Armies in Britain from the 7th Century to the Danish conquest in 1016
After the collapse of Foederate Roman (and Post Roman British) hegemony in Britain, waves of Saxon invaders, settlers and mercenaries flocked to the UK in search of homes, jobs and to sponge off the most generous benefit system in Western Europe safe in the knowledge that a lack of ID cards and a generally rough and hairy aggressive mien would make them safe from deportation.
Eventually these Saxons took power, often as the Britons displaced into a selection of holiday homes in Brittany in modern day France, presumably as cheap flights to Tuscany and the Loire Valley hadn't yet been invented. Throughout the seventh and eighth centuries, power fluctuated between the larger Saxon kingdoms. Bede records Aethelbert of Kent as being dominant at the close of the sixth century, but power seems to have shifted northwards to the kingdom of Northumbria. Succession crises meant Northumbrian hegemony was not constant, and Mercia remained a very powerful kingdom, especially under Penda. Two defeats essentially ended Northumbrian dominance: the Battle of the Trent (679) against Mercia, and Nechtanesmere (685) against the Later Pictish. The so-called 'Mercian Supremacy' dominated the 8th century, though again was not constant. Aethelbald and Offa, the two most powerful kings, achieved high status and Offa was considered the overlord of south Britain by Carolingian Frankish Charlemagne. That Offa could summon the resources to build Offa's Dyke is testament to his power. However, a rising Wessex, and challenges from smaller kingdoms, kept Mercian power in check, and by the end of the 8th century the 'Mercian Supremacy', if it existed at all, was over.
The first recorded Viking attack in Britain was in 793 at Lindisfarne monastery as given by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. However, by then the Vikings were almost certainly well established in Orkney and Shetland and it is probable that many other non-recorded raids occurred before this. The arrival of the Vikings, in particular the Danish Great Heathen Army (cool name huh?) upset the political and social geography of Britain and Ireland. Alfred the Great's victory at Edington in 878 stemmed the Danish attack however, by then Northumbria had devolved into Bernicia and a Viking kingdom, Mercia had been split down the middle, and East Anglia ceased to exist as an Anglo-Saxon polity. The Vikings had similar effects on the various kingdoms of the Later Scots-Irish, Early Scots, Later Pictish and (to a lesser extent) Early Welsh. Various alliances between the Viking Kingdom of York and Dublin rose and fell.
The important development of the ninth century was the rise of the Kingdom of Wessex. Though not without setbacks, by the end of Alfred's reign (899) the West Saxon kings came to rule what had previously been Wessex, Sussex and Kent. Cornwall (Kernow) was subject to West Saxon dominance, and several kings of the more southerly Welsh kingdoms recognised Alfred as their overlord, as did western Mercia under Alfred's son-in-law Ã†thelred. Alfred of Wessex died in 899 and was succeeded by his son Edward who fought off Danish Viking attacks and began a programme of expansion. By 918 Edward had gained control of the whole of England south of the Humber and Edward's son Ã†thelstan was the first king to achieve direct rulership of the whole of England following his conquest of Northumbria in 927. He defeated an attempt to reverse the conquest of Northumbria by a combined ((((Early Scots-Viking)) army at the Battle of Brunanburh. However, after his death the unification of England was repeatedly contested.
There were renewed Viking attacks on England in the final decade of the 10th century, coinciding with the start of the reign of Ã†thelred "the Unready". Ã†thelred ruled a long reign (in all, 38 years), but ultimately lost his kingdom to the ((Viking) Sweyn of Denmark, though he recovered it following the latter's death. However, Ã†thelred's eldest son Edmund II Ironside died shortly after him allowing Cnut the Great (careful how you say that one), Sweyn's son, to become king of England which then became part of a Viking empire stretching from Denmark to Ireland.
The typical battle-plan involved both sides forming shield walls to protect against the launching of missiles, and standing slightly out of range of each other. Then, individual warriors would run forward from the ranks to gain velocity for their javelin throws. This made them vulnerable due to their being exposed, having left the protection of the shield wall, and there was a chance of being killed by a counter throw from the other side. The disciplined volley-throwing of javelins, followed by an immediate charge home as practiced by the Romans seems not to have been common, likely due to the non-professional, levied nature of armies of the time.
Sometimes individuals or groups fighting over bodies might come to sword blows between the two shield walls. At close quarters, swords and shields were preferred over thrusting spears. Ideally, however, enough damage would be done to the enemy through the launching of missiles, so that any shield-to-shield fighting would be a mopping-up operation rather than an exhausting and risky push back and forth at close quarters.
However, when there were fewer javelins handy to throw or to throw back at the enemy, and no side had yet turned and fled, the battle could come to close order combat with sword and shield. The shield was used as much for offense as the sword was, to unbalance and push the opponent down, making him vulnerable to being stabbed, kicked and cut, and to thereby open a breach in the shield wall exposing those of his mates on either side of him to unprotected death. Hacking through shields was often a sound tactic, so having a strong sword arm and a sturdy sword were of great benefit for the fight. At the initial rushing together of the ranks, jumping forward into the enemy with the shield held in front was a preferred tactic, as was leaping up, resting a foot on the opponent's shield boss, and striking or stabbing the enemy's unprotected back with one's sword.
Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West 450-900 by Guy Halsall is specifically mentioned in the Army list text as being a key reference book for this period.
- Its a wall of protected offensive spear, best taken in big blobs so the addition of generals can boost their staying power.
- The dismounting cavalry may look like an expensive way to get more spearmen, but they allow you to boost unit count (in 4's) and provide rear support for your infantry units (as 4's) as well as adding a superior stiffener to the battle line - all of which are very valuable.
- The Vikings are an interesting addition as an ally.
- Middle Anglo-Saxons DBA Figure Gallery for this army - from Fanaticus
- Middle Anglo-Saxons DBA Figure Gallery for this army - from Fanaticus
- put the link text readers will see in here write some more detail about the link here
- Viking From 1012 Wolves from the Sea 40 Large numbers of protected offensive spear, and a hard-core of optional ones with armour or heavy weapon
- Welsh, Early Before 700 Wolves from the Sea 9 MF protected light spear swordsmen and 4 cavalry.
- Paint schemes, insignia, shield designs? Put it here.
You can see some of the figures in the Ancients Photo Gallery also on this site
- Essex Miniatures - Saxon range
- Donnington Anglo Saxon ranges amongst others around this era.
- Gladiator Miniatures by Fighting 15's (Gladiator Games) generic dark age ranges
- Old Glory Anglo Saxon & Jute ranges
- Magister Militum (includes former Chariot ranges) Navigators dark ages ranges include Saxons
- Museum Vikings is about as close as it gets
- Minifigs UK figures for this era in their dark ages section
- Lancashire Games worth looking at their Saxons
- Irregular Miniatures Have a Saxon range
- QRF Models (Feudal Castings & Friekorps ranges) Vikings and Saxons.
- Tin Soldier Saxons.
- 2 Dragons Vikings Anglo-Saxons, Slavs, Carolingians & Normans may have approriate figures
- Khurasan - newish Anglo-Saxons and Frankish / Dark Ages ranges
- Viking Forge Franks & Vikings, late Saxons
- Isarus their Saxons and maybe Goths work
- Camelot Games (Italy) Vikings maybe ?
- MY Miniatures Saxons
- Miniature Wars Dark Age Franks
- Splintered Light Characterful Romano British & Early Saxon ranges will work - they have war dogs too!
- Baueda Viking range for some characters?
- Outpost have a dedicated Saxon range
- Jacobite Miniatures via Stronghold Saxon range online
- Donnington have some "New Era" (ie brand new) Viking and Irish castings
Sample army lists for this army
Name of Army / Date
- Using asterisks inthe edit mode creates a bulleted list in the actual site
- This is a lot easier to do than easier than setting up tables
- For FoG I suggest listing your army in order or march
- with troop desctiptions on each line, for example
- 4 HF Armoured Average Drilled Impact Foot Swordsmen
- 8 LG Undrilled Unarmoured Poor Bowen
- Dont forget to include your Generals !!!
Include any notes you want here, including comments on how to use - or play against - the army.
Remember to leave a line before you copy the above section as a template for your own list