HMF Rough, HMF Sunk Head, HMF Knock John and HMF Tongue Sand, known as 'His Majesty's Forts', were built by the Navy and originally had a complement of about 100 men who were assigned to them before deployment. These were designed as a reinforced concrete pontoon measuring 168 by 88 feet supporting two hollow cylindrical towers, 24 feet in diameter, which were topped by a gun deck, an upper deck and a central tower unit which controlled radar equipment. They were constructed in harbour and on completion were towed into position by three tugs and then sunk, leaving only the large diameter towers and platform showing above sea level. They were operable within 30 minutes of 'launching'. The tower 'legs' were divided into seven floors, providing accommodation and storage areas. There was a steel framework at one end supporting a landing jetty and crane which was used to hoist supplies aboard. [Souce]
Rough Tower was built at Gravesend in 1940. The "boat shaped" base was 214 deep, 168 feet long and 88 feet wide. On top of these sat two 24 foot diameter concrete cylinders and on top of these sat the top deck comprising of control room and lantern house. The tower was towed to Tilbury for fitting out. In February 1942 three tugs pulled the 4,500 ton tower to its anchorage in the Thames Estuary, six nautical miles east of Harwich. The tower was the Navy's first sea fort and was used to look out for German submarines and aircraft. The Navy abandoned the tower in 1946.
The Army towers were built to sit on the sandbar, but the Navy towers were originally going to float and then they were redesigned so that they would sink, and Rough Tower is sitting on a barge in something like 37 feet of water on the Rough Sands sandbar.
The Rough Tower barge has a Royal Navy name. That barge comes under the Royal Navy Police and the Ministry of Defence buoys mark the spoke of the sunken "ship". Rough Tower is not an artificial island, it is a sunken Royal Navy ship. It is merely the above waves superstructure of a Royal Navy barge.
So "Sealand" is not a structure built upon the sea bed but a ship that had a large superstructure which protruded above the North Sea in about 37 feet of water. The tower was built upon with ship (barge) and it became a Royal Navy Sea Fort in WWII. There were British Army towers which were built upon the sea bed, but Rough Tower is built upon a ship.
The Royal Navy has never abandoned this ship. Nor has the Royal Navy ever sold this ship to anyone. A Royal Navy ship which sinks is still the property of the UK. In this case the sinking was intentional. The armed forces were removed and buoys were set around it by the Ministry of Defence and they are still there. They are paid for by British taxpayers and always have been. [John England's interpretation of the "Sealand" situation]
In 1965 Roy Bates raided the tower and took control of it. On 2nd September 1967, Roy Bates turned Rough Tower into the Principality of Sealand, a sovereign state with its own passports, postage stamps and flag.
He declared the platform to be an 'independent nation' and proclaimed himself monarch.
Later that year the Royal Navy attempted to remove him from the structure but abandoned the attempt when they were met with warning shots fired from the tower. Following this incident legal action was brought against him by the government but was subsequently dropped when the courts ruled that they had no jurisdiction outside British territorial waters.
During 1978 Sealand was invaded by some Germans who then proceeded to claim ownership of the fort. Roy launched a counter-offensive, capturing a German prisoner in the process which necessitated the German Embassy to send an envoy to negotiate his release. 'King' Roy and 'Queen' Joan still occupy the site periodically and have put considerable effort into having its independence internationally recognised. This cause was dealt a blow in 1987 when the U.K. extended its territorial waters from 3 miles to 12 miles. Their current claim depends on whether it can be legally established that its independency was recognised before that date, in which the 1967 court ruling seems to lie in their favour.
During early 2000 Spanish police brought action against criminals that had set up a website selling fake Sealand 'passports' which are suspected of having been used by illegal arms and drug-dealing rings. One of these fake 'passports' was also encountered by police investigating the murder of fashion mogul Gianni Versace.
In June of 2000 an Anguillan-based company called HavenCo announced preliminary plans to locate its servers and satellite uplinks on the Sealand platform provided its independent status could be validated. The purpose of this is to allow companies using its servers to avoid the government scrutiny which will be made possible by laws shortly to be taken up by the U.K. and U.S.A. although HavenCo insist that it will not allow any form of illegal trading. Sealand, of course, has no laws regarding the control of data traffic.[Souce]
Planned offshore radio stations: After BBMS (Britain's Better Music Station) having closed down due to lack of funds in December 1966, all the transmitting equipment was transferred from the Knock John tower to Rough Tower, but the station never restarted.
Another project was being planned in 1988. It was based on using Rough Tower as a transmitter base to receive and relay Astra satellite transmissions which would be transmitted on MW in English and Dutch and FM in English plus a TV service (not the 'Sealand Channel 5' service which was planned earlier but never happened). The transmitters were going to be bought from Ben Bode as they had been retrieved from the Paradijs/Magda Maria project.
The radio programmes were going to be sourced from:
- Radio Nova, which was based at Chris Cary's operation in Camberley at his Eurotech 'factory' (where the first 'Caroline' satellite broadcast originated from).
- Radio Radio (Cary's planned satellite channel for piping into pubs and clubs) [both re-transmitted on MW and FM in English)
- Dutch Cable services Cable One and Radio 10 Gold [re-transmitted on MW in Dutch]
There was also going to be a TV service called Star Channel relaying MTV initially.
Those involved were Dick Palmer, Chris Carey, Brian McKenzie and Michael Bates (son of Roy) plus others including Mike Barrington who was acting as caretaker on the fort. Mike had helped Dick doing some measuring up and clearing a site for the mast and so on.
Location: Thames Estuary (51° 53' 40.8" latitude north, 1° 28' 56.7" longitude east)