Here we have Paul Hannah again, this time he is discussing a battle that took place about 900 years ago, in which a military leader demonstrated a surprising skill.   By the way, he was called “Fat”, but obviously wasn’t fat, so I assume his name has been mistranslated in the course of the centuries.

Anyhow, interesting stuff from Paul – read on……………

Fat Raymond and Lady Alice

History records a number of battles against overwhelming odds. The Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans held off a Persian army numbering in the hundreds of thousands and the Battle of Rorke’s Drift where 150 or so British soldiers held off a force of some 3000 Zulu warriors are just two examples made famous by the movies. However both of these battles were defensive in nature, to win the defenders just had to hold their ground and survive.

Less well known are the battles against superior forces by an offensive army.

On May 1st, 1170, a fellow named Raymond (the Fat) Fitzgerald (pictured looking quite thin!) led a group of Anglo Normans from Wales in an invasion of Ireland. Fat Raymond around 80 men landed on a little promontory called Baginbun (Picture credit Google Earth) near the town of Waterford in South Eastern Ireland. The promontory has a narrow causeway leading to the mainland and consequently was a naturally good defensive position. But Raymond wasn’t there to defend, he was there to conquer. So as to draw the Irish into a full-scale battle, he and his men set out into the countryside and raided towns and villages.

In the process they captured a large herd of cattle, drove them over the causeway onto the promontory and waited for the Irish to amass an army and come to Baginbun and fight. They were not disappointed. Soon an army of three thousand Norsemen plus Irish reinforcements from the town of Waterford came to attack this little force. Raymond was a very skillful commander and repeating a tactic favoured by William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings 100 years earlier, he instructed his men to feign an attack, pretend to be beaten and to run away back along the causeway. The Irish sensed a quick victory and ran after them. At this point, Raymond’s brilliance came to the fore. As soon as the Irish were on the narrow causeway with the sea on either side, he stampeded the cattle straight at the straight at them. Many were pushed off the cliffs on either side, many more were trampled by the maddened cows, a few ran away to tell the tale leaving their wounded behind. The Anglo Normans had little to do other than dispatch the wounded and take 70 prisoners.

The invaders following the practice of their Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Viking heritage, included in their party a number of warrior women, the most famous of whom was Alice of Abergavenny. After the battle when she discovered the dead body of her lover she was consumed with rage and desperate for revenge. She picked up a battle axe and “broke the limbs” of all 70 prisoners and then decapitated each one personally. Their bodies were thrown off the cliff into the sea.

She was clearly a woman to be reckoned with.

(c) 2018 Paul Hannah

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