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Secret government Sealand revelations

PUBLISHED: 14:40 31 December 2008 | UPDATED: 12:52 09 March 2010

Sealand

Sealand

NEW declassified secret government papers today reveal for the first time that Whitehall officials would have demolished the independent state of Sealand - if ever its owners left it unoccupied.

NEW declassified secret government papers today reveal for the first time that Whitehall officials would have demolished the independent state of Sealand - if ever its owners left it unoccupied.

Despite publicly ignoring the principality - which stands just seven miles off Felixstowe - for the past 40 years and denying its existence, Foreign Office officials were secretly plotting against it.

The papers released under the 30-year rule by the National Archive at Kew Gardens show in 1978 Sealand's rulers landed the government in the middle of a diplomatic incident with Germany and Holland which made Britain determined to get rid of the upstart mini-state.

In August 1978, Prince Roy of Sealand, Maj Roy Bates, was away on business trying to tie up a £35m deal to create a hotel and casino complex.

An armed raiding party of Germans and Dutch stormed the tower - one of seven occasions it had been attacked but the only successful invasion - and captured its only occupant, Michael Bates, Prince Roy's son.

At dawn on August 16, Maj Bates recaptured his kingdom with a daring swoop, sliding down 100ft ropes from a helicopter like 007, before engaging in hand-to-hand combat with the invaders.

After successfully reclaiming the mini-state, the invaders were sent packing. Some were held as prisoners of war initially and then released - except one.

An international row erupted because Gernot Putz, a 34-year-old German lawyer and Sealand passport holder, was thrown into Sealand's jail, charged with treason - and held for seven weeks before receiving a royal pardon.

The newly-released papers reveal both Germany and Holland wrote to the British government to complain strongly about their countrymen being held on Sealand, the former war-time gun emplacement Roughs Tower, asking officials to intervene.

Although Sealand was outside UK territorial waters and the Foreign Office was powerless, the Germans said the imprisonment of Putz “is in a way an act of piracy, committed on the high sea but still in front of British territory by British citizens”.

The papers show the incident sparked British anger with secret plans being put in place to demolish Sealand if the Bates family should ever leave it unmanned.

It even provoked debate in the House of Lords, with members being told “all options” were being considered over how to deal with the former fort.

Sealand officials said Prince Roy released the prisoners under the Geneva Convention because the war was over. Sealand had been aware Germany and Holland had petitioned Britain for help but the government's earlier decision that its courts could not deal with incidents on the mini-state meant it could do nothing.

“Then, in an act of de facto recognition of Sealand's sovereignty, Germany sent a diplomat directly to Sealand to negotiate for the release of their citizen,” said a spokesman.

n. Do you think Sealand should be left alone? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: Sealand timeline

1942: Roughs Tower built - a 4,500 ton twin-towered anti-aircraft gun emplacement at a cost of £1 million.

1967: Kingdom of Sealand declared after the Battle of Roughs Tower.

1968: Flag, currency, stamps and passports issued.

1969: Increasingly anxious British government offers £5,000 for fort so it can be demolished - Major Bates 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.

1979: First wedding held on Sealand.

1980s: Plans announced to reclaim land to create North Sea holiday island, to launch Sealand Radio and Sealand TV - but cash problems scupper schemes.

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

1998: It was feared that forged Sealand passports were being used for money laundering.

2000: Sealand at centre of global terrorist investigation.

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

2006: Fire rips through one of the towers after a generator explodes - crowds watch anxiously from Felixstowe seafront.

2007: Tenancy of Sealand put up for sale for £65 million offering people a chance to run their own island.

2008: Plans announced to launch an offshore internet casino.


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