There is no doubt that early man lived and hunted throughout Britain for many thousands of years prior to any large migratory movements from the continent. There was a period after the last ice age when a wide plain joined Britain to Holland and was therefore part of the continent, and the   rivers Thames and Rhine joined, and flowed northwards. During this period, Mesolithic hunters made their way across the salt marshes to settle. During the early part of the first century. B.C.The Belgae the last of the Iron Age tribes who were the most enlightened of these invaders penetrated the recesses of Eastern and Southern England, becoming what we now term the early Britons. 

 Late in August in the year 55 B.C Britain was again invaded, this time by Gaius Julius Caesar and his armies, landing between Deal and Walmer. This however did not prove to be a successful campaign, and so he withdrew, and tried once more during the following year. Again with a combination of bad weather and the hostile tribes, he eventually withdrew his armies never to return. The Emperor Claudius completed a successful invasion in the year 43 A.D. and Britain succumbed to Roman rule as far north as Hadrianís Wall. This was a military barrier 73 miles long between the Tyne and the Solway. This situation remained until 410 A.D.when the Romans left Britain for good during the decline of the Roman Empire. The next invaders were the Saxons around 442 A.D.They could possibly have combined by then with the Angels and Juteís at the time the Saxons made their general exodus from Schleswig Holstein, Germany.

One morning in January 793 A.D. the Holy Island of Lindisfarne was suddenly attacked by the Danes causing great slaughter. They returned again in 835 A.D. and a large fleet of between three and four hundred vessels invaded our shores rowing far up our rivers, although it was not until 865 A.D.when the Danish Vikings invaded Northumbria and Eastern England, thereby eventually establishing permanent settlements. For eighty years, five successive kings fought and eventually defeated the invaders. Alfred, Edward , Athelstan , Edmond and Edred, and English rule was restored . A Viking settlement founded in Normandy in the early part of the 10th century grew in strength. Eventually these nobles and knights, under William of Normandy, landed at Hastings and defeated Haroldís armies on October 14th 1066.

This would appear to be the last successful attempt, with the Spaniards beaten by bad weather and the defeat by the British navy under Hawkins, commencing on 25th July 1558 and finishing with only half the Spanish fleet of 65 ships reaching Spain in October. Although we are aware of many of these historic facts. There is one incursion many are not aware of which took place in the port of Great Yarmouth. It appears that during a medal presentation to the crews of the Gorleston lifeboats by the Mayor of Great Yarmouth, Alderman T.Green J.P. in 1904. When after pinning a medal on the breast of Laddie Woods, ex.coxswain of the Mark lane lifeboat, he said that probably no one could remember the French taking possession of any part of England, but fifty years ago a large number of French fishermen landed at Gorleston, their vessels being weather bound, and they held it for one day and a night. In those days there were no soldiers at Yarmouth and no volunteers, whilst the town possessed only 32 policemen who were of no use against an estimated 1,600 French fishermen! They proceeded to take possession of all the public houses, and some private houses too, but by the time soldiers could be sent to Gorleston they had cleared out.

I was unaware of this incident until recently, having received this information from Ivor Steadman, Hon. Secretary and treasurer of the Friends of Gt.Yarmouth Maritime Museum. Thanks Ivor, for this little gem. (I guess it was a case of the Frogs hopping back into the pond, as they preferred their French wine rather than the Port of Gt.Yarmouth!)   

A.E Bensley

 

 

 

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