The Vikings-English wars are a series of ongoing conflicts on the island of Britain.
Early attacks on Northumbria 793-794
Raid on Hexham 793Ragnar would return later that year to raid Hexham, the Northumbrians tried to counter attack but were defeated at Whitley Bay.
794 raidRagnar would return again in 794 with 3 ships, traveling across the river Tyne. The campaign began well with the defeat and capture of the King's brother Aethelwulf. Ragnar uses the King's brother to bargain, the king asks Ragnar to wait so he can collect what he wants. Ragnar agrees but it's a trick and is attacked. But defeats the English and kills the king's brother.
Battles in Wessex 800Battle of Wessex. Later Ecbert offers the Northmen land and gold in exchange of helping Kwenthrith gain control of Mercia and stop their attempts at invasion. The Northmen agreed.
Battle of Mercia 803
Ragnar returns to Britain and helps Kwenthrith fight her family.battle they kill Kwenthrith's uncle, king Brihtwulf. Burgred surrenders, ending the civil war.
Ragnar returns 815Ragnar and a hand full of survivors wash up on the beach after a storm. Ragnar and his son kill the rest of the survivors and hand themselves over to Wessex. King Ebcert does not kill Ragnar and hands him over to King Aelle where he is tortured and killed.
The sons of Ragnar Lothbrook gather the largest fleet and army ever assembled by Danish lords (more than 4 000 warriors) and invade England, taking Mercia, Northumbria and Wessex in the process, before the Saxons eventually regroup and fight back under the influence of Bishop Heahmund .
After the Vikings took York and a few months after the exploits of the Heathen Army, they lured the Saxon army into a trap in which the Saxons took a severe defeat, losing almost 500 men as well as Lord Denewulf , a West Saxon noble. However, the West Saxons stayed encamped next to the city walls for several weeks, during which Ivar made them belive the Viking army was dying of starvation and dicease. Ivar then used the sewers of the town, which the Romans had built several centuries earlier, to hide his entire forces, thereby luring the Saxons into an empty town, which made them believed the Heathen Army had left Northumbria. The Great Heathen Army launched a surprise attack from the sewers in a crowded town, pushing the West Saxon forces back with heavy casualties, including Mannel, and killing several civilians too. The West Saxon army, severely depleted and having lost over 800 men, was forced to retreat to Wessex, leaving the Great Heathen Army the unquestionable master of York and of most of Northumbria.
Sack of Winchester
King Alfred's time
Following King Alfred's access to the throne of Wessex, Viking raiders increased their activities along the English coast and in the English countryside. Danish and Norse Vikings used the stronghold of York to pillage Anglo-Saxon land, using their fast and swift longships at their advantage in English rivers. Such a Danish Viking fleet was defeated by Prince Aethelred and a West Saxon army at the battle of the Alre River.
Following the Great Heathen Army's successes, the Vikings had effectively installed a stronghold in the Northumbrian city of York. A few years after the Great Heathen Army's campaign and a couple of months after his alliance with Ivar which defeated Lagertha, King Harald returned to England and recruited hundreds of warriors from the York garrison in order to attack Wessex. He formed an alliance with Jarl Olavsonn, Ivar's lieutenant in York, with whom he planned to overthrow Ivar after having attacked Wessex. However, Harald's campaign was unsucessful and ended in an important defeat following the battle of Marton during which Harald lost his new ally Jarl Olavsonn. The battle was indeed a decisive victory for the West Saxon forces and for king Alfred.
Due to the tough environments of Scandinavia and their warrior culture, the Northmen were both physically and physiologically stronger than their English counterparts. The Northmen took great pleasure from fighting and causing pain onto others, this would damage English morale and flee at the mere sight of Northman.
Their dissadvantage are their distance from home which made it difficult to provide reinforcements as well as the economies of their homelands was is such a shape that many of they could not afford better weapons and armor for most of their soldiers, which is why Ivar chooses to attack and take York, a town close to the coast, in order to make it a Danish stronghold that would allow them to raid deeper in England and attract even more warriors.
When the Great Heathen Army sweeped through England, the Danes showed formidable skills in battle and one on one combat. At the battle of Repton, they proved more tactful and subtle than the equally matched Saxon army, which was at multiple times led into confusing traps, from where Viking warriors shot arrows on them. The Saxons proved no match for the ferocious and superior Northmen, who crushed and slaughtered the disarrayed Anglo-Saxons, leaving behind them half of their army, while the other part disbanded or fled with Aethelwulf.
The Great Heathen Army was probably some 4 000 strong or more, Ivar saying he wanted an army twice the size of the army Ragnar took to Paris. Thas said, an English scout, before the battle of Repton, estimated their numbers at 4 000. As Lagertha stated, it was the biggest army that was ever sent out by the Danes. Its warriors came from different kingdoms, including Rogaland, Norway and Kattegat, and even Sweden.
Due to their pious ways, the English were less keen on fighting than the Northman and were not as good fighters. Prior to the viking raids their primary opponents had been other christians and thus were not used to the ferocity of the Norsemen. The advantage of the English were that they had a greater economy due to their lands being more fertile than the Nordic homelands. They could afford better steel and armor for their troops. The English also had a greater supply of horses which the Norsemen had trouble transporting across the sea. Moreover, the country's manpower provided thousands of troops and levies that could be called upon at any time. When the Great Heathen Army landed on the shores of Northumbria, the Saxons were taken by surprise, even though King Aelle declared that he was fully prepared for a full scale invasion. His meagre forces of some 500 men were totally obliterated at the battle of York, while he himself was tortured and killed, proving once that the poorly trained Northumbrian forces were no threat to the invaders.
Moving south to Wessex, the Danes wreaked havoc and panic across the country while the richer and vaster kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex provided thousands of soldiers, most of whom fresh levies from all around the kingdoms. Therefore, the Saxon army that was formed to counter the invaders was more of less equally matched with the Great Army, comprising between 3 000 and 4 000 men, to the notable difference that most of them were levies and therefore not very well trained soldiers while the Northmen were formidable warriors. However, the Saxon army still included quality and professional soldiers from Ecbert's own household, many of whom were horsemen.The Saxons, though not being as good soldiers as the Northmen, still benefited from the country's manpower and relied on the fyrd, a specific military force made up of peasants and farmers that owed military service whenever called upon.
After the defeat of Repton, the rest of the Saxon army disbanded or fled, giving way for the Danes to invade and take the abandoned capital of Winchester while they regrouped in the depths of Wessex. Aethelwulf went into hiding with a few retainers and one or two hundred soldiers while he came to know of Bishop Heahmund, who had his own troops and was, in the meantime, recruiting new men. The Saxon army that attacked but failed to take York was some 1 500 to 2 000 strong, while this time, they proved a bit more efficient than they did at Repton, Heahmund taking out dozens of Vikings, but nonetheless being forced to retreat and suffering hundreds of casualties.