Born 1921 to Harry and Lilyan Bates, Roy was born to be an adventurer. The only surviving child of five siblings who all died as baby’s or in early childhood. At the age of 15 he made his way to the Spanish civil war to join the international brigade seeking adventure, eventually returning to the UK via Gibraltar. He then took up an apprenticeship at Smithfield meat market with Lord Vesty intending to go to Argentina and run cattle ranches for him.
With the advent of the Second World War he joined up at the nearest recruiting office and by the end of the war was an infantry Major in the First Battalion Royal Fusiliers City of London Regiment. He served in the 8th India division. Seeing action in Africa, Italy, Iraq, Syria and several other spheres of conflict. At one point he was a prisoner of war on a plane that crashed on the island of Rhodes. While trying to make good his escape he was captured stealing a fishing boat by the Fascista and later rescued from execution by firing squad by a passing German officer.
He took part in the hard-fought battle for the mountain top monastery of Monte Casino where the Germans fiercely held back the allied advance north through Italy towards Rome.
He said the army would send you to the dessert in warm clothes and to the cold mountains of Italy in shorts. Wounded several times, captured twice and contracting malaria, sand fly fever, frostbite and bitten by a snake to mention but a few of his wartime injuries. After one horrific wound when a German stick grenade exploded near him smashing his jaw and embedding shrapnel in his face, the army surgeon told him he would have to get used to the idea of never having girlfriends or a wife as he would be so badly disfigured. His wounds healed and he met his wife to be Joan, a stunning beauty. He claimed to have enjoyed the war and was immensely proud to have served King and country defending the four corners of the British empire. He once said that despite the paradox of him breaking away from the UK with Sealand, he would do it all again if his mother country needed him.
After the war he imported meat by the train load from Southern Ireland to the rationed North. He imported latex from Malaysia to manufacture swim fins. He then went on to build up an inshore fishing fleet on the Essex coast. He had a chain of butcher shops, a wholesale meat depot and at one time an estate agent. In the mid-60’s he became fascinated by the “Pirate Radio” phenomena and started Radio Essex on the Knock John forts. Later, after being prosecuted under the Marine offenses act, he moved his family to the Roughs Towers seven and a half miles off Felixstowe in the North Sea. Roy declared independence from the UK on the fortress island and named it the “Principality of Sealand“, bestowing on his beloved wife Joan on her birthday 2nd September 1967 the title of Princess in what was a hugely romantic gesture.
Many adventures were to follow including run in’s with the British government and terrorist attacks. He had periods of wealth and times of hardship but he gave in to nothing and nobody.
In an 80’s television interview he said “I might die young or I might die old, but I will never die of boredom” passing away quietly after several years of debilitating Alzheimer’s Roy leaves his widow Joan, son Michael and Daughter Penny.
The phrase larger than life does not even begin to describe him. He will be greatly missed.