Tuesday 15 November 2011

British military disasters 2 - the defeat of Boudicca AD 60 or 61

Less than 20 years after they won the Battle of the Medway, the Romans had managed to provoke a large-scale British revolt by their arrogance.    After their ally, the East Anglian king Prasutagus died, they seized all his property, and when his family protested, they raped his daughters and flogged his widow, Boudicca.

She rose in revolt, attracting the support of other tribes the Romans had upset, and burned down Colchester, London and St Albans.    Then she headed north to try to destroy the army led by the Roman governor Suetonius.

Somewhere along Watling Street, now the A5, probably in the West Midlands, she came upon them.   The Romans numbered around 10,000, while Boudicca’s host was estimated by some at nearly a quarter of a million, though many of these were women and children who had tagged along to see the enemy defeated.

Suetoninus, though, chose his ground very carefully, packing his men into a narrow gorge protected on either side by forest.  First they hurled their javelins at the Britons advancing uphill, then they pushed forward in their famous v-shaped wedge and routed the enemy, killing them in their thousands.   Boudicca took poison, and the revolt collapsed.

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