Viking Prowess in Battle
The bulk of the English were probably more worried by Viking prowess in battle than the paganism that worried the clergy. In terms of technology the Vikings had little to make them superior to the English. Both nations fought on foot using round shields and spears as their main weapons. Richer men could afford helmets or mail shirts, and swords were prized by those who could afford them.
In battle the Vikings used similar shieldwall tactics as the English, though with a few refinements. It is true that the Vikings that came to England were the tough young men who had trained for war and so were generally better at fighting that the average English farmer called from his plough to fight, but a good Englishman was the equal of a good Viking.
What made the Vikings really difficult to counter was their mobility. They travelled in fast, sleek ships that could carry them quickly along coasts or up rivers. They would attack one area, looting it thoroughly and quickly. As soon as the English mustered an army to fight, the Vikings leapt back to their ships and fled, only to search for a new unprotected area to attack.
The first taste the English had of this awesome new force came at Lindisfarne, then the seat of one of the oldest and most respected monasteries in Britain.
The Vikings were nothing if not thorough when it came to killing. They left so few survivors – if any – on Lindisfarne that it is very difficult to reconstruct the events of 8 January 793 with any real certainty, though the outline of events is clear enough.
from "Battlefield Walks in Northumberland" by Rupert Matthews.
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