Stephen Williams and Radio Luxembourg
Roger Bickerton

What subsequently happened to Stephen's career resulted from a number of events, some of which had started several years previously, and some of which were unconnected:

    1920 : Formation of 'Amis de Telegraphie Sans Fils' at a meeting in Cafe Jacoby, Place de l'Etoile, Luxembourg. One of its members being Francois Anen.

    1924 : Anen installs a 0.1 kW transmitter in a house in Rue Beaumont, Luxembourg. Government votes Amis de TSF a subsidy to exploit station.

    1925 : Captain# Leonard F. Plugge persuades Selfridges to sponsor a fashion talk from Radio Eiffel Tower. Three listeners from England write in to say that they have heard the broadcast.

    1927 : Plugge forms Radio International Publicity Services Limited, contracts with BBC to translate and sub-edit foreign wireless programmes for 'World Radio' and for any other newspapers who would buy these.

    1928 : Anen offered redundant 3 kW transmitter from Radio Toulouse to replace 0.1 kW transmitter in Rue Beaumont. Radio manufacturer Philco sponsors series of Light Music concerts on Sundays (timed when BBC programmes were off the air) from Radio Hilversum. Details were published in "Radio Times" and "World Radio". Anen and Henri Etienne (a French national, and ex-Editor of a radio magazine 'L'Antenne') with 5 Parisian businessmen form "Societe d'Etudes Radiophoniques SA" - object: 'to study the construction and exploitation of a radio station in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg'.

    1929 : a private consortium of radio advertising contractors was formed, titled 'Radio Publicity Services Limited', to canvass businesses and arrange programmes on a number of foreign stations, including the powerful long-wave Radio Paris. Societe d'Etudes Radiophoniques gained legal status on 19th. December.

Several of these strands wove themselves together during 1930, when Stephen joined the 'Sunday Referee', and 1931.

Radio Publicity Services Limited produced a pamphlet with the title 'How Often Have You Thought: If Only We Could Advertise By Radio?' A number of gramophone record and food product firms plus a toothpaste and cigarette business had been thinking about this and were spurred into action. The result was a series of Radio Paris programmes, mainly record recitals.

In March, 1930, a small private Company, International Broadcasting Company Limited, was formed by Plugge. Its object was to sell air-time from foreign wireless stations.

In September, 1930, Societe d'Etudes Radiophoniques obtained the concession from the Luxembourg Government for a wireless station "of not less than 100 kW" to be constructed in the Grand Duchy and to go on the air within 18 months, transmitting educational and general interest programmes and some foreign language broadcasts.

During the spring of 1931, Plugge had been seeking business from European stations, with limited success and one day, he arrived in the small Normandy fishing town of Fecamp.

" .... he went into the Cafe Colonnes, ordered a drink and said to one of the waiters 'what's this place do - is it famous for anything?' The waiter said that it was the biggest supplier of salted cod in Europe and also housed the only genuine distillery of the Benedictine liqueur, adding, as an afterthought 'but we hope to be famous for something else, as one of the Directors of the Distillery, M Femand Le Grand, has bought a wireless set which is behind his piano in his salon and he broadcasts gramophone records every night to LeHavre (which is 10-12 miles away) and very recently he's been talking about some shoes which one of his friends sells in LeHavre - he has a shop there and he's been selling a lot more shoes since M Le Grand has been talking about them on his wireless".

"Plugge asked to see M Le Grand and they arranged to meet that evening over a bottle of - one guess - Benedictine. What happened at that meeting I don't know but they came to an arrangement whereby Plugge could buy time on this little wireless set (only 0.5 kW) when Le Grand wasn't using it. It was a ridiculous price - 200 francs per hour, so with an exchange rate of about 200 francs to the , Plugge was on to a good thing! He then went off to LeHavre where he had an account with Lloyds Bank, saw the Chief Cashier, whose name was William Evelyn Kingswell, obtained some cash and then asked Kingswell if he knew anyone who could go over to Fecamp, take some gramophone records, make up a little list and broadcast on Sundays for an hour or two in English. Kingswell said 'I might do it myself'- and he did!"

This event resulted in the establishment of Radio Normandy :

" .... Plugge had been in touch with various European stations, seeking programme details with a view to trying to interest British newspapers in publishing these. Back in London, he found the fruits from his requests lying allover the mat in his little house which was in Park Street, just off Park Lane. He sent them round the main newspapers asking them if they would be prepared to pay for them to use in the paper because people used to like to fiddle round the dial. He also sent round a little piece of paper which he entitled 'Special Foreign Broadcasts to British Listeners', and it said that for an hour on Sundays for six weeks or so, there would be a transmission from Radio Fecamp. It would be in English and anybody who would like to listen to it could tune in but it was low-powered so they'd have to use a lot of high frequency amplification. They'd have to turn up their RF a bit.

# He was a RFC Captain during WW1.

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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