Sealand is rudderless again

Yachtsmen sailing to and from Harwich to Holland will pass the Roughs Tower, eight miles off the Essex coast, and the ‘principality’ of Roy Bates who died this week at his home in Leigh-on-Sea.

Bates, 91, occupied the former World War II anti-aircraft gun emplacement in 1967 during the fashion for mounting pirate radio stations on abandoned offshore fortresses.

It was in international waters and so he re-named it Sealand, issued passports – many of which have turned up in the hands of drug-smugglers, gun-runners and insurrectionists throughout the world.

He sold ‘titles’ – some to history-hungry Americans – like Lord Gunfleet, Lord Buxey, and Lord Cork named after the sandbanks which surround his tower. He invented his own title, Major Roy Bates, although this one had some authenticity as he was an infantry major in the First Battalion Royal Fusiliers and fought at the bloody battle of Monte Cassino, during World War Two.

His son, Michael, has inherited the tower, which was valued at £500 million in 2007.