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Battle of the Medway Area Today

A map of the area around the battle positions

Battle of the Medway summary

The Battle of the Medway took place in 43 CE on the River Medway in the lands of the Iron Age tribe of the Cantiaci, now the English county of Kent.

  1. The Roman army was led by Aulus Plautius while the British by tribes united under the command of Togodumnus and his brother Caratacus of the Catuvellauni tribe. The British having tasted Roman arms before in two skirmishes, which they lost, decided to use the Medway river as a strong defensive position.
  2. The Battle started with the Batavians (Roman Auxiliaries) crossing the river in full equipment. Then the Batavians attacked the British rear and wounded the horses that pulled their chariots. This way most British charioteers were forced to become infantry.
  3. The British force was spread out thinly along the whole riverbank. After the loss of many horses they had no fast moving reserve.
  4. Plautius sent the II Legion, led by Vespasian to cross the river.
  5. Vespasian established a small bridgehead on the far bank.
  6. With Vespasian at the other side of the river the British were taken by surprise seeing not just auxiliaries but fully armed legionaries in close proximity. Plautious now sent more troops to cross the river and attack.
  7. The British withdrew to higher ground and spent the night.
  8. On the second day the Romans attacked again. A daring advance by Gnaeus Hosidius Geta almost led to his capture by the British.
  9. Roman troops retaliated and they put the Britons to flight.
  10. Togodumnus was killed in the fighting, or died soon after. Perhaps the two brothers had decided that he should lead the last stand whilst his brother Caratacus left the battlefield to regroup the remaining British forces and fight another day.