Caesar 54BC Land Operations
With the initial forces having landed unopposed they immediately began construction of beachhead defences. A mixed force of 10 cohorts plus marines, ships crews and 300 cavalry remained to complete the beachhead defences. The rest of the force moved inland. Meantime British forces remained hidden and sent for reinforcements.
Unfortunately the next day 08-July, a storm broke from the east and the ships anchored offshore dragged their anchors with many driven ashore. Those ships already drawn onshore also sustained damage. About 40 ships were damaged beyond repair and the rest sustained varying degrees of damage.
This encouraged the British who rallied and attacked the Roman inland positions on 09-July.
The disciplined Roman forces defeated the British attacks and retired to the beachhead. Caesar ordered all ships drawn up ashore, and a defensive perimeter constructed to enclose the entire area. Within this, all available craftsmen began repairs to salvageable vessels. In addition he sent word to Gaul for as many transports as possible to be constructed and sent to Britain.
Construction of the enlarged beached perimeter took ten days after which the original defence force remained and the rest of the army marched into the interior in accordance with the original plan.
By the time summer was near to an end, Caesar had defeated the British forces of the south east of Britain exacted tribute, hostages and promises of continuing subservience, He then returned to the beachhead with his forces and hostages. He found that no additional ships had arrived from Gaul so there was insufficient transports to carry the entire force back to Gaul in one crossing. This was because, in addition to the forces carried to Britain additional transports were needed to carry the substantial number of hostages and prisoners destined for slavery, plus tribute taken during the invasion. In addition there were fewer transports available because of losses due to storm damage.
If all available transports loaded and set off for Gaul, this would leave the remaining, reduced Roman forces on the beachhead, vulnerable to attack until the transports could return to Britain to take them off. Naturally there was a minimum sized force needed to deter potential British attacks. Which left Caesar with a problem.
So he decided to send the hostages, tribute and some of his forces in a first wave using some of the available fleet. The ships used would then return, combine with the ships kept at the beachhead, load all remaining Roman forces and return them to Gaul in one move.
Due to adverse winds the ships of the first wave and ships newly constructed in Gaul had trouble crossing to Britain to load the remaining Roman forces.
With the weather deteriorating and autumn approaching the Roman forces left in Britain faced an uncertain future. The weather suddenly improved and Caesar ordered all forces aboard the remaining ships and the overloaded fleet set sail for Gaul. They made a successful crossing and safe landfall to Gaul.
So ended Caesars second invasion of Britain.
Caesar did not return to Britain for a third time as increasing unrest in Gaul took up his attention. This was followed by increasing civil war in Rome and Caesars eventual assassination in 44BC.
The tribute promised by British south-eastern tribes was never paid.
- 54BC Planning
- 54BC Objectives
- 54BC Timing & Crossing
- 54BC Military Units
- 54BC Landing
- 54BC Land Operations
- 54BC Consequences
This page last edited -
22 December, 2012.
Copyright © Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.