In 1943, the British set up a naval fortress about 7 nautical miles off the coast of Suffolk. It was built to house around 300 soldiers and ward off German aircraft trying to damage England during World War II. The fortress never really saw any military activity and in 1956, the British abandoned it. Fort Roughs was from that point on, technically unowned. Fast forward to 1967, when Roy Bates took the unoccupied fortress by force. Roy Bates was a pirate radio man, meaning he was an illegal broadcaster on the airways (he ran Britain’s Better Music Station). When he decided to take over Fort Roughs, one of his first actions was to declare the small concrete structure a sovereign nation.
Because of British law at the time, Bates’ Hail Mary was a success, and because of the distance from British shores, Fort Roughs was rebranded as “The Principality of Sealand”, with Roy as Prince Roy of Sealand. The true birth of Sealand was actually the next year, when Prince Roy’s son, Prince Michael, took some potshots at engineers surveying the waters near the base. Evidently because the engineers were making catcalls at Princess Penny, Michael decided that shooting at them “to scare them off” was the best course of action. When he was arrested and brought to court, the British court let him off Scott-free because their courts had no jurisdiction over Sealand.
Now with the backing of precedence and the British courts, Sealand was in theory, a real micronation. Roy and his wife took to giving it an anthem, a currency, stamps, passports, all the little amenities that a real country would have. In 1978, when Roy and his wife were away from Sealand, a German lawyer named Alexander Achenbach declared himself the prime minister of Sealand and raided the fort with a handful of Dutch mercenaries. Landing in a helicopter, the men took Prince Michael captive for several days before releasing him to Prince Roy. The first invasion of Sealand appeared a success from the outside.
Michael and Roy Bates, however, did not give up. The two men hired a helicopter pilot who had worked on the James Bond franchise and struck back to take their ancestral home back. Sweeping in under the wind at first light of dawn, the men rappelled down onto Sealand’s soil (concrete), and took back their home with a sawed off shotgun and a pistol. Achenbach and the Dutch were taken prisoner, which led to the second time Sealand became a recognized nation. When the nations asked the UK to get their citizens back from Sealand, the British answered that they had no sovereignty in affairs that happened in Sealand. German officials were forced to send a host of diplomats to Sealand to deal with Prince Roy, further cementing Sealand’s status as a “semi-nation”. Achenbach immediately went about setting up the “Sealand Rebel Government” in Germany when he returned, billing it as the one true government of Sealand living out its time in exile. The last time the nation was semi-recognized as a real nation was during the 1982 Falkland War. Argentina and the UK were in a spat over the little group of islands off the coast of Argentina. During the 10 week war, Argentina attempted to purchase Sealand from Prince Roy to use as a military deterrence against the Brits during their conflict.
Food for thought: Sealand is currently for sale. For only around $900,000,000 anyone could own a sort-of-nation that has been invaded by less than 10 men twice.
Citations, I can’t actually make this stuff up: