The Saxon Gesith Cyra, launched a punitive raid against St. Benedictine’s church, near Caer Ira in the kingdom of Cynwiddon in the year of our Lord 485 AD.
The attack, being one of the first Saxon raids into Cynwiddon, took the British forces by surprise; by the time the British troops came within sight of the pagan thieves, the self-same thieves were almost at the gates of the church.
Between the British and the Saxons lay a small river, the Responius. The church itself sat on a hill overlooking the future battlefield.
The levy were unaccustomed to marching together, and took forever to cross the river. Meanwhile Decurion Rellius led the mainstay of the Romano-British infantry over the river and towards the enemy. Decurion Flexigus held the left flank with another band of British levies.
Noticing the British interceptors for the first time, Cyra placed his hearthguard on the ridge of the hill outside the church, to prevent the British from interfering with the plundering. Another twelve Saxon warriors soon joined the battleline.
Struggling to impel the untrained levies over the river, the Tribune observed the strong Saxon position and swore. The raiders were already pillaging the church, and Cyra was strongly placed on the hill. He doubted he could force the barbarian from his position in time to prevent the rest of his ill-begotten horde from getting away with the plunder. The situation called for a change in tactics.
Sending a runner out to the two decurions advancing on the church, Aelius ordered the British to wheel around and cut off the Saxons’ line of retreat back to Durobrivae. Hopefully they could even reach the ford and hold the riverbank itself, which would give them a very considerable advantage.
Unfortunately, Cyra’s companion, the Adlig Merx (The “Blessed”), noticed the Britons’ manoeuvrings and what it implied for the Saxon raiders. He responded quickly and decisively, charging down the hill and smashing into Rellius’ men with a terrible ferocity before they had time to form a shieldwall.
Fortunately, Rellius’ men were made of stern stuff. The elite compulares lived up to their reputation and absorbed the Saxon onslaught, while the numeri, under the personal leadership of Rellius himself, started cutting down the Saxon hearthguards.
Realising that Rellius was facing the crème de crème of the Saxon army alone, Decurion Flexigus turned his men around, skirted the scree that lay on the hillside and smashed into the Saxons’ flank. Casualties mounted, and the Saxons began to panic.
Cyra swore at Merx’s failure to break the British lines, and allowed his own warriors to pour down the hillside to protect Merx’s flank. His intervention pushed the exhausted compulares back, but by this time it was too late. Rellius and Flexigus had smashed the Saxons’ right flank, and Tribune Aelius had finally abandoned the hopeless levies and led a small band of Roman-trained infantry into the fray on the left.
All was lost.
Rellius’ men hacked their way through Cyra’s ranks with savage ease. Then, Cyra’s own bodyguard was spitted on a spear. Two more swords flashed out; one stabbed Cyra in the side, and another caught Merx in the leg.
The few remaining hearthguard pulled the nobles back from the fray but it was too late. Seeing their leaders covered in blood and staggering back sent a panic through the Saxon ranks. Men turned and fled back over the crossing over the river Responius, leaving what little plunder they had found in the church where it lay.
Cyra and Merx both survived the pursuit, but their losses had been very heavy. Nineteen men, including half their hearthguard, were dead or captured. No plunder had been taken from the church. It took Cyra over two months to recover from the disastrous defeat, and he did not trouble Cynwiddon again until near the end of May.