This Was Truly A Dream Come True
Despite appalling 'summer' weather, John Sales was glad to have been at Walton for the first day of Big L '97

Thursday 18th July, 2002

Today, exactly five years ago, a certain RSL started just off the coast of Walton. I can't quite remember the name of the station, though. Was it something like "Radio Londinium"?

I had taken the day off work to investigate the station, including a trip to Walton in the afternoon. The weather was absolutely dreadful, it was pouring with rain all day, and although I managed to venture onto Walton Pier with my big golf umbrella, I got really soaked. I met a lady whom I later got to know as Maxine, who was alone in the Big L shop, and there were just a couple of other anoraks down there in the pier that day, getting equally as soaked as me. There were no other personnel around – they were obviously all on board the Yeoman Rose, with no chance whatsoever of getting off. Maxine assured me that there wouldn't be any boat trips to the ship that day, which didn't really surprise me all that much!

I returned to my car and sat there for a couple of hours listening to "The Roman Empire" which, unlike in 1967, was on at 3.00 to 6.00pm. I just couldn't believe it! It was very exciting hearing Mark Roman doing what I had last heard him doing some 30 years previously, and still sounding exactly the same! This was truly a dream come true!

Left: John pictured on a somewhat sunnier day, during the RNI RSL, 2001. Photo: Ben Meijering

The weather by now was so bad that I think they were actually running the engines on board the ship and pulling on the anchor, to give some form of stabilisation.

I believe I left at about 5.30pm but could still hear the station on my way back to Benfleet, as they were putting out such an excellent signal. At the time, I didn't know anyone who was involved with the project, though this was very shortly to change. However, I knew that whoever they had on board to do the radio engineering knew what he was doing and had everything exactly right, even under such appalling conditions.

I left, but knew it wouldn't be very long before I would be returning; this thing was going to be BIG!!

So very much has happened since then, of course, but what was done in 1997 could not be done today, nor, I fear, ever again. I'm just so pleased that I was there then, including the very first day.

© John Sales 2002

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