Reginald Calvert

British radio executive

Reginald Calvert (born Pearce Reginald Hartley Calvert[1][2] Spilsby, Lincolnshire, 1928 – 21 June 1966, Wendens Ambo, Essex) was the manager of The Fortunes, Pinkertons Assorted Colours, Screaming Lord Sutch and other pop groups. In 1964, after hearing Radio Caroline he decided to start his own pirate radio station and discovered old wartime forts in the Thames Estuary. Originally, it was called Radio Sutch and they had a summer of fun, but when Sutch decided to return to performing, Reg Calvert carried on and renamed it Radio City and put it onto a more professional footing.

Calvert was killed by Oliver Smedley, the former owner of a rival offshore station, Radio Atlanta, who was later acquitted of murder on the grounds of self defence.


Radio City and deathEdit

After Calvert founded the pirate station Radio City, which broadcast from a Second World War marine fort off the Kent coast, seven miles from Margate. Radio Atlanta - the 2nd pirate radio station ran out of money and merged with Radio Caroline - but again they ran out of money. They decided to ask Calvert if he would like to amalgamate with them and they would pay the bills and give Calvert 50% of the profit. After a couple of months, Radio Atlanta - were again in financial difficulty and not paying the bills or wages, so Calvert resumed control. Later in 1965, Major Oliver Smedley and Allan Crawford approached him again to go into partnership, on the agreement that they would provide a new transmitter. In December 1965, the transmitter arrived from Texas. It was very large, old and the wrong sort of transmitter, and the power pack fell in the sea as they tried to hoist it onto the station. The power pack was dried, but the transmitter used too much power and was unsuitable. Neither Radio City or Atlanta engineers could get it to work properly. Shortly afterwards, Atlanta forwarded Radio City the transportation bill of £600 from Texas. Calvert returned it to Atlanta. The transmitter was their responsibility and they could collect it at any time.

Major Oliver Smedley approached Reg Calvert again, saying he had a buyer interested in buying the station from him and asked to see the accounts. He came to the office with a Mr Fablon (probably a fabricated name) and went through the accounts. Radio City by May 1965 was one of the few very profitable stations. Nothing was heard again from Mr Fablon and unknown to Reg Calvert, Major Smedley had put together a Share Offer, and was going to make himself Chairman and was trying to sell shares in Radio City without Reg Calvert's knowledge.

In June 1966, Reg Calvert had made an agreement to Radio London to go into partnership. Major Oliver Smedley telephoned Reg Calvert to tell him he again had some buyers interested. When Calvert explained he was going into partnership with Radio London, he shouted abuse down the telephone and then set out on a plan to take over Radio City with a boarding party in the middle of the night, on the pretext that Calvert owed him £10,000 for the transmitter. Allan Crawford from Radio Atlanta refused to join in the boarding party and tried to persuade him it was wrong and he should not do it, and that he must not use the name of Atlanta.

Smedley's response was to hire a group of riggers who boarded Radio City on 20 June and put the station's transmitter out of action.[3] First Smedley contacted Phillip Birch from Radio London and demanded £5,000 and half the profits to take his men off. Phillip Birch accused him of blackmail and refused to pay. Next he demanded the same of Reg Calvert, who also refused. News from Radio City was that the boarders were armed and they would destroy all the equipment - if Reg Calvert or anyone else tried to evict them. Calvert went to the police to ask for their support but they refused as it was outside legal jurisdiction. They suggested he should sort it out with Major Smedley. He tried repeatedly to do this - but Smedley was never available. He was trying to sell the station on to Radio 390.

On 21 June Calvert visited Smedley's home to request the removal of the raiders and the return of vital transmitter crystals. Immediately Calvert arrived, Smedley went to his bedroom, loaded his shotgun and went to a neighbouring cottage to request they telephone the police to say there was going to be trouble. He then went into his cottage via a different entrance and immediately shot Reg Calvert with no word spoken or warning. Smedley said it was to protect his (mistress) housekeeper and at the trial they said there was a violent struggle.[3][4][5] During the subsequent trial Smedley claimed that he feared Calvert was there to kill him and was acquitted[1] on grounds of self-defence.

Calvert was buried on 1 July 1966 at St Peter's, Dunchurch. Among the mourners at the funeral were Screaming Lord Sutch and members of the group Pinkerton's Assorted Colours.

Partly in response to the sensational death of Reg Calvert and lurid tales of real swashbuckling piracy the British government brought in the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act (Marine & Etc. Broadcasting Offences Act) 1967, which made offshore broadcasting a criminal offence as of 15 August 1967.[5] Radio City stopped broadcasting after his widow, Dorothy Calvert (who he had married in 1946[6]) appeared in court charged under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1947, as the station was said to be broadcasting within the three-mile (5 km) limit. Radio City closed down shortly after Mrs Calvert lost the case.

Dorothy Calvert died on 21 February 2010. Her funeral and interment, also at St Peter's, Dunchurch, took place on 5 March 2010.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b UK National Archives, re: Smedley acquittal
  2. ^ National Probate Calendar, 1966
  3. ^ a b Asa Briggs, The history of broadcasting in the United Kingdom, Volume 5. Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 567. ISBN 0-19-215964-X
  4. ^ Mike Leonard, From international waters: 60 years of offshore broadcasting. Forest Press, 1996, p. 139
  5. ^ a b Guardian, All bands on deck, 27 March 2009. Retrieved 28 Sep 2009.
  6. ^ General Register Office indices of Birth, Marriages and Deaths


  • Johnny Rogan, Starmakers and Svengalis: The History of British Pop Management. Futura, 1989. ISBN 0-7088-4004-3 (hardback edition. Queen Anne Press, 1988, ISBN 0-356-15138-7. Both contain a long chapter on Reg Calvert detailing his life)
  • Adrian Johns: Death of a Pirate: British Radio and the Making of the Information Age. W. W. Norton & Company, 2010 ISBN 0-393-06860-9
  • S.K. Moore: (Book 1 of trilogy) Popcorn to Rock 'n' Roll. Biography of Reg and Dorothy Calvert 1946 - 1960. Available on Kindle and from Amazon Books. ISBN 978-0-9515116-7-1
  • S.K. Moore: (Book 2 or trilogy) Clifton Hall - School of Rock 'n' Roll. Biography of Reg and Dorothy Calvert 1960 - 1964. To be published summer 2016.
  • REG - stage play with music. Act 1: School of Rock 'n' Roll. Act 2: Death of a Pirate. Details:

External linksEdit