Sunday, April 30, 2023


I took the photo above - click on it to see a larger view - on Thursday evening. It is the memorial for Gemma Rolfe, who was killed in a hit and run incident back on the 19th May 2003 in Slade Green Road, by the turning for Canada Road. As I have previously written, nobody has ever been charged with Gemma's killing. The van driver fled on foot and has never confessed to being behind the wheel. Witnesses said he was a young man, aged between 18 and 20, but he was never positively identified. Police later traced four youths who admitted being in the van, but none admitted being the driver. One teenager was arrested and questioned but never charged. The Metropolitan Police have opened a cold case investigation into the incident. On the 19th May this year there will be a vigil to mark the 20th anniversary of her death. Details of the event are as follows:- Junction of Slade Green Road and Canada Road. Coordinates: 51.475133, 0.195259. Post Code: DA8 2JW. What3Words: ///trying.poppy.runner. Time: 18:50-19:30. A family friend said of the forthcoming vigil:- "The ultimate goal is to get anyone and everyone there to raise awareness because someone somewhere knows who killed Gemma Rolfe. The family need closure, but the Police need evidence to bring a conviction. Please help a local family, who have suffered for too long, to get the justice they deserve". I will be attending the vigil, and will report afterwards. Someone locally knows who killed Gemma. It is time for them to speak up and name the person responsible. 

Do you recall the Vidor brand of batteries? They used to be sold all over the place, especially in shops such as Woolworths. They were cheaper than Ever Ready or Duracell, and very popular, if not so long lasting. The brand Vidor was based in Erith, and they produced a range of consumer electronics in the years after the war; their battery production facilities were located in South Shields and Dundee, whilst their television and radio factory was in St Fidelis Road, off West Street, Erith. In 1934 T. N. Cole, managing director of the Lissen battery company, left that company sometime after it had been taken over by Ever-Ready; he purchased the Burndept radio company and set up the Vidor battery company, in direct competition with Lissen/Ever-Ready. Vidor's name came from the initials of Thomas's two daughters, Valerie and Denise, and his wife Rebecca. As a concession to Ever Ready and his agreement with the company, he did not run Burndept and Vidor himself, but employed Mr. R.P. Richardson as Managing Director. In 1935 Thomas brought an action appealing against the agreement with Ever Ready. An out of court settlement was made and from that time on, relations between Ever Ready and Vidor were strained, not helped by popularity of Vidor batteries with radio dealers because of their competitive prices, which were around twenty five percent cheaper than their rivals. In 1939 a Vidor portable radio shown at National Radio Exhibition. After World War II, between 1947 - 1958 Various models of radio were manufactured. The company appears to have been absorbed into several others in the late 60's / early 70's, and the battery making part of the business was sold to an Argentinian company, who as far as I can ascertain, still own the brand. 

Radio Caroline - the station that I worked for at sea, many years ago - click here to see my photos from back in 1990, and who have now been a legitimate station for nearly three decades since their time as the world's most famous offshore radio station, and who have been broadcasting on land with a licence from OFCOM since 2017 have made an utterly huge and groundbreaking new enterprise. Radio Caroline is to the best of my knowledge the first UK radio station to be entirely solar powered. The following information comes from the Radio Caroline website, which you can see here. The update was provided by my old boss, station manager Peter Moore:- "The solar panels and associated items were installed at our transmitter site in mid March and started making power, but it took a while to devise a means to display this on our website, however we now have a power meter that can be viewed above. Don't expect too much, obviously at night and maybe when there is a rain storm or thick cloud, but as soon as the needle reads more than zero the Orford AM transmitter is being part fed with free electricity. When the needle gets to the amber we are running fully on Solar and our mains meter stops rotating. When it goes into the green we have surplus capacity. Since our Landlords Cobra Mist have been so very good to us and have already waived the 10% mark up that they used to add to our bills, we are gifting them our surplus to the extent that they require it. If any power remains is goes back in to the grid 'somehow'. Not now but maybe in future we can add 20% extra potential capacity and we are asking about battery storage". A more detailed explanation of the conversion to solar power was provided by Radio Caroline Transmitter Engineer Alan Beech:- "With a nod of the hat to Nazareth (the band, not the place), in the early days of March our contractor arrived on our transmission site at Orfordness with all the equipment necessary to install around 60 large solar panels and all the equipment we had been planning since last year. A week of installation time later, their electrical supervisor attended, did his commissioning tests and checks and connected into our existing power distribution. The switch was flicked, and the power started flowing. The use of solar power to run our AM transmission had first been discussed as a "nice idea" a few years back, but early in 2022, with the rise in electricity costs we looked at the options and calculations again. Having approached some suitable installation companies and discussed our project we obtained a few quotes and proposals for consideration. It was decided that solar was something we could realistically undertake, would likely have a payback time of around 7-8 years and was thus incorporated into our plans for the August fundraiser weekend. Your generosity raised the funds indicating there was a lot of support for the idea amongst listeners and so the plan was set in motion. Since we had made our initial calculations in the spring energy prices had shot up again with the approach of winter, and when we spoke with the suppliers in the autumn we were not surprised to discover that increased demand had led to higher costs for solar panels. But anyway, after some negotiations a suitable price was agreed and dates for deployment were discussed. There is no point attempting to work and install solar panels on an isolated and exposed location like Orfordness during the depths of winter and as we wanted the system to be working in time for the spring then a week in early March was agreed. Our system is known as "grid tied inverter" technology, which mean the panels generate a DC voltage, which is then fed into an "inverter" which produces 50Hz AC power, which in turn is synchronised and tied into the grid supply. The more the sun shines, the more power we generate and feed into our existing electrical system. The solar system is connected on the "downstream" side of our supply meter, so as we start to generate more solar power, our meter starts to read a lower amount as we draw less power from the grid. At the point at which we generate the same power as our transmitter system is consuming (approx 11-12 kilowatts) then our incoming meter stops registering any power. Power generation in excess of this amount is effectively surplus to our requirements and is fed back through our supply meter to our landlords, and if they are not using it, exported back into the national grid. Before anyone asks, no, the meters do not "run backwards" when we are generating surplus and exporting! With a total generation capacity of over twice our expected consumption we were confident that we can run 100% solar powered on non-perfect days, and indeed this appears to be the case. On really sunny days the excess power we feed back to our landlords gives them access to free electricity thus reducing their bills, and any power they do not consume is exported to the grid. The system is fully seamless, so if are are generating just a couple of kilowatts on a cloudy day then our incoming consumption (hence cost) is reduced by those couple of kilowatts, so anytime there is daylight the panels are helping to reduce our electricity costs.On a further plus side, assuming the consumption of our Strood land studio is around 3kw, then the whole Caroline operation effectively becomes solar powered whenever we are generating around 14-15 kw, which is quite achievable on even a modestly bright day. A generation meter has been placed on our main website, which is updated every 30 seconds. This shows the present generation and has been colour coded to show when the transmitter site is fully solar powered. In the fullness of time we plan to add extra information such as daily totals, and also import/export figures so you can see exactly how the funds you donated are being used to support the radio station. Of course, running on solar power also reduces our carbon footprint and improves our sustainability and green credentials. We are aware of radio stations in other parts of the world using solar power, but none that we know of in Europe. We are definitely the only radio station in the UK running a transmitter system on self generated power and it's not exactly a small local coverage transmitter either. Once again we are at the pioneering edge of technology – just as we were with all day music radio in 1964, FM broadcasting via the MEBO 2 in 1970, satellite delivery in the early 90's, DAB in 1998 and 24/7 internet delivery in the early 00'"s". Comments and feedback to me at

Whenever I write about the history of Erith and the surrounding areas, one thing comes up time and time again. People have strong memories of the Hedley Mitchell department store in Erith High Street. From what I can gather, it specialised in drapery, soft furnishings and clothing, including bespoke tailoring. I have had conversations with people who recall that the shop had an upmarket image, and was generally regarded as a premium place to shop – a bit like John Lewis and Waitrose are today. I wonder if any readers have any specific memories, or indeed period photographs of the store that they would wish to share with others? Maybe you worked there, had friends or relatives that worked in the shop, or maybe you were just a regular customer with fond recollections of the place? If so, please feel free to drop me a line to and let me know. Any stories that I publish will get a full credit for the author; I know a lot of people are interested in the history of the shop, and regret the fact that it was demolished when the hideous concrete shopping centre and multi story car park was built in its’ place. In fact most people I have quizzed on the subject question the need for the old Erith to have been demolished in the first place. The general opinion seems to be that with a fairly extensive refurbishment, it would have been preferable to have kept the old town; by now, if suitably looked after, it would have been quite a tourist attraction. Obviously it was not to be, but it is nevertheless interesting to speculate as to what could have happened had things not been demolished in the late 1960’s. I am a little too young to remember the old shops myself, but I am pretty certain quite a few readers will have recollections that they would like to share.

Bexley Fire Brigade Update. From Jim Morford, Borough Commander for Bexley, London Fire Brigade:-"Sixty incidents were attended in the Borough by our firefighters, twelve of these incidents were fires where smoking was again the main cause. Thankfully there were no injuries because of the fires. Two injuries did occur as a result of special service incidents – we class a special service incident as an incident that is not a fire call, this includes Road traffic collisions, chemical incidents floodings, and water rescue.This week our firefighters attended Danson Lake to undertake an exercise to practice procedures and equipment that they would use at a water rescue incident. This week marks the National fire chief’s Council ‘Be water aware week’ The campaign is warning people of the risk of accidentally drowning when in or around water. There were 277 deaths in the UK from accidental drowning in 2021 in inland and coastal locations. 40% of people who lost their lives had no intention of entering the water*, with slips, trips, and falls being the main cause of them entering the water. Many others underestimate the risk of jumping into the water where unseen hazards and cold water can endanger even the strongest swimmers. Even on a warm day the temperature in open water can remain very cold, causing cold water shock, a physical reaction which can make it difficult to control breathing, cause panic and make it difficult to swim. Last year London Fire Brigade attended the 4th Highest drowning incidents in the UK. As we approach early summer, I am sure we are all hoping for some overdue warm weather. The river Thames and our open waterways in the borough are hotspots of activity as soon as the climate gets warmer. Top water safety tips - Don't make a splash, stay safe around water. Always remember: Don’t go into the water if someone else is in trouble – call London Fire Brigade or the Coast Guard. Never drink alcohol and then go for a swim or attempt to jump into the water. Avoid walking/running near water on your own or late at night - it’s easier than you think to slip and fall in. For more information use the following link -"

URGENT APPEAL: Black BMW X1 Stolen on Mill Place, Crayford - Help Needed - By Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association on Apr 29, 2023 05:57 am. "We are reaching out to you today with a urgent an important appeal. Our car was stolen on Mill Place, Crayford, DA1 4NJ on Saturday 29 April 2023 around 3am. It is a black BMW X1, year 2016 with a licence plate GK16 CHC. We are devastated by this incident and urgently seeking any information that could help us recover the stolen car. We kindly request all residents in the area to check their CCTV footage or any other surveillance devices that they may have installed, especially if you live in the vicinity of Mill Place. If you have any information or have seen or heard anything suspicious, we urge you to come forward and report it to either the owner or Crayford Police on 101, or 020 8721 2584, or via email at Alternatively, you can call them above or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 1111. We appreciate your cooperation and assistance in this matter."

In a similar, motoring related story, both radio station LBC and the Daily Mail newspaper have been reporting that a group of what would appear to be self styled vigilantes has been set up to oppose the expansion of the London Low Emission ULEZ Zone. The story reads as follows:- "Secretive activists claim they are attacking Sadiq Khan's ULEZ cameras and has vowed they won't stop until every single one is taken down. The group, which calls itself the "Blade Runners", is damaging the cameras which detect when a car enters the low-emission zone. The motorist then faces a bill to pay if their car doesn't meet the mayor's environmental standards in London. One activist, a father in his mid-40s who wore a balaclava and declined to have his name published, told MailOnline he had taken down 34 himself, and claimed many more had been targeted by others. He claims there are some 100 people in the anti-Ulez camera group. "We are going to take down every single one no matter what," he said. The mayor's office said it was disappointing opponents to the scheme are resorting to vandalism. ULEZ has caused huge controversy in the capital, with motorists angry at having to face yet another cost. Others complain they need to cross ULEZ for work and being charged cuts into their earnings, with small businesses and charities speaking out against it. "In terms of damage it's way more than what [Sadiq Khan and Transport for London] have stated. It's at least a couple of hundred," the activist said. "Snipping, damaging with hammers, painting, disabling on a circuit level and removing. They are unbolted and they are snipped. "The tools they use to install them are the ones we use to remove it. We don't want this. It's a way to try to... restrict our movements. The Mayor's office said it has recored 43 cases of vandalism or theft of Ulez cameras to March 21, but added that TfL would not reveal how much the cameras cost because of "commercial and confidentiality" issues. TfL has spent up to £75m on the cameras and signs, with up to £140m budgeted for expanding the scheme". Whilst I in no way condone vandalism or criminal damage, the actions of this group do show just how strongly the outer London ULEZ expansion is opposed. What do you think? Email me in confidence at

The end video this week has only recently been published. It is some drone footage shot over Erith, Belvedere, Northumberland Heath and the surrounding areas. The video is quite long, and to be honest it could do with some editing. I would suggest that you fast forward through parts of it as you see fit. Nevertheless it does offer a fascinating alternative view of the local area. 

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