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Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand.
So... Dunstable.


Still my favoured location - although, as John says, this is all strictly hypothetical!

As you know, I've already given my reasons for supporting a northward withdrawal from London here.

The main points in favour of Dunstable in particular are as follows:

1) The site is the closest defensible upland position to London and blocks a major route north. It allows reinforcement from and strategic movement towards the west (Iknield/Akeman), north (Watling) and east (Iknield). It's also on familiar territory for Paulinus and his troops, and commands their route home to their base and families at Wroxeter.

2) The site is only 9 miles from St Albans, the last known position of the rebels. Bringing both slow-moving forces to the battlefield would not present any logistical difficulties. The site further allows Paulinus to keep within observation range of the British (which fits with the ‘Fabian’ delay strategy), rather than retreating constantly and hoping they chase him...

3) The topography matches Tacitus’s description. The Roman line occupies a defile feature with rising ground to either side, which opens ahead of them onto a level plain bordered by hills. There are no rivers or obstructions on the plain. The high ground flanking the Roman line has steep escarpments on both sides to the north-west, making it difficult to outflank, and the area behind it was very probably wooded in antiquity.


To these points I would add the following two, addressing particular issues raised more recently in this thread:

4) Nineteen Roman or pre-Roman wells have been found in the vicinity of Dunstable, together with natural springs fed by two working aquifers - Manshead Archaeological Society estimate these springs could have supplied sufficent water for a force of c10,000 men. Evidence from the continent suggests that springs could be used to supply water to Roman forces camping in the field.

5) There are a number of Roman ditches and other earthworks around the site of modern Dunstable. One in particular (Pastscape Monument 359980) is a straight ditch 7ft 6 inches wide and 3 deep, containing first century debris, and possibly predates the establishment of the town itself. Tenuous perhaps, but if this is a Roman marching camp ditch, the camp could have been laid out in the angle of Watling street and Iknield, or across Watling itself, and directed southwards towards an enemy advancing from London.


Meanwhile, I've recently revised my hypothetical plan of the Dunstable position. My original version (here) had the British baggage train parked in the southern approach to the site, around 2kms from the Roman line. This made for a long thin battle plan.

However, it occurs to me that the British carts must have been much closer to the Roman position, as the Romans would need to charge all that distance – how far could you run, in full armour with shield, on a summer’s day, fighting all the way, and still have the energy to slaughter thousands? Well under a mile, I suspect.

I’ve therefore moved the British carts up closer to the Roman position, which also allows them to spread out onto the slopes to either side (much better view of the battle!), but further constricts escape routes from the site. This also, coincidentally, makes the 'plain' more obvious!

The diagonal red lines are range markers, measured from the Roman position. 300m would be maximum effective bowshot. 500m would be well out of range of anything the Romans could shoot. The initial clashes of the battle would happen within 30m or so of the Roman line.

I’ve roughly erased most modern developments from the map where possible, and I’ve patched in woods to the north-west. As I’ve said, this area was very probably wooded at the time.

Anyway - see what you think:

   


I've given Paulinus four cohorts of auxiliary infantry and four alae of cavalry (one of which could have been made up of equites from several cohortes equitatae, as suggested by Arrian).

Potential problems for this plan include:

1) the woods to the north-east (Little John's/Castlecroft) might block the Roman cavalry attack into the valley. However, while the north-western slopes of Chilterns were heavily wooded, on these slopes the woods may have been in pockets, as they appear to be today. So the cavalry could have found a route through – and the woods would screen their deployment from the Britons on the slopes below...

2) There are lateral oblique valleys providing a route up onto the higher ground from the road to the south. These have obliged me to position strong cavalry forces on the heights, which I think would deter any attempted outflanking moves from this direction. Also, there are steep escarpments to the north-west which would make getting down behind the Roman position very difficult!

Any improvement on the old plan?  Confusedmile:
Nathan Ross
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Messages In This Thread
Re: Calling all armchair generals! - by Ensifer - 03-11-2010, 03:13 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-18-2012, 06:26 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 12:02 AM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 02:50 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 05:40 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 11:26 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 05:11 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 09:42 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 10:10 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 03:11 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 03:25 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 08:36 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-26-2012, 02:57 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-27-2012, 01:50 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 08-05-2012, 02:24 PM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-07-2014, 02:18 PM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-08-2014, 01:50 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-11-2014, 02:03 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-18-2014, 07:54 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-20-2014, 02:37 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-25-2014, 08:29 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Nathan Ross - 11-07-2012, 10:10 PM

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