Stephen Williams and Radio Luxembourg
Roger Bickerton

IBC had always coveted the English-speaking concession, and in its advertising material made no effort to show that it did not own it. So IBC naturally publicised the development by including "their Luxembourg programmes" along with Radios Normandie, Toulouse and other stations under IBC control.

All this was supplied to "Radio Pictorial", and IBC announced that the "IBC Goodnight Melody" would be played at the end of RL's transmissions; a piece of music never broadcast at any time by Radio Luxembourg.

"Radio Pictorial" regularly publici sed the full RL programme details officially supplied by Stephen Williams on behalf of Radio Publicity (London). The double publication of programmes at certain times was noted by an observant Frenchman, M. Pierre Bouillon, whose company in Paris was closely associated with Radio Luxembourg, and suspicions were aroused that possibly RP(L) Limited had parted with some of its concession to the IBC.

All this filtered through to CLR (Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Rediffusio), which was most unhappy. Finally, on Sunday February 16th., 1936, the General Manager of CLR, Monsieur Peulvey, 'phoned Stephen Williams at the RL studios, requesting a meeting that evening. He agreed, arranging the meeting for 2030 when French and German news bulletins were being transmitted.

Peulvey opened by congratulating Stephen on all he had achieved for the English language service, and then suggested that Stephen join CLR.

In view of the CLR Board belief that some part of the exclusive concession had been given to outsiders, CLR had decided to revoke the concession to Radio Publicity (London) straight away and to operate through a new Agent, Wireless Publicity Limited. If Stephen was to reject the offer to join CLR, CLR had installed alternative equipment in case Stephen decidedto refuse access to that owned by Radio Publicity. They would also bring in new personnel, including Ogden Smith and Marcus Cooper, who were already in the Grand Duchy.

Stephen rejected this "invitation", protested strongly on behalf of RP (L) and reserved for that Company the right to contest the decision of the CLR Board in an appropriate Court. He also refused to have any dealings with Wireless Publicity Limited or its personnel and insisted that the substantial volume of Advertisers' material due for future transmission (which, of course, had been contracted through Radio Publicity London) should be handed over via an intermediary. Peulvey agreed.

The next time Williams and Peulvey met was at the Royal Court of Justice in The Strand.

In an extract from the "News Chronicle" dated 22nd. February, 1936, headed "Writs Against Radio Luxembourg", a synopsis of the case is printed.

Radio Publicity (London) Limited, amongst others, had issued a writ aginst CLR. The upshot of all this was that, on 12th May, 1936, the case against CLR was dismissed and Radio Publicity (London) had lost the concession to sell air-time for Radio Luxembourg's English language broadcasts. Stephen was expressly forbidden to have any direct contact with Charles Maxwell, who had been contracted by Wireless Publicity Limited.

So ended the first chapter of Stepheo Williams' long career in Radio.

Stephen believed that there was the possibility of encouraging a demand by French and German language advertisers to a level similar to that achived by the English-speaking programmes, hoping to repeat his earlier successes. He was still involved with presenting programmes for RL, but told me: "it didn't work very well, because the French had advertising on their own stations, there was intense competition, and the Germans had other things on their minds - they were thinking of armaments. So I hung on until about 4 days before the outbreak of War and then came back here.

There was no sign that a second challenging chapter in his career was about to begin.

At this point it is worth mentioning that the Radio Luxembourg transmitter was switched off at 1319 hrs. on September 21st., 1939. What is not generally known is that Luxembourg itself, the smallest of our allies, was the first country openly to defy the Nazi regime.

During the first few days of September, 1942, the whole country came out on General Strike, the Luxembourg flag appeared and people spoke in French and sung the National Song, "Die Feiervon".

The strike was soon crushed, but the longer-term cost to the enemy was that troops were tied down for the remainder of the War. Dozens of Luxembourgeois were executed by firing squad and many hundreds sent to slave labour camps.

previous page / next page

1:Early life and a first radio set
2:The yacht 'Ceto', Lord Northcliffe and the Daily Mail
3:An early transmitter in Luxembourg
4:Radio Normandy and a Persian Princess
5:Plans for the Luxembourg transmitter
6:Delegated to the new Radio Luxembourg
7:Williams takes charge
8:Recording audio on film, and the Philips recording system
9:Signing up Christopher Stone
10:Football Pools advertizing, 1930s
11:Advertizing anecdotes and pre-war strategy
12:Radio politics, and WW2 begins
13:Stephen Williams joins ENSA as Broadcasting Officer
14:Messages from soldiers: Two-Way Family Favourites
15:More wartime work for ENSA and the BBC
16:War ends; Williams returns to Radio Luxembourg
17:Back to the BBC
18:The hazards of 'Have A Go!'
19:Twilight years at the BBC
20:Awards and retirement


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