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Sealand Flag Sealand Radio - Part 1 Sealand Flag

Issue: 2 Updated: 3rd February 2011

The 1940's - 1960's with photographs from the Bates family archive

Radio, a prospect that has been contemplated but never implemented, but first let's look at the history of Roughs Sand Tower

The Pontoon (Barge) for U1 Roughs was laid down from 4th September 1941 in berth 2 at Red Lion Wharf, Gravesend, Kent

U1 in berth 3 fitting out

1. 1st of the Sea Forts Roughs in berth 3 fitting out

Moved to berth 3 on 13th October save for the ammunition hoist, which was ready by Christmas work was completed on 10th December 1941, U1 was taken over to Tilbury as the base for U2 Sunk Head was begun in berth 2

U1 under tow to Tilbury

2. U1 leaves Gravesend headed for Tilbury

1st February 3 tugs towed U1 to berth 28 at Tilbury where stores were loaded & RDF (Radar) equipment fitted

Degaussing (Demagnetising) took place on Sunday 8th February, the Fort left Tilbury on the 9th at 9.15 hrs

U1 under tow

3. U1 towed down river headed for Roughs Sands

Colliding with a number of buoys and a light ship en'route the tow halted overnight off Thamesport & recommenced the next day

U1 arrives at Roughs sand bank

4. Tow complete U1 arrives at Roughs Sands, 6 nautical miles off Felixtowe, Suffolk on Wednesday 11th February 1942

With the tug 'Dapper' alongside Guy Maunsell seen above with the party on the stern of the pontoon opens the seacocks at 16.30 hrs

U1 grounds 6 nautical miles off the coast

5. Tug 'Lady Brassey' stands off as U1 sinks (grounds)

By 16.44 hrs the Fort had settled in 37 feet of water, less than 15 minutes after the seacocks were opened

Thames Estuary Sea Fort Locations

6. The Thames Estuary Naval & Army Sea Fort Locations

With the big guns silent the Forts had been left by the MoD in 1958. Radio Sutch/City, Invicta later KING then 390, & Tower Radio all used abandoned Forts at Shivering, Red Sands & Sunk Head, but no operative had seriously considered Roughs

Sunk Head had proved difficult to service being in deep waters & not ideal being flooded below decks. Roughs was also further out, so again deterred would be radio operatives

Other than scavengers & visits in 1965 it wasn't until the summer of 1966 that interest was aroused in Roughs Tower by Radio Caroline

Strategically the Fort was interesting, being one of only two Forts outside then British territorial waters, the other Sunk Head was soon to be destroyed by the MoD to prevent further use, see Tower Radio

For a pencil history of all the Thames Sea Forts see Fort Fax

Roy & Joan on the way to Roughs

7. Roy & Joan on the way to Knock John in the early days of Radio Essex

Events though took a different turn after Radio Essex was outlawed & closed down at 16.30 hrs on Christmas Day 1966

Knock John in early 1967

8. Knock John adandoned picture from eary 1967

The Fort was hastily dismantled of usable fixtures as the crew decamped & literally moved everything possible, including the primitive Radio Essex gear to Roughs

With Carline's crew away from the Tower over the Christmas break everything was man handled aboard & Roughs claimed by Roy

Michael Bates on the hoist up to the platform

9. Teenage Michael Bates hauled up to Roughs on a block & tackle

No mean feat for the small Radio Essex crew: Dick Palmer, Tony Mandell, Van Sterling & Mike West, along with Roy Bates & his then 14 year old son Michael

The transfer of kit took many hours in the cold, damp winter conditions of the Thames Estuary. Michael, a tough young cookie stayed on the small fishing boat alone throughout the night as the guys above hauled everything up

Michael recalls: 'Those were difficult times, Dad had the balls to start Radio Essex with nothing. Technically quite simple & cheap these days, not so easy then. Many of the station staff look back at their formative years growing up on the station with affection'

Joan Bates poses in the snow

10. The winter of 1967/68 Joan poses on deck by the 3.7" gun in the snow

Snow adds a eerie silence to an already strange place, the Forts are bitterly cold throughout the winter being constructed of reinforced concrete and steel, draft proofing was non-existent suffice for rubber gaskets around the main doors

N.B The Naval Forts had open wings which didn't help, heating originally came from solid fuel that warmed air which was circulated by gigantic fan, the system was complex & were never brought back into use

Knock John's wings remained open, Sealand's were madee weather proof with heavy doors

The Army Forts had coal fired boilers on each Tower with radiators throughout, on Shivering Sands these were brought back into service in 1966

3.7" shell racks

11. Down below at level 6 (F) wartime 3.7" shell storage racks, no longer aboard

Monitoring the comings & goings from the Fort & noting it was left unmanned a mob of Gravesend Dockers & local heavies were recruited from pubs, sailing out on the Gravesend Tug 'Vanquisher' they took possession of the Fort on behalf of Radio Caroline

With rumoured investment from popular entertainment names, the radar top-house & control room were cut away to create a Heli-Pad. Caroline said Roughs would become a hotel, health & leisure resort, call it what you will

In reality it was being readied for a supply depot for the Mi-Amigo after the 1967 MoA had came into force

Roy boarded the Fort & took of the Caroline crew ashore he was back possession of Roughs

Newspaper sketch Roy Bates & Caroline walk plank

12. Newspaper sketch depicting Roy Bates waving a cutless at the hapless Caroline Crew memberforced to walk the plank

On 21st June 1967 the Offshore II left Harwich with a team of seven men to reclaim the Tower, petrol bombs & oxyacetylene gas cylinders rained down, repelling the Offshore II which pulled away leaving one man dangling from a ladder for some two hours

Walton-on-Naze lifeboat was despatch & after protracted negotiations the man was rescued, Police interviewed a number of people but made no arrests. Caroline's shipping agent Percy Scadden in an interview following the battle denied that Radio Caroline would be using the Fort for radio use & said those those onboard were mental. Roy Bates later told press that there had been at least seven other raids, in one, a group of thirty heavily armed men had tried to seize the Fort

Raising the Sealand flag

13. Michael, Roy with Joan raising the Flag over the Principality of Sealand

'On Roughs, Dad hadn't named it Sealand yet, I recall the incident when the man nearly lost his fingers while lowering oxygen bottles. It was me not my Dad I was nearest the pulley, Bellasco I think and the big lad that was hurt behind him. I had lowered several bottles as the boat moved away. I was being pulled closer to the edge and in fear of loosing my fingers in the pulley. I shouted over my shoulder to take a turn (on the line) after a few seconds he shouted he'd got a turn. I let go the rope and turned to the other two, to my horror he had taken turns around his own hand as the rope friction burnt & cut his fingers to the bone. I was mortified and the bloke was a tough lad to not pass out. The other Caroline man there told me he hated the place and was going home as he made his way down on the tender'

Caroline were to leave the Fort for the last time, Roy had won the battle for Sovereignty of another Thames Fort

Joan & Roy off Sealand (Roughs)  in 1967

14. Press shot of Joan & Roy by Rough in 1967 the topic of sovereignty of Sealand attracted much media interest

By the 2nd September 1967 he'd settled his family on Roughs even though they'd had possession of the Fort for some 9 months

LW Generator set

15. Level 1 (A) of the Southern leg housed a 30 KVA Gardner LW generator set, original fitment was 3 each Fort, this one no longer aboard removed for use in a fishing boat

So why didn't Radio Essex resume transmitting from Roughs?

Sealand 1968

16. Sealand in summer 1968 with mast in centre of Heli-Pad to prevent unauthorised landings, & used gas cylinders on Northern end

Well three reasons one Roy was by now exhausted of funds, he hadn't paid anyone for sometime, advertising and sponsorship had long dried up & he'd taken a hit in legal fees topped by a Government fine. Secondly he saw little point in 'testing' the Governments resolve, they were going to shut the 'Pirates' one way or another & the Fort based stations were already being systematically picked off. Finally, the long muted idea of an independent Country had again come to the surface. Caroline said they'd planned to go for Sovereignty for Roughs during the time they had control of the Fort, but the idea had originally come from Dick Palmer & Roy now embraced the idea whole heartedly

Joan, Roy & Michael in the radio room

17. Joan, Roy & Michael in the radio room on Sealand

'Sealand Radio' exists in the form of the base Fort-shore link situated on 'The Row' on the Fort, communication using the call sign 'Sealand' can be interesting particularly with Sea-Land Container ships passing frequently!

Sealand Stamps

18. Sealand Postage Stamps

Proclaiming sovereignty the Roughs became the Principality of Sealand, an in dependant country, issued a number stamps in 1969 depicting amongst others; Christopher Columbus, Sir Walter Raleigh, Vasco de Gamaealand

Sealand coin example Sealand coin example

19. Sealand Dollar (1977)

A dozen or so coins were minted from 1972, not recognised by the International Postal Union the stamps have never the less become sought after by collectors

A limited number of Sealand Passports were produced but never Driving Licence's

Sealand Title Pack

20. Sealand Titles

For a limited period of time only: To celebrate 30 years of victory over the Dutch & German terrorist invasion of Sealand. The Principality is offering 'Individual Noble Titles' Lord, Lady, Baron & Baroness in recognition of support

During the invasion Prince Michael of Sealand was held prisoner for four days until being landed illegally on the Dutch coast. Sealand launched a counter attack sliding down ropes from a helicopter 100 foot above the raging North Sea to recaptured the fortress island

N.B Also in appreciation for their services to the Principality of Sealand honorary titles are being issued to a select group of supporters, including Danny Wallace, Ben Fogle, Terry Wogan, George Stroumboulopoulos & Jeremy Clarkson

Click on the Link document(s) image above or Sealand seal below

Sealand emblem

This feature does not intend to duplicate information published elsewhere or make legal or otherwise opinions, reference links are provided as applicable

With grateful thanks to Michael Bates for his help in producing this feature which continues in Sealand Radio - Part 2

Additional material Michael Caine & Chris Stewart

Sealand History : Clarkson for PM : Sovereignty : More News

News can be found on Sealand Facebook

A VCD sanctioned & approved for release by Prince Michael of Sealand is available with over 150 photographs & history soundtrack tour of Sealand to order your copy go to Offshore Shop

For all the Sealand Features navigate from the ScrapBook Index


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