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“On Christmas Eve of 1966, Paddy Roy Bates, a retired British army major, drove a small boat with an outboard motor seven miles off the coast of England into the North Sea. He had sneaked out of his house in the middle of the night, inspired with a nutty idea for a perfect gift for his wife, Joan.
Using a grappling hook and rope, he clambered onto an abandoned anti-aircraft platform and declared it conquered. He later named it Sealand and deemed it Joan’s.
His gift was no luxury palace. Built in the early 1940s as one of five forts that defended the Thames, the HMF (His Majesty’s Fort) Roughs Tower was a sparse, windswept hulk. “Roughs,” as the abandoned platform was popularly called, was little more than a wide deck about the size of two tennis courts set atop two hollow, concrete towers, 60 feet above the ocean. But Roy claimed his brutalist outpost with the utmost gravity, as seriously as Cortés or Vasco da Gama.
In its wartime heyday, Roughs had been manned by more than a hundred British seamen and armed with anti-aircraft guns, some of whose barrels stretched longer than 15 feet to take better aim at Nazi bombers. When the defeat of the Germans rendered the station obsolete, it was abandoned by the Royal Navy. Unused and neglected, it fell into disrepair, a forlorn monument to British vigilance.”
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