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There was never a dull moment and Ronan relied on me more and more to get involved with his schemes. The Roughs Tower was one such scheme.

This was an abandoned World War Two anti-aircraft fort some four miles off the coast of East Anglia.  Ronan took possession in 1966 and spent a fortune cutting loose the old AA guns, tossing them into the water and building a helicopter landing pad with the intention of establishing radio and television transmitters on board. We had arranged for a light helicopter to take us out for the very first landing on the Roughs Tower.  The two seat helicopter arrived, with an exotic black and gold paint job complete with Oriental symbols.  It had just returned from Japan where it had starred in a James Bond movie! (Remember the scene where it rose from the depths of a volcano!)  

​So Ronan went out for the first landing in the James Bond helicopter!  The pilot dropped him off and came back to Southend airport for me.  By this time the fog had started rolling in, but we took-off anyway.  After flying around for half-an-hour, right down on the water in the fog, we couldn’t find the tower and headed back to Southend airport.  No contact was possible, so Ronan spent the night on the Roughs Tower all alone. First light the next morning we took off, expecting to find a totally distraught Ronan.  To the contrary, very calm. Had a great night’s sleep and firm in the belief that we would come out for him!

After our visit, we kept two men on the Roughs Tower at all times, since possession on the high seas equalled ownership.They continued to work cleaning up the whole structure, particularly inside the hollow concrete legs, which had enough rooms to sleep a hundred people. A few weeks later one of the men had an unfortunate accident, burning himself with a welding torch. We took him off the tower and to hospital, but unfortunately, the second man came off with him, leaving the structure unoccupied.

A very few days later, we learned that another ex-pirate, Roy Bates, who had operated Radio Essex, had boarded the Roughs Tower with his own men and claimed possession, since it was abandoned and in international waters.

Ronan was naturally furious as he had spent considerable money, cleaning it up and building the helipad.  Roy Bates refused to hand it back, leaving us with no alternative, but to reclaim it with force.

Leading the invading forces Ronan had his friend, Jimmy Hoolahan, a sometime Caroline employee and an ex-heavyweight boxing champion of Ireland. Jimmy went out night after night on a tugboat, with his gang,attempting to storm the fort,but Roy Bates defended the fort with guns and petrol bombs and continued to occupy it. The British press reported the almost nightly raids and violence on the high seas, but Bates was not to be moved.

After weeks of this, the culmination was a visit to my office in Caroline House by Jimmy Houlihan. He placed on my desk a large container with a request that I take off in my plane that night and drop it onto the Roughs Tower.  When I enquired  about the contents of the container, he told me that it was a particularly deadly form of poisonous gas,  producing instant death on inhalation!   Without spelling it out in detail, I gathered that he had obtained it from a contact in the IRA.  His request was made calmly and quietly, although he was quite surprised when I said that I couldn’t possibly do that!  

So ended the saga of the Roughs Tower.  Roy Bates stayed in possession for the rest of his life, declared it a country

 - Sealand - tried to join the United Nations, sell passports and start his own currency – but that’s another tale.

In 1965/66, Roughs Tower  (now Sealand) was occupied at times on behalf of Radio Caroline. In August 1965, Jack Moore and his daughter Jane from Dovercourt were the first of these 'caretakers'

Jane recently shared her memories and some photos with the Facebook Group - Felixstowe and Offshore Radio who have kindly given us permission to include some of them in the Museum pages.

Jane Moore recalls "I was only 16 at the time and I can’t remember really how my dad got involved. I do know that a Mr. William Scadden was in the mix and he got my dad into it I believe. I went along for the ride as I was always up for a adventure.

"We went out in a tender boat ... I recall it wasn’t very big and when I had to jump from the boat to the iron ladder that went down the inside of one off the legs of the fort I was very nervous but I made it. I was told to go up and try and open the trap door which I never thought I would be able to do as it had been shut a long time but I was able to open it and my dad followed...It’s a shame all the artillery was take. They were very formidable looking guns."

"For heating we had a kerosene heater. For light we had what I now know to be a Coleman type lamp that also ran on either paraffin or kerosene. Not sure which. February was cold but more windy from what I remember. Big waves that during the daylight hours were amazing to watch roll by."

"We had a couple of scary things happen while we were out there involving the Porgy. There were two at the time. The Porgy and the Bess and I believe it was the Porgy that almost ran us down. Extremely lucky to be here to recall it...they ran between Harwich and the Hook of Holland I think. The fort is surrounded by warning buoys. Clanging bells, flashing light and sirens. One night it was very calm and dense fog and my father and I were playing cribbage. We could here an approaching boat as it was so quiet but the engine noise got louder and louder and my dad must have realized something wasn’t right and he grabbed a torch and……..a broom. Have no idea why the broom. We ran outside and now the boat was so close it loomed out of the fog. My father waved the torch and with his arm outstretched actually touched the side of the boat with the broom as it passed.

We were both shaken up and my father reported it. How or why that boat came inside all those warning buoys is not known, or at least I never heard why."

Our thanks to Felixstowe and Offshore Radio and Jane Moore for allowing us to include these memories.

More pictures can be found at  https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=felixstowe%20%26%20offshore%20radio


Roughs Tower/Sealand

Jane Moore on Roughs Tower

Jane Moore beside one of the Bofors guns on Roughs Tower

Jack Moore on Roughs Tower

Jack and Jane Moore on Roughs Tower