Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, August 7, 2016

North Sea Hijack

Esther, Ruth and Jennifer is a book by Jack Davies, it's about a hijack and blackmail attempt aimed at British North Sea oil production. It was later made into a film called North Sea Hijack (Renamed into Assault Force in the US... why?!). Well there's a little known episode that involved a platform in the North Sea, and it has such a charismatic cast it'd be worthy of Hollywood.

First we must skip backwards to the Second World War and the Naval Maunsell Forts I mentioned last week. One of these was emplaced at Rough Sands, and became, unsurprisingly, HM Fort Roughs. It was designated UNCLE-1, shortened to U-1. It was used until 1956 by the British government then abandoned.
HM Fort Roughs today.
Back in the 60's the national waters only extended three miles beyond the shoreline. Beyond that it was international waters, so Fort Roughs was in international waters, this proved a lucrative piece of dry land for pirate radio which had been outlawed by the Maritime Offences Act of 1967. However at the end of 1966 with the Act banning pirate radio transmissions from within the British territorial waters one of the pirate radio stations moved out to Fort Roughs, this was the famous Radio Caroline. However on Christmas Eve 1966 an Ex British Army major, Roy Bates and his son boarded Fort Roughs, grabbed the Radio Caroline's sentries air rifle and took over the tower. Later on when the Radio Caroline staff had been put ashore they returned and attempted to take over again. Bates responded with a Molotov cocktail which set the attackers boat on fire. From then on the Bates family were in control.
On the second of September 1967 Roy Bates declared the location the Principality of Sealand, an independent nation with himself and his family the royalty of the country. One of the first citizens was a German named Alexander Achenbach, who for some unspecified reason was given citizenship and the job title of Prime Minister for Life. As had been shown by the Radio Caroline incident the idea of land outside national laws was attractive to many businesses, Achenbach saw this location as an opportunity.
In August 1978 Achenbach arranged a proposition from a consortium of Dutch and German diamond merchants, they requested that Roy Bates and his wife fly to Austria to listen to a proposal. While there they met with five men who set a time for their meeting, but later never showed up.

Meanwhile at Fort Roughs the Bates’ son, Michael, was still in residence. A helicopter showed up and hovered over the fort and several German and Dutch mercenaries clambered down onto the fort armed to the teeth, Michael was quickly seized, bound and locked away. Later on a German lawyer, and citizen of Sealand, Gernot Pütz (yes, that's his real name) boarded the fort. Pütz was Achenbach’s personal lawyer. In effect it was a full blown coup.

After four days Michael was put ashore in the Netherlands where he met his father. Together they started to hatch a way to, in Roy Bates words, "[..]coup-d’étated the coup d’état!"
First they needed a way of getting to the fort. Enter one of the Bates family friends, one John Crewdson.
Crewdson was a pilot of no small skill. He'd flown one of the helicopters in the recent James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service, even appearing briefly on screen. He'd also flown one of the B-17s in the film "The War Lover". He'd also flown one of two stripped out civilian helicopters that responded to the 1953 Dutch floods when the North Sea breached the flood defences, drowning 1300 people. In the subsequent relief operations, he rescued 76 people, transported two tons of emergency supplies and ferried forty four medical staff about.
Crewdson doing a pass in "The War Lover"
As you can see Crewdson was no stranger to low level flying. He put this to good use by flying alongside a passenger ferry, using the bulk of the ship to keep him from observation by the Sealand rebels. Then at the last moment he popped up over the ferry and raced in at full throttle coming to a hover over the fort. As Michael and Roy fast roped down, the rebels began to race out of the tower to repel boarders.
As Michael landed he stumbled and hit the floor, he was carrying a sawn off shotgun which accidentally discharged. The blast shocked the rebels who immediately surrendered. The coup was over.
From the left: Michael Bates, Joan Bates, Roy Bates and John Crewdson,
The rebels were mostly released apart from Pütz, who held a Sealand passport, and so was considered a traitor, and tried. A German diplomat flew out to Sealand to try to bargain for Pütz' release. Roy Bates set the release fee at 75,000 Deutsche Marks. Later on Roy Bates released Pütz, saying they'd all become a bit tired of him.
Achenbach set up the Sealand Government in Exile after his failed coup

Roy Bates died on 9th of October 2012, his wife on 10th March 2016, and John Crewdson died when his helicopter crashed into a sand bank on 26th June 1983.

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