A RETIRED Army major who occupied a former anti-aircraft fortress off the coast of Felixstowe and declared it the sovereign principality of Sealand has died aged 91.

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The Sealand story

1942: Roughs Tower built, right.

1967: Kingdom of Sealand declared

1968: Flag, currency, stamps and passports issued

1969: British Government offers £5,000 for fort so it can be demolished – Major Roy Bates, below, stays put.

1975: Constitution for Sealand signed.

1978: Germans and Dutch raiders seize fort but Bates family and friends recapture it in surprise dawn helicopter attack.

1990: Mini-state at centre of court case after shooting incident.

1998: Fears that forged Sealand passports used for money laundering

2000: Sealand at centre of global terrorist investigation.

2002: Mini-state becomes the base for an offshore internet company.

2006: Tenancy put up for sale, offering people chance to run their own island.

2010: Principality is taken off the market.

2011: Prince Michael signs deal with literary agent to write story of Sealand.

Roy Bates, also known as Prince Roy of Sealand, established the tiny country after getting involved in the pirate radio movement of the 1960s and setting up Radio Essex on the Knock John forts in the Thames Estuary.

After being prosecuted under the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act, Mr Bates moved his family to the Roughs Tower island fort, seven-and-a-half miles off Felixstowe in the North Sea, according to his obituary on the website.

On his wife Joan’s birthday, September 2, 1967, Mr Bates declared the fort independent from the UK and bestowed her the title of “princess”.

Mr Bates passed away on Tuesday at a care home in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, according to his son Michael Bates.

He leaves behind his wife, son and daughter Penny.

In a 1980s television interview, Mr Bates said: “I might die young or I might die old, but I will never die of boredom”.

The fort, with an area of just 550 sq metres, was initially built by Britain during the Second World War to guard approaches to the Thames Estuary.

During that war, Mr Bates served in Africa, Italy, Iraq and Syria, was once taken prisoner, and suffered horrific wounds after a grenade exploded near his face, his obituary said.

After the war his wounds healed and he ran various businesses before getting involved with pirate radio and then founding Sealand.

Since declaring independence, Sealand has issued its own stamps, passports and money. Its official language is English and the Sealand Dollar has a fixed exchange rate of one US dollar, according to the country’s website.

The country has its own red, white and black flag, and a national motto of E Mare Libertas, or “From the Sea, Freedom”.

In June 2006, a fire that started in the main power generator caused an estimated £500,000 worth of damage to Sealand.

In January 2007, the island was seeking to transfer tenancy of the island to an investor, although the owners said it was technically not for sale because sovereignty cannot be sold.

Sealand’s starting price was set at £550 million and those interested in making a bid were asked to propose a project for Sealand’s future.

It is not known how much money the country received.

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