated 5th February, 1962, on 6th February 1 received a press cutting from the Scottish edition of the "Sunday Pictorial, dated 4th February, 1962, from which it will be seen that Mr Arnold Swanson gave an interview to a reporter in which he said that he had invested £30,000 into the scheme for commercial broadcasting from a ship, that he had sold £100,000 worth of advertising time, that the broadcasting station would operate from a converted lightship flying the flag of Monaco and moored off Southend. The call sign of the station was stated to be "GBOK".  As a result of this information I made enquiry of Trinity House and ascertained that four lightship vessels were sold in 1959. The disposal is stated to have been as follows:-  ……….
J Johnstone   

    The memo goes on to detail investigation into the disposal of the Trinity House vessels – red herrings!  Mr Johnstone also investigated Scottish Lights, to no avail. He missed out the real source – Irish Lights.

Sunday, 10 January 2016


Hi again David.
I have been out in the windy and icy raindrops falling on Falkirk and its environs, hence my absence with a quick response. Thanks for the confirmation of where the paper trail seems to end at the moment. I can see that we both have a vested interest in finding the true history of this vessel:
    I have just taken a look at your Chapter 36 - - about GBOK, and the most reliable source of information about the use of ships as broadcasting vessels to and anchored off the coast of the British Isles is Chris Edwards and his digest-sized magazine of longstanding called 'Offshore Echos' - and for information about people connected with offshore radio I would recommend for reliability and authenticity Jon Myer's 'Pirate Radio Hall of Fame' - I cannot make such claims about other sources of similar information.
    Both Chris and Jon are on a contributing email list which I am maintaining, and which is also sent to a number of other people who share similar interests in the same subject matter. Chris has personally investigated the records at Kew on many occasions, and he wants to know whether you have seen the Kew archives relating to GBOK and its sister project 'Voice of Slough'? We would be happy to share this information with you if it is of any assistance.
       Our interest is in ships and marine structures from the standpoint of offshore broadcasting. My specific line of research at the present moment is on the years from about 1959 to about 1969.
     We are wrestling with a somewhat large cast of characters about whom many myths and outright deceptions have been manufactured and retold by 'mainstream media'. This list includes Allan Crawford (Australian); John Thompson (British-Canadian), and Arnold Swanson (Canadian). Some of the technical data published at the time is semi-factual, much of the chronology of events is entirely bogus.
    There are several reasons why this story is so obfuscated, and some explanations can be listed as a need for secrecy; some criminal and some political. These events happened so long ago that it is difficult to establish the truth about them. In a later phase (1963) my own interest was seized upon when a friend in another country received a declassified CIA document that revealed a very complex geo-political involvement with the offshore stations that finally came on the air between 1964 and 1968 with broadcasts directed towards the United Kingdom. They might have been called 'pop' stations but their real background story is anything but fizz.
     Lady Dixon research has come about as a result of accepting nothing at face value and going back to the origins of this story in order to discover what really happened, and not what we were all led to believe.
     I realize that this is somewhat off your own twin tracks of interest in cars and ships, but perhaps there is enough of a common thread that we can assist each other in discovering the true pedigree of the Lady Dixon?


Hi Mervyn
Fascinating.  Thanks for that background and of course I would welcome any titbits related to Lady Dixon and any guidance to keep me away from untruths and Chinese whispers. I will follow up on Chris Edwards and Jon Myers and of course I will let you have anything I find on the 1960s era. If I had your e-mail address I could send you everything I have so far - for you to pick through.
I have been in contact with Kew, but not reference the ship post 1960.  I currently trying to establish contact with a researcher there who I met at a car meet. No response so far.


David, thanks again for the information. The source was as expected, and therefore it is not useful as a foundation for citable material. I am, like you, but for a different reason, undertaking a forensic research that requires 'strict proof' - ie first-hand documentation.
   The reason for my research is that I discovered that a lot of people have been and still are repeating myths originated for the specific purpose of creating obfuscation, and consequently everything from BBC to Wikipedia archives (which are always dodgy), are parroting back stuff that is entirely bogus.  The real story of offshore radio is somewhat mind-boggling and it is not the story that the fans of offshore radio (1960-1968), think that it is.
    Because a series of books based upon already published academic articles is the reason for my questions, can you tell me for certain who the buyer was listed as in the transaction recorded in Belfast?

Hi Mervyn
I think you can trust the Belfast Harbour Commissioners to have recorded the transaction accurately. I do have copies of relevant minutes and some excellent photos of the Lady Dixon from 1942 to 1960 which were kindly photocopied for me during my visit.  I found the 1961 minutes just as I was leaving and was reluctant to disturb the secretary again. However I did make a note of the wording and the buyer was G. A. Lee Ltd, Earl Street, Belfast. The price agreed was £685 which in today's money is over £10,000.
I have no reliable information as to whether Lee sold on the ship to Thompson or to Swanson. 
Your book sounds intriguing!  I too am coming across myths about Cormorant / Lady Dixon, but not I think deliberate obfuscation. The very first one is that she was built by 'The Victoria Shipbuilding Co'.  No such firm existed.


Hi David
Thanks for your source information. If it came from where I think it came from then it is second-hand and unreliable. However, if it came from a shipping company in Holland then it is worth knowing about.
I know about John Thompson and his VoS Ltd company and about Arnold Swanon who later went to jail after being accused of swindling (he had no money and was a vacuum cleaner salesman and not an expert in anything - except conmanship, on top of which he was exposed in the British press as a fraud, and in Canada he was convicted of 'Saville-like' crimes and his wife divorced him.)
Thompson had spent time in Canada; Swanson was Canadian by birth, and Swanson had another Canadian advising him on sales, plus a retired senior BBC engineer advising him on the technical side.
However, there was obviously a split-off from Thompson by Swanson, but Thompson retained a lucrative underwriting radio sponsorship, while Swanson seems to have gained control of the Lady Dixon, while Thompson had a mere 70 ton motor boat.
For reasons of making sense out of what Thompson could have been thinking - if he only had that small boat from the beginning, I am interested to learn whether Thompson had the Lady Dixon and lost it to Swanson.
Do you have any paperwork sources that show who the Lady Dixon was first sold to, and when it was sold as the beginning of this offshore radio paper trail?
Hi Mervyn
Hope you don't mind me pulling your comment out of the obsurity of 'comments' so that all can see and perhaps help.
I did think that Thompson bought Lady Dixon at some stage and Swanson ended up with it, but the Dutch information says otherwise. The author was Hans Knot.
I do know that she was bought from the Belfast Harbour Commissioners by G.A.Lee Ltd., because this is recorded in the Commissioners' minutes to which I had access during my visit to Belfast in DEc 2014. An offer of £185 was rejected by the Commissioners on 14 Feb 1961, but a revised offer of £685 was accepted two weeks later. 

Saturday, 9 January 2016


In my last post I forgot to mention the 1916 Easter Rising episode when Cormorant was requisitioned by the Royal Navy on 1 May to house prisoners and handed back on 3 May. The Kingstown Naval Base Commander was Capt H.F. Aplin RN and the Irish Lights Superintendent was F.R.Foot.  I have copies of the correspondence between Mr Foot and Capt Aplin. I also have a copy of the entry in Capt Aplin’s service record showing he was brought out of retirement and posted to Kingstown on 28 Dec 1915.
   For some time now Simon has been flying a skull & crossbones flag on the ship. For Christmas I bought him something more appropriate. After all, she is registered as an historic vessel with National Historic Ships UK. From them I obtained a ‘Defaced Ensign’, which is a normal red ensign with their logo added (Photo 1301).  Such defacement sounds illegal but it is approved and even comes with a certificate.

   You may remember a little puzzle I was investigating back in late August last year. Two smart doors in a photograph sent to me by Tony Lane (Photo 1302), turned out to be elaborate windows and the question was where they were/are located on the ship. The photo was taken by him in 2002.

   I tried to match the walkway structure visible through the right hand window, but even with an on the spot inspection in October, I could not find anything similar. The clear view across to that blue boat should have given me a clue, as there has long been a boat moored opposite Simon on the other side of the walkway, which would obstruct the view. Well recently I have been toying with the idea of writing a proper history of Cormorant, putting things in chronological order, with appropriate photos. Whilst putting some of these photos into a special file, I came across one taken in 1997, when she first arrived at Hoo (Photo 1303).    

At that time she was moored right at the end of the walkway, at least a ship’s length from her current mooring. As you can see, there was nothing moored next to her and there would have been a clear view across the marina. More significantly the structure of the walkway at this point is so similar to that seen through the window, that I am sure it is the same (Photo 1304).  

   The windows therefore must be on the port side and as there are no triangular ceiling fillets in the kitchen and there are two in the photo, the windows must be the ones in the living room/ salon/ wardroom. They are now plain double glazed modern windows unfortunately.
   Not an earth shattering discovery, but somehow a satisfying little bit of detective work!


Hi David.
Regarding your last comment "1961  -  Sold to G.A.Lee Ltd., Earl Street, Belfast and swiftly on to Arnold Thompson of Slough, where it began its ill-fated career as a pirate radio station GBOK."
    I am researching the history of the vessel for a new book about radio broadcasting. However, the vessel could not have been sold in 1961 to a 'Arnold Thompson' of Slough - because 'Arnold' and 'Thompson' are parts of two names with only a Thompson residing in Slough, and 'GBOK' being at another location along with 'Swanson'.
   Do you have a record of who the 1961 purchaser was? It would be very helpful to my own research.
Mervyn (freebornjohn)
Hi Mervyn
I’m afraid I chose the wrong source document. It has the names mixed up.  I should have been more careful.
In 1961 John Thompson of Slough set up a company called “The Voice of Slough Ltd” which aimed to set up a commercial radio station in an ex-fishing boat. Arnold Swanson (a Canadian) provided finance, but subsequently left the project when it ran into difficulties and set up his own project GBOK (Great Britain OK).  He bought the Lady Dixon to house the station, but it is not clear from whom.
I have more information from a Dutch source about these two failed projects if you do not have it already and if you can put up with a somewhat imperfect translation!