IF you sailed a few kilometres off the coast off Harwich, you would discover a tiny territory the size of two tennis courts with a dramatic history.

Based six nautical miles off the coast is the Royal Naval fortress known as Sealand, founded by Roy Bates, from Thorpe Bay, in 1967.

Sealand was originally known as Roughs Tower, an offshore platform in the North Sea, built in 1942 to protect the port of Harwich from the Germans.

During the 1960s, Mr Bates, who died in 2012, set up Radio Essex, a pirate radio station in the Knock John forts in the Thames Estuary.

After being prosecuted under the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act, Mr Bates moved his family to the Roughs Tower fort.

The Royal Navy tried to have him removed, but a court ruled Sealand was not part of England or any other nation and he was allowed to remain.

In August 1978, Alexander Achenbach, who described himself as the Prime Minister of Sealand, hired several German and Dutch mercenaries to attack Sealand while Roy and Joan Bates and his wife were away from the platform.

They stormed Sealand with speedboats, jet skis and helicopters, and took Bates' son Michael hostage. Michael was able to retake Sealand and capture Achenbach and the mercenaries using weapons stashed on the platform. Achenbach, a German lawyer who held a Sealand passport, was charged with treason against Sealand[8] and was held unless he paid £23,000 but he was released weeks later.

In happier times, couple Gordon Wilkinson and Karen Huxtable had their wedding on Sealand, and were married by Vicar of Sealand, Reverend James Howard Chelton.

Images show the happy couple being wed on the platform before being lowered down to the sea in an inflatable to start their honeymoon. 

Just last year, the self-proclaimed Princess of Sealand, Joan Bates, died aged 86.

Mrs Bates died at a nursing home in Leigh following a long illness.

She leaves behind her daughter Penny, 66, and son Michael, 63, who features in our old photos.

Speaking to the Standard last year, Mrs Bates’s grandson James, 29, paid tribute to her, recalling listening to amazing tales as he grew up.

He said: “Grandma was lovely and full of life. She was always immaculately turned out and very glamorous.

“She modelled for all sorts of companies.”

Take a look through our old pictures of Sealand and share your memories below.