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calendar   Sunday - October 14, 2012

obit for a swashbuckler, entrepreneur, adventurer. what a generation his was.

Heck of a story.  I’d heard of this fellow some years ago but then forgot all about him. Too many other things to be bothered about without reading about some dufus raising hell with authorities.  Had there been computers when I first heard of him, I suppose I might have Goggled his story.
So I saw this obit in our paper and wow.  This guy was no dufus at all.  Talk about derring-do.

Prince Roy of Sealand (RIP)

Prince Roy of Sealand, who has died aged 91, was plain Roy Bates until, on Christmas Eve 1966, he established his own micro-nation on an abandoned wartime sea fort off the Suffolk coast and declared himself head of state. 

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A year earlier, on the nearby Knock John fortified tower in the North Sea, Bates had established Radio Essex, claiming it as Britain’s first 24-hour pirate pop station, only to see it swiftly closed down by the Labour government.

After taking legal advice, Bates bought HM Fort Roughs, another derelict artillery installation, anchored to a sandbar just outside British territorial waters; but before he could revive his radio transmissions, the Marine Broadcasting (Offences) Act of 1967 outlawed the employment of British citizens by pirate stations. Embracing the ancient legal doctrine of jus gentium, Bates declared independence. Henceforth, he announced, he would be known as Prince Roy and his principality would be Sealand. He refurbished the platform, abandoned by the British military in the 1950s, and moved there with his wife and two children.

It was not long, however, before his bleak windswept hulk, with its twin towers of steel-reinforced concrete spanned by a 5,920 sq ft rusting iron platform some seven miles off Felixstowe, became not only res derelicta but terra nullius — effectively disputed territory. When the rival Radio Caroline claimed the platform for itself, Bates and his crew repelled a boarding party with Molotov cocktails and warning shots.

In 1967 government ministers sent the military to destroy several other wartime forts that had been abandoned in international waters. Bates and his family watched as explosions sent the huge structures cartwheeling hundreds of feet in the air. Helicopters carrying explosives buzzed overhead, and from a Royal Navy tug carrying a demolition squad came shouts of “You’re next!”

A year later, when the Royal Maritime auxiliary vessel Golden Eye passed close by, three warning shots were fired across her bow before she turned and raced for the shore. Bates was summonsed under the Firearms Act and in November 1968 appeared in the dock at Essex Assizes.

Amid much legal argument, statutes dating from the 17th century were cited. Summing up, the judge at Chelmsford remarked on “this swashbuckling incident perhaps more akin to the time of Sir Francis Drake”, but decided that, since Sealand lay outside British territorial waters, the courts had no jurisdiction. As far as Bates was concerned, this was Sealand’s first de facto recognition.

He claimed Sealand as the world’s smallest sovereign state, even though it was not recognised by the British government — which largely ignored it — or any foreign power. During the 1970s Bates created Sealand’s own constitution, flag (red and black with white diagonal stripe), passports, stamps, currency (the Sealand dollar, bearing his wife’s image), national anthem and motto: “E Mare Libertas” (“From the Sea, Freedom”).

Bates’s unilateral declaration of statehood became his core business.

A German entrepreneur, Alexander Achenbach, proposed to turn Sealand into a luxury hotel/casino, receiving in return not only citizenship but also the office of prime minister for life. But in 1978, while Bates and his wife were away from Sealand on business, Achenbach flew in a party of German and Dutch businessmen by helicopter and effectively staged a coup d’état after a row with Bates over several million Deutschmarks.

Within days Bates — a wartime Army major — had retaken the platform in a dramatic predawn helicopter raid of his own.

From 100ft above the sea, he rappelled down a rope to the tiny helipad below. His son, Michael, did likewise. The Germans later confessed to being taken aback on encountering, in combat gear, an Englishman they had only known to wear a natty Savile Row suit and bowler hat.

In the melee, Bates brandished a rifle, but Michael was captured and held hostage in the galley before being flown to the Netherlands, where he was released after four days.

In turn, Achenbach’s lawyer, Gernot Pütz, a Sealand passport holder, was seized, hustled into a tender and charged with treason. Bates — by the “powers” vested in him as Prince Roy — solemnly sentenced him to life on the platform.

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Seven weeks later, with Britain adhering to its stated position — it disclaimed jurisdiction outside her territorial waters — Germany finally sent a diplomat from its London embassy to Sealand to secure the release of its citizen.

Exercising his princely prerogative of clemency, Prince Roy immediately granted Pütz a pardon, reasoning that the German diplomatic mission to his windswept eyrie constituted a second de facto recognition of Sealand’s independence.

During the Second World War he became an infantry major in the First Battalion Royal Fusiliers City of London Regiment. He served in the 8th India Division, seeing action in Africa, Italy, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. Taken prisoner when his aircraft crashed on the island of Rhodes, he tried to escape but was captured by Greek Fascists . He was rescued from a firing squad by a passing German officer. In Italy Bates took part in the battle of Monte Cassino .

Wounded several times, Bates survived malaria, sandfly fever, frostbite and snakebite. When a German stick grenade exploded, smashing his jaw and showering shrapnel in his face, he was told by an Army surgeon that he would never find a wife as he would be so badly disfigured. But as his wounds healed, Bates met Joan Collins, a former beauty queen from Essex, at a dance, and within three months they had married.

THERE’S MORE HERE


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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 10/14/2012 at 10:00 AM   
Filed Under: • OBITITUARIES •  
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Oh, and here's some kind of visitor flag counter thingy. Hey, all the cool blogs have one, so I should too. The Visitors Online thingy up at the top doesn't count anything, but it looks neat. It had better, since I paid actual money for it.
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