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Sealand on Fire - Part 1

Issue: 3 Date: 20th December 2020

Now a three part series of the Sealand Fire

Link here to go straight to post fire reports & pictures - Part 2

These were the dramatic headlines of lead stories from Friday afternoon 23rd June 2006

We reproduce the reports with credits following the devastating fire that began on Friday morning 23rd June 2006

Sealand location

Sealnd Location

Smoke rises from Sealand seen from Felixtowe

Picture reproduced by permission of amarkfell taken by Felixtowe Ferry Sailing Club (13.10 BST 13th June 2006)

RNLI Harwich Station News 23/6/06 - Fire on the Roughs Towers

The Roughs Towers top platform caught alight due to a electrical fire. Harwich off-shore lifeboat was tasked with the report of one person injured in the fire. An RAF rescue helicopter transferred the person to Ipswich hospital, directly from the tower. The Harwich Lifeboat stood by the Roughs Tower until a local fire tug extinguished the fire

RNLI Pictures at foot of page

Sealand on Fire

BBC News Look East 23/6/06 - A Blaze at Offshore Military Fort

A security guard has been airlifted to hospital after a fire broke out on an old sea fort in the North Sea. The blaze on Friday has badly damaged Sealand, an inhabited former military platform, about eight miles east off the coast of Essex & Suffolk.
A coastguard spokesman said it was believed a generator caught fire. The one person on board was airlifted to Ipswich Hospital

The so-called "independent state" of Sealand is home to an internet firm. A helicopter from Wattisham airfield rescued the injured man from the platform and Harwich lifeboat were also called to the scene

'Territorial waters' Britain built the anti-aircraft platform during World War II. It remained derelict until the 1960s when a retired Army major, Paddy Roy Bates, took over the 10,000 sq ft platform & declared it the independent nation of Sealand. At the time, the platform was beyond the then three-mile limit of British territorial waters. All this changed in 1987, when the UK extended its territorial waters from three to 12 miles. The British Government does not recognise the sovereignty of Sealand

Sealand on Fire

Evening Star 23rd June at 14.58 BST - Sealand on Fire

More than 20 fire fighters have been drafted in to tackle a blaze at Sealand off the coast of Felixstowe. Eight people from Suffolk Fire service were flown on to the platform of the Second World War gun emplacement and independent principality in the North Sea. The RNLI lifeboat & a fire fighting tug from Harwich also joined in the rescue. One man from Sealand was airlifted to hospital after trying to tackle the fire which broke out in a generator

1st ILR Report of Sealand Fire Dream 100 Essex @14.00 BST on Friday 23rd June 2006

EADT 24 Suffolk's & Essex Newspaper on-line Saturday 24th June 2006 at 09.21 BST

A Former wartime fortress which is now a self-proclaimed independent state has been left devastated after a fierce blaze tore through the structure. The so-called Principality of Sealand, seven miles off the coast of Felixstowe & Harwich, was evacuated at lunchtime yesterday after a generator caught fire

Thames Coastguard, Harwich RNLI lifeboat, Felixstowe Coastguard rescue teams, firefighting tug Brightwell, the RAF rescue helicopter from Wattisham and 15 Suffolk based firefighters from the National Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG) were all called into action to tackle the blaze

One man, believed to be a security guard, was airlifted from the scene & taken to Ipswich Hospital with smoke inhalation but no one else was on the Second World War gun emplacement. Emergency services were first alerted to the drama just after midday when eyewitnesses noticed huge clouds of black smoke billowing out of the concrete structure, which is owned by self-styled King Roy Bates

Brian Ironman, who was fishing just off Sealand along with his dog Rosie, said he noticed something was wrong around 11.30am. I'd been fishing nearby since 7am for smoothhound & tope, just before lunchtime I noticed there was a lot of smoke coming from the back end of the tower, he said. I immediately thought something was wrong & called the coastguard straight away. They were here fairly quickly and there were about five or six extinguishers trying to put the fire out. The helicopter also arrived & I think it picked up one person who was on the platform

Sealand on Fire before fire fighters arrive

Andrew Beal, a council worker from Trimley who watched events unfold from his beach hut at Brackenbury, said: There was thick black smoke billowing out of the gun emplacement. Air sea rescue was heading out at high speed & hovered over the platform and appeared to be taking someone off. There were several other vessels heading out, including a lifeboat, & there was a boat out there hosing it down. The smoke was hundreds of feet high in the air

Rod Markham, who runs angling trips out of Felixstowe Ferry in his boat Tracy Jane, was able to see the excitement from his house. At first I just thought they were stoking up the generators because there is always a bit of smoke, I never realised it was on fire, he said. But when I looked back after I'd messed about a bit in the garden I saw there was a big deluge of black & that's when I saw the lifeboat & tug were there

Firefighting tug Brightwell from the port of Felixstowe was dispatched to the scene & doused the flames with vast amounts of water. A team of 15 off-shore firefighters from the National Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG) were also assembled but after a reconnaissance of the area from the air it was decided it was too dangerous to land

Keith Churchman, of Harwich Royal National Lifeboat Institution, said: The damage is very extensive. The fire started in a generator and spread quickly to the accommodation. There have been a number of explosions on board as the fire has engulfed gas bottles and batteries. Only one person was on Sealand at the time, whom we understand to be a watchman whose job was to maintain the generators and equipment. A team of firefighters was flown to the scene but because of the damage to the structure they decided not to go on board. A firefighting tug sprayed the whole structure with water in the hope this would eventually cool the fire and starve it of oxygen

A spokesperson for Suffolk Fire Service confirmed the fire was left to burn itself out and was under control by 3.10pm

Play following audio as you read on ...

Sons of Alpha Centauri - Sealand on Fire

Sons of Alpha Centauri are an Instrumental Riff/Progressive/Alternative Rock Band from Swale (Kent)

The track Sealand on Fire was recorded live at The Yacht Club, Sheerness

Their Album also called Sons of Centauri - SD006CD on Sound Devestation Records was released in the winter of 2007 & played on Red Sands Radio in 2008

Further tracks from Sons of Centauri can be heard in SS Richard Montgomery & Red Sands Radio - Part 15

Sealand on Fire well seated the generator house engulfed

Evening Star 24 June 2006 at 23:15 BST - Family vows to rebuild Sealand

Sealand's royal family today pledged to rebuild its country & to repair all the damage caused by the fire which devastated half of the independent kingdom. Michael Bates told the Evening Star the family would not give up its ownership of the former war-time fort and wanted to carry on running it. He was visiting his parents, Major Roy Bates & his wife Joan, the self-styled prince & princess rulers of Sealand, at their home in Spain when he heard about the blaze, which was reported in later editions of yesterday's Evening Star

Last night he was flying back to the UK to his Essex base, & hoped to visit the old Roughs Tower, seven miles off Felixstowe, over the weekend. He said: We need to assess the damage and see what has happened. Of course, we will rebuild it. We have done a lot of work in there over the years to make it very nice & it is a big part of our family & its history. But as yet we do not know the full extent of the damage or how this fire happened. I have been told it was fire in a generator & the generator room will be gutted, but how much other damage there is we will have to wait & see

Sealand on Fire

I understand the fire tug was able to pump some water in through smashed windows to the fire, and it appeared to be out very quickly. The fire tug pumped a blanket of water over the structure all afternoon to try to extinguish the fire. He said there was about to be a crew change at the former gun emplacement, which is manned constantly when the generator caught fire

He said the man airlifted off by a helicopter rescue crew from Wattisham air base & taken to hospital was called Chris, but would not give his surname. He said the man had inhaled smoke & was undergoing tests at hospital. It was the first time there had been a fire in the chequered history of the 932 sq yard mini-state, which was founded in 1967, * & has been home to pirate radio stations & more recently an internet company

N.B. * Was home to former pirate operators Radio Essex, Sealand has not been used for radio broadcasting - Editor

Witnesses watched in amazement as a huge plume of smoke started to rise from one of the legs of Sealand & boats raced to the scene. As the drama started to unfold seven miles off the coast, people watched with binoculars & telescopes, others shaded their eyes from the sun & squinted out to sea. Evening Star Felixstowe editor Richard Cornwell was with his wife Rachel on the clifftops in Hamilton Gardens eating their lunch when they spotted the smoke

Mr Cornwell said: It was hard to tell at first whether the smoke was coming from Sealand or a ship's funnel somewhere in the distance behind the structure. We rang a friend on the seafront who has a powerful telescope & he said it was definitely Sealand & he could see flames shooting out of the left-hand pillar of the fort

Then we spotted the fire tug coming out of the harbour really fast & followed a few minutes later by the Harwich inshore lifeboat. At first there was not much smoke at all, but it quickly grew into a huge thick black plume which then drifted northwards for several miles. There appeared to be several other boats in the area, but no-one venturing too close

The rescue helicopter arrived, winched the man off very quickly and flew back with him to hospital. It returned later & hovered near the fort for about 20 minutes in case it was needed. Through binoculars we could see the tug pumping a wall of water at the structure & over the top of it from its powerful jets. Seafront worker Bruce Harrison said: It was quite spectacular. The amount of smoke was huge & people kept saying there must have been an explosion. Everyone is always fascinated by Sealand & visitors often ask what it is

Sealand on Fire close up of generator house

Factfile: Sealand

Sealand was built as a North Sea war-time fort called Roughs Tower in 1941 at a cost of £1m. Its two 70ft concrete towers weigh 4,500 tons and contain seven storeys of living quarters

Visible from Felixstowe seafront, it was used for pirate radio stations in the 1960s*

* It came close to being used more than once but it wasn't used for radio - Editor

Sealand on Fire smoke looms over the fort

In 1967, Roy Bates, now 82, a wealthy businessman & former 8th Army Royal Fusiliers major, & his wife Joan, a former beauty queen, declared it as the sovereign state of Sealand. It has its only currency, flag, stamps, national anthem, constitution & laws.Over the past four decades the weatherbeaten structure has been the scene of many colourful incidents & its history is as chequered as any of the most volatile hot spots around the world. There have been at least seven attempts by raiders to try to seize it from the Bates family with petrol bombs, shotguns and hand-to-hand fighting

One German man was even imprisoned for seven weeks before receiving a royal pardon, & in the 1990s there was considerable concern after Interpol found forged Sealand passports being used to launder money from drug smuggling

Sealand on Fire smoke & flames over the fort

The Register - Monday 26th June 2006

Fire has damaged a World War II gun emplacement seven miles off the English coast. Better known as "Sealand", the fort was acquired in the 1960s by Roy Bates, who declared it an independent principality.One man was airlifted from the platform after fire broke out in the generator room on Friday. Eyewitnesses reported heavy damage, & the blaze was left to burn itself out

A public statement from the Sealand government said: "Due to a fire in the generation facility of the Fortress structure it has been necessary temporarily to evacuate all civilian residents to alternative accommodation as a matter of safety. This situation is expected to continue for the next 96 hours, & an update will be issued within this time"

When Bates purchased the fort, UK sovereignty extended to structures only three miles from the shoreline. This has since changed, bringing Sealand within UK jurisdiction, and the principality remains unrecognised by any other state or international treaty organisation

N.B. Bates never purchased the fort rather using squatters rights claimed it - Editor

Sealand on Fire with Fire Tug in action

But in recent years the ambiguity of Sealand's status prompted one of the more fascinating experiments in technological utopias. Bates' son Michael - Prince Michael of Sealand blessed an experiment to create a crypto data haven on the fort, & became head of the operating company HavenCo in June 2000

To the dismay of investors & cypherpunks, the venture wasn't a success. Ryan Lackey had moved to the fort in 1999, hoping to establish a safe location for privacy services such as anonymous remailers, and experiments such as anonymous digital cash. [July 2000 Slashdot Q&A]

In a presentation to the 2003 DefCon convention, a former employee described how internal politics and a lack of investment backing had thwarted the experiment. Contracts were broken, the bandwidth never materialised, and the location was vulnerable to DOS attacks. At the time of his 2003 presentation, HavenCo had no new customers, & had seen several of its existing customers leave

"Sovereignty alone has little value without commercial support from banks, etc," concluded Ryan. Inviting us draw our own conclusions as to where the real sovereign power lies. Banks don't like cash they can't count or control ®

Fire Tug douses down

EADT 24 Suffolk's& Essex Newspaper on-line Monday 26th June 2006 at 08.28 BST

The cost of repairing the fire-damaged Principality of Sealand could be as high as £500,000, it emerged yesterday

The former offshore anti-aircraft facility originally known as Rough's Tower was hit by a fierce blaze on Friday.The fire started in a generator & quickly spread, leading to the winch rescue of an injured security guard. He was treated for smoke inhalation & has been released from hospital. Yesterday Prince Michael of Sealand, a self-proclaimed independent state seven miles off Harwich and Felixstowe, managed to get onto the platform to assess the damage

He had been in Spain visiting his parents, Prince Roy & Princess Joan, when he heard the news of the blaze, & returned to Britain on Saturday. There is an awful lot of damage. It is worse than we expected, he said. It is sortable, but there is an awful lot of smoke damage - it's got everywhere. Prince Michael was only able to reach the platform at the top of Sealand after his son James, 20, scaled it using a hook ladder. It was very hairy, he was very brave & I am proud of him. Fortunately the winching mechanism is powered separately to the rest of it with a diesel engine, so we were able to get that working & get the boat up. Prince Michael, also known as Michael Bates, added: I think there's about half a million pounds worth of damage. It is such a mess

Sealand on Fire Fire Tug in mist as flames doused

Firefighters were contacted about the fire on Sealand at around 1pm on Friday. After the rescue of the guard it was deemed too risky to try & board the platform from the air as there was no danger to life firefighters in a rescue helicopter decided they would allow the fire to burn itself out

The Felixstowe port fire tug stationed near to the platform sprayed the sea fort with water in an attempt to cool the facility & the blaze was under control by 3.10pm

Fire Tug Dampens down

Evening Star 26 June 2006 at 04:16

A Fierce blaze which ripped through the former wartime fort Sealand has left a damage bill which could reach £100,000 & will not be covered by insurance. The Second World War gun emplacement off Felixstowe, declared an independent principality in 1967, suffered extensive damage after the fire took hold on Friday

A downhearted Michael Bates, known as the Prince of Sealand, today revealed the fort was not insured to cover damage by fire, leaving his family with a massive repair bill. He added the fort, which leases offices to IT firm Haven Co Ltd, faces a tough future because it has no insurance policy for the damage. It needs an awful lot of repairs, Mr Bates said. The generator is destroyed & three of the rooms, the generator room, the radio shed & the living room, have been completely destroyed. We are starting to clean it up now. The water damage from the firefighting is a real problem as well

Mr Bates had been in Spain when the fire broke out on Friday & flew back at the weekend to assess the damage. After inspecting the wreckage of what was the fort's generator room with his son's James, 19, & Liam, 17, he described the situation as a nightmare

During the fire a thick plume of smoke could be seen from Felixstowe while witnesses on the cliff tops reported seeing flames coming from the sea fort's left tower. One man, a watchman on the fort, suffered burns in the drama & was airlifted to Ipswich Hospital for treatment

Sealand was built to defend England against German air raids in the Second World War. It was designed to house troops who could man artillery to shoot down German aircraft. It was taken over by Michael Bates' father, Major Roy Bates, who declared it an independent principality in the 1960s

Closing Report Tuesday 27th June 2006

No one was injured in the blaze, contact was maintained with staff aboard at all times. The fort was temprorily abandoned at 15.30 on Friday 23rd June 2006 with the fire completely out soon after. Michael Bates with his sons, & Sealand staff re boarded the fort using ladders & ropes in an SAS style maneuver which began on Sunday afternoon 25th June, the Sealand flag was hoisted & the fort again was occupied

The wooden generator house on the north west end containing two Gardner 180's is completely gutted & the generators ruined. The Perkins generator was saved being away for overhaul ashore, it's now back on the fort & in use. The fire quickly engulfed the wooden structure, waste engine oil & the diesel fuel. All three double glazed windows of the galley, lounge & state office are blown from fire service water cannons. Inside the radio room & its equipment are wrecked, the water plant burnt out, lift shaft & much of the main deck row accommodation & living facilities are flooded

The last remaining wartime Gardner LW is below at deck level A & survived

RNLI Harwich Picture 7

No 7

Pictures courtesy of the Harwich RNLI Station

RNLI Harwich Picture 1 RNLI Harwich Picture 2 RNLI Harwich Picture 3

No's 1-3

RNLI Harwich Picture 4 RNLI Harwich Picture 5 RNLI Harwich Picture 6

No's 4 -6

RNLI Harwich Picture 9

No 9

RNLI Harwich Picture 8

No 8

Artists impression Navy Fire Fighting

Artists impression how a Royal Naval Ship might have fought the blaze (Unknown)

This feature continues in - Sealand on Fire - Part 2

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