Little Waldingfield History Society was most pleased to welcome Dr Nick Sign, who is Vice-Chairman of the Suffolk Local History Council and Hon. Editor of their journal Suffolk Review, to the Parish Room on February 19th to a very well attended meeting.
Nick began his talk by describing how the recorded history of this great British warrior queen has changed over the centuries, and particularly over the last century as archaeological digs in the UK and in Europe have shed new light and insights on these long distant times. He also reminded us there were no contemporary written accounts of the Iceni revolt, with the first account not being written until many decades later! He then described the events leading up to the uprising and the bloody aftermath, as it is now understood.
Boudica was married to Prasutagus, the ruler of the Iceni people of East Anglia. When the Romans conquered southern England in AD 43, they allowed Prasutagus to continue to rule, as was their practice with conquered territories. Unfortunately, following his death, they decided to rule the Iceni directly, confiscating property of the leading tribesmen; they were also said to have stripped and flogged Boudica and to have raped her daughters. Unsurprisingly, such actions exacerbated widespread resentment amongst the Iceni towards the Romans and Roman rule.
In 60 AD, while the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paullinus was leading a campaign in North Wales, the Iceni rebelled, gathering together a number of other local tribes to join with them, including the Trinovantes. Boudica's first target was Camulodunum (Colchester), which was formerly the Trinovantian capital but now a colonia, or settlement of discharged Roman soldiers. In his historiae, which is the earliest historical record of the events, written between 100 and 110 AD, Tacitus reports that it was poorly defended; archaeology also confirms the former military fortifications had been levelled by this time The colonists appealed for aid to the procurator, Catus decianus, who sent just 200 auxiliaries. Camulodunum was burned, and the temple, where the last of the defenders took refuge, fell after a two-day siege.
The Ninth Legion, commanded by Quintus Petillius Cerialis, attempted to relieve the siege. It is not thought the entire legionary strength of some 5,000 men was involved, as Cerialis was likely only to be able to call on the first cohort, and possibly two others. These were auxiliary infantry, and a unit of some 500 cavalry, possibly some 2,500 men in total. They may have taken the Roman road to Camulodunum from Durovigtum (Godmanchester), a march of about 75 miles which would have taken three days. They arrived too late to relieve the colonia, and the British tribes of possibly 50,000 fought the detachment in the field, defeating it and routing the Romans. Tacitus says their entire infantry strength was wiped out, with only Cerialis and his cavalry escaping to their fortified camp.
Boudica and her warriors then went on to destroy London and Verulamium (St Albans), with thousands killed in the process. Boudica was finally defeated by a Roman army led by Paulinus, with many Britons killed; Boudica is thought to have poisoned herself, to avoid capture and probable torture; the site of the battle and of Bodica's death are unknown.
Our next talk will be on 12th March, when John Cashmore will present the 487th USAAF Bombardment Group (H), the so-called "Gentlemen From Hell", who were based at Lavenham Airfield. This Group had several 'claims to fame', and John's talk will present the famous Mission 760 of 24th December 1944.
John will also show examples of original equipment used by the American airman during their time at Lavenham; based on Ozzie Osborne's wonderful presentation last March on the USAAF 486th, and its going to be incredibly exciting and very popular - we can't wait.