Jacob's Ladder: People...You Are The Reason I Am...

Mike Bass

How I remember my friend Mike Bass

I met Mike during 1968 while we were attempting to put Radio Free London on the air from my gloomy bedsit in Shepherds Bush. This must have been between July and August.

My problem was that so many out of work Radio Caroline people had taken to dossing on the floor of my flat. Those included Andy Archer, Bud Ballou, Stevie Merrike, Spangles Muldoon and friends. In fact, we were all bored senseless due to the absence of work. This heralded the inevitable intervention of the devil himself.

Somebody had the idea that making a pirate broadcast on the first anniversary of the Marine & Broadcasting Offences Act could well be a suitable gesture in defiance of the authorities. But how?..... and so it was decided that Spangles & his girlfriend Kate should be put together a list of the equipment required.

As if by magic, most of the parts arrived within hours, including an amateur radio transmitter which had been borrowed from Peter Murtha, aka Chicago Pete. Peter at the time was a member of an amateur radio club in the Croydon area and Mike Bass was a buddie. Quite how Spangles tracked them down I've no idea.

Peter, trusting in that we must have had more than a clue as to how to operate his transmitter, allowed us custody in his absence. Imagine! Of course everybody had been an expert, and various methods of establishing an antenna were invented. The fact was that nobody could be bothered to go outside and do the hard work. It was therefore unanimously decided that the best method would be to wrap about 200 feet of wire around the ceiling of the bedsit!

Unfortunately, our transmission could only be received up to the end of the street. However Maria, living in the room above, got perfect reception on her Dansette radiogram regardless of which buttons she pressed! In a desperate attempt to silence this racket she wrenched the plug from the wall socket.

Alas, the screeching of Radio free London continued to bellow from her new Dansette!! Demons were at work were they not?...and poor Maria charged downstairs in a state of panic calling for the help of the Holy Spirit.

Needless to say RFL successfully broadcast over London on the anniversary day, thanks to the help of Mike Bass and Peter Murtha. A few will know the stories that followed.

At the time I was an 18 year old budding studio engineer having only a scant knowledge of radio theory. Mike, in his usual patient manner, was prepared to take the time to explain what was going on. This was a good excuse to head for the local, and so Mike and I met up on a frequent basis to down a few pints and rant on about transmitters and aerials.

Mike was born in Oxford in ………1933. He lost his father 10 years after the war, in his early 20's, and was an only child. When I met him he lived with his mother in Sydenham, London . He was working for Decca Radar at the time. I have fond memories of calling at his home, usually accompanied by a bunch of longhaired cronies about my age. Mike's mother would let us in without a word and with a quiet sigh would usher us quickly to the back parlour where Mike had his ham radio equipment. The Bass's were a reserved an educated family and Mrs Bass was not amused by a gang of loud teenage hippies clambering around her home. After about the second visit, several notices appeared in the house and one on the toilet flush. I shall always remember, it read “one light pull is quite sufficient!”.

During the time of the Radio Caroline revival in the early seventies, Mike was working with Chicago on board the Mi-Amigo in Holland preparing the transmitters for operation at sea. With encouragement from Mike, I was at the time studying as a Maritime Radio Officer at Norwood Tech in South London . Having almost completed my course, I applied for a job onboard a Canadian Seismic Research vessel based in Northern Holland . Mike had by then returned to his new London home at Purley Oaks, South Croydon . Over a couple of pints, Mike had suggested that I popped in at Caroline House in The Hague whilst en voyage to Den Helder , and meet up with the old crowd for a drink. The rest is history.

Mike would have a very subtle way of putting things and every so often a little gem of knowledge would slip out! Mike would then utter a quiet chuckle as he heard the penny drop! Part of his charm was his passion for surprise, and bit of skullduggery here and there didn't go amiss. If you needed to pick his brains on a subject, you didn't expect a short answer, instead you would be presented with an array of hints and clues which made it all the more fun.

Over the years I learned bits and pieces about the Mike I never knew. During the 1960's pirate radio boom, Mike had been a stalwart supporter. He often-provident valuable technical assistance, mostly to the fort based stations, Radio Invicta and King Radio.

After the closure of RNI in 1974, Mike and I kept in touch on a regular basis. Mike was by then teaching physics at..…………… .Croydon University .

My visits to Mike often coincided with Chicago 's, when we'd happily convene to the local watering hole until beyond closing time. The tradition continued over the years, almost right up until we lost Mike in January 2003. Pete Chicago has been a great and loyal friend to Mike throughout those long years and the deep academic debates articulated by Mike and Peter will be sadly missed.

I shall forever miss the sound of the old railway doorbell at Mikes home and the cheery “werlo” ham radio expression he'd often greet me with. Much loved by all, so thanks Mike on behalf of everyone from the world of “free radio”!

Robin Adcroft



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