The Battle of Basing
The location of the Battle of Basing – in modern Hampshire - says much about the danger the rampaging Danish forces of Halfdan posed to Saxon England, striking from their newly taken stronghold in Reading deep into Wessex . Yet the balance between the forces of the Norsemen and the Saxons is also seen in Basing’s place among a series of battles and skirmishes in early 871 where neither one side nor the other seemed able to assert their superiority.
Reading had fallen to the invaders; but they suffered a minor defeat at Englesfield, and another at Winchester ; on January 8 a far greater battle was won by Ethelred and Alfred at Ashdown , but this was still not decisive, and on January 22 the Danes had their day at Basing, defeating the Saxons in turn. In March the Norsemen would have a further victory at Merton, and the following month, with Alfred as King of Wessex having succeeded his brother, the Saxons were again defeated by Halfdan at Wilton. What is often characterised as some sort of raid by the Vikings was in fact a long and determined campaign for territory.
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