NOW EXPANDED IN SCOPE SINCE FIRST PUBLICATION - Because the story of Trinity House is so entwined with the story of the beginnings of offshore radio broadcasting to the United Kingdom, we have decided to explain what Trinity House was in the days before 'Radio Caroline' was ever dreamed of. It is this backstory which explains how and why Harry Spencer got involved with Allan James Crawford, and why Harry Spencer is central to the story of 'Radio Caroline'.
If you have not read Ralph C. Humphries' book, you should, if you are interested in the subject of offshore radio. It was published in 2003 by a person who in 1976 was a uniformed employee of Trinity House.
According to Ralph, his interest in Radio Caroline began during 1976 when he was working for Trinity House. But unfortunately Ralph did not delve into the archived connections between Trinity House and Allan Crawford; instead he turned to Buster Pearson. So Ralph ended up with a 'Radio Caroline bible', long before Paul Rusling ever thought of the idea, and quite frankly Ralph's version also contains the same errors found in the latter-day version.
However, by luck or whatever it was, Ralph made friends with Harry Spencer who wrote an Addendum to be included in Ralph's book. You won't find that first-hand information anywhere else, and that information is key to unlocking a lot of mysteries about 'Radio Caroline' and Greenore. But on the other hand, Harry did not necessarily put everything into chronological order, but he did provide enough clues when combined with other clues, to provide an overview of events for which details can then be discovered from other archived material. So with that caveat in mind, you should read Ralph's book!
I wish Ralph had discovered just how important that Addendum was in that it provides a 'key' to unlocking the past. Harry only hints at his prior contact with Allan James Crawford, but Ralph should have delved into the background operations of Trinity House, as they related to its depots and vessels.
It seems that the THV Satellite was docked at East Cowes because Trinity House maintained six districts, and East Cowes was one of them.
In 1961, Cowes was also the location of the ship builders Messrs. J. S. White** who built a new ‘Mermaid’-class lighthouse tender for Trinity House. It was "launched by Mrs. Drake, the wife of Elder Brother Captain Kenneth McMillan Drake" as THV Stella, which "then proceeded to the Penzance District, replacing (THV) Satellite which had been in service since 1924. Stella remained in service until 1989."*
This resulted in the THV Satellite being brought to East Cowes upon retirement, because that was the location of a Trinity House depot which were also situated at Penzance; Great Yarmouth; Harwich; Swansea and Holyhead. Each of those depots was the responsibility of a Superintendent who was also the Captain of one of its vessels. In 1957, Trinity House had a fleet of nine lighthouse tenders, and one was based at each depot except for Harwich, which had four vessels. They varied in size between 900 and 2000 tons.
Note that Trinity House report that its vessel THV Satellite was in service until 1961, which gives us a good starting date for Allan Crawford's original venture. It could not have begun before then because the ship was not available. All indications are that Crawford began his venture at some time during 1962.
However, what is very important to note is that Cowes was the home territory of Harry Spencer who took command of all work on both the mv Fredericia after being assigned the job by Captain De Jong Lanau, Superintendent at Wijsmuller. De Jong also assigned the job of building a new mast on the mv Mi Amigo, and initially both ships were going to be outfitted on the Isle of Wight.
Allan James Crawford first made contact with Harry Spencer when the THV Satellite came up for sale, and Crawford obtained a ship's mortgage on the vessel.*** The reason why Crawford was directed towards an ex-Trinity House Vessel was because of his prior contact and advice from VRON (Radio Veronica and CNBC.)
Consequently, after Crawford lost his financial backing from John Delaney as a result of the mv Lucky Star boarding, he became interested in the fate of the mv Bon Jour, which became Magda Maria, and then Mi Amigo.
Crawford then asked Harry Spencer to come to 47 Dean Street in London which was attended by Captain De Jong; Afred Nicholas Thomas and Ronan O'Rahilly. This was after the mv Fredericia had been bought and brought to Rotterdam by Wijsmuller in very late 1963, and within hours of the mv Mi Amigo sailing from Galveston Island, Texas.
At the meeting in early 1964, Alfred Nicholas Thomas was in charge of the antenna side of the discussions and Captain De Jong was responsible for outfitting the mv Fredericia, and equipping both that ship and the mv Mi Amigo with antenna masts.
After taking Harry Spencer to the Wijsmuller offices, Captain De Jong awarded Harry Spencer with the actual work of constructing the masts and rigging the antennas which were both designed by A. N. Thomas' ex-BBC associate, John Howard Gilman.
Behind all of this was the Pye organization managed by Charles Orr Stanley who in turn handed off immediate control to his son John Stanley. Their management was kept out of the press because at the same time they were building a commercial station on the Isle of Man which required a British GPO broadcasting licence.
* See: https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/J._Samuel_White_and_Co for an illustrated history of the scope of this company that built ships on the Isle of Wight. Some trolls seem to confuse 2020 with 1964, but it seems that in reality, back in 1964 just about everything could be built or modified by just this one company with headquarters at Cowes on the Isle of Wight!
** See: https://trinityhousehistory.wordpress.com/tag/thv-stella/
*** On Page to page 28 in Ray Clark's original book, you will read a reference to the SS Atlanta, a steam ship, which was also the means of propulsion for the THV Satellite. Details of the ship's mortgage held by Allan James Crawford are on file at Kew.