HM Fort Roughs

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HM Fort Roughs, also known as Roughs Tower
The stages involved in sinking of the naval fort.
The locations of the seven Maunsell Forts off the east coast of England with HM Fort Roughs top right.

HM Fort Roughs was one of several World War II installations that were designed by Guy Maunsell and known collectively as His Majesty's Forts or as Maunsell Sea Forts; its purpose was to guard the port of Harwich, Essex, and more broadly, the Thames estuary. This 4500 ton artificial naval installation is similar in some respects to "fixed" offshore oil platforms. It is situated on Rough Sands, a sandbar located approximately six miles from the coast of Suffolk and eight miles from the coast of Essex. Today it is the location of the self-proclaimed and unrecognised state, the Principality of Sealand.[1]

History[edit]

1942: Construction, positioning, occupation[edit]

As a contemporary historical society notes,[2] Fort Roughs or the "Rough Towers" was "the first of originally 4 naval forts designed by G. Maunsell to protect the Thames Estuary." The artificial sea fort was constructed in dry dock at Red Lion Wharf, Gravesend,[2] in the year preceding and into 1942.[citation needed]

This artificial naval installation is similar in some respects to early "fixed" offshore oil platforms.[citation needed] It consisted of a rectangular 168 foot by 88 foot re-enforced concrete pontoon base with a support superstructure of two 60 foot tall, 24 foot diameter hollow re-enforced concrete towers, each ~3.5 inches thick; overall weight is estimated to have been approximately 4500 tons.[2] The twin concrete supporting towers were divided into seven floors, four for crew quarters;[2] the remainder provided dining, operational, and storage areas, e.g., for several generators, and for fresh water tanks and antiaircraft munitions.[citation needed] There was a steel framework at one end supporting a landing jetty and crane which was used to hoist supplies aboard;[citation needed] the wooden landing stage itself became known as a "dolphin".[2]

The towers were joined above the eventual waterline by a steel platform deck upon which other structures could be added; this became a gun deck, on which an upper deck and a central tower unit were constructed.[2] Anti-aircraft guns were positioned at each end of this main deck, with a further two Bofors anti-aircraft guns and the central tower radar installations atop a central living area that contained a galley, medical, and officers quarters.[2] Specifically, the armament referred to above consisted of 3.75 inch AA guns and Bofors 40 mm guns—the standard medium and light anti-aircraft weaponry of the British and Commonwealth forces.[citation needed]

On 11 February 1942 the fort was towed by three tugs to a location on Rough Sands,[citation needed] approximately 10 miles off the Harwich seafront;[2] its base was then intentionally flooded so that it sank in about 37 feet of water,[2] coming to rest on the sandbar.[citation needed] At that time Rough Sands was situated in international waters, but the superstructure of the vessel above the waterline remained visible from the coastline of England.[citation needed]

HM Fort Roughs was in operation within 30 minutes of being launched: the crew had been aboard during the fitting out in harbour and were well acquainted with the fort's equipment.[citation needed] Approximately 100 men were assigned to the barge before deployment on Rough Sands; thereafter, the fort was occupied by 150–300 Royal Navy personnel, which continued throughout World War II.[citation needed] At the conclusion of hostilities all original personnel were evacuated from HM Fort Roughs.[citation needed]

1956: Removal of full-time HMG personnel from Roughs Tower[edit]

British government official entities used Roughs Tower for a variety of purposes until 1956 when all full-time personnel were finally removed. Roughs Tower remained identified by name on buoys placed in position by the Ministry of Defence which are maintained under an arrangement with Trinity House. Their purpose is to warn vessels of this obstacle, especially in time of fog because busy shipping lanes criss-crossed the area with vessels going to and from the container Port of Felixstowe, Suffolk, and the Port of Harwich, Essex. UK Ordnance Survey now identify the former sea barge fort as Roughs Tower on their charts.

1966: Occupation[edit]

In 1966 Paddy Roy Bates, who operated Radio Essex, and Ronan O'Rahilly, who operated Radio Caroline, landed on Fort Roughs and occupied it. However, after disagreements, Roy Bates seized the tower as his own. O'Rahilly attempted to storm the fort in 1967, but Roy Bates defended the fort with guns and petrol bombs and continued to occupy the fort. The British Royal Marines went on alert and the British Authorities ordered Roy Bates to surrender. In his refusal, Roy Bates founded the Principality of Sealand on 2 September 1967.[3]

Location[edit]

Bob Le-Roi's Fort Fanatics webpage stated on 28 Sep 2011 that modern charts (not available online) using the WGS84 coordinates normally used for GPS, showed the fort at 51°53.71′N 1°28.83′E (i.e. 51°53′42.6″N 1°28′49.8″E). Maritime charts are normally considered more authoritative than land maps for location of maritime obstructions, so those coordinates are chosen for this article.[original research?] The fort can also be found online on UK government Ordnance Survey maps at grid reference TM3964227615, within 100 m, and on OpenStreetMap within 200 m, of the chart location 51°53′42.6″N 1°28′49.8″E / 51.895167°N 1.480500°E / 51.895167; 1.480500. OpenStreetMap notes that the structure includes a helipad.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Frank Jacobs (March 20, 2012). "All Hail Sealand". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i The Harwich Society, 2014, "The Rough Towers: Fort Specifications," see [1], accessed 14 October 2014.
  3. ^ Ryan, John; George Dunford; Simon Sellars (2006). Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations. Lonely Planet. ISBN 1-74104-730-7. 

Coordinates: 51°53′42.6″N 1°28′49.8″E / 51.895167°N 1.480500°E / 51.895167; 1.480500