A raid on England
In 793, 'Northmen' (as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle calls them) attacked the Christian monastery at Lindisfarne in Northumbria, in north-east England. Northumbria was an English kingdom, and its monasteries were famous for books, art and treasures. On a January day, the longships arrived and the Vikings attacked. They burned buildings, stole treasures, murdered monks, and terrified everyone. Some Christian Church leaders said the Vikings were sent by God, to punish people in England for doing wrong.
How Vikings attacked
The Vikings did not send many ships on their first raids. They made surprise attacks on lonely places, like Lindisfarne. They knew they would not have to fight a big English army. English kings were too busy fighting one another to join forces against the Vikings. There was no English navy to guard the coasts, so it was easy for Vikings to land on a beach or sail up a river. After raiding a monastery, the ships sailed home loaded with treasures and captives.
The Vikings fought using long swords and axes. A good sword was handed down from father to son, but Vikings also buried weapons with their owner when he died. Wood rots and metal rusts away after a thousand years or more in the ground, but some remains show what the weapons were like.Vikings did not wear much armour, though some chieftains wore mail coats. Most relied on a round wooden shield for protection. On their heads, they wore helmets made of leather or iron. A Viking saying was, 'Never leave your weapons behind when you go to work in the fields - you may need them'.
In AD 865, a 'Great Army' of Vikings invaded England. The army stayed in England for 14 years, fighting the English kings. In AD 866 Vikings captured York. They captured King Edmund of East Anglia and shot him dead with arrows.
In AD 892, 300 Viking ships invaded to fight King Alfred of Wessex. No one knows how big the Viking armies were. If there were 20 men in each ship, the army of AD 892 numbered 6,000! That was a huge army for the time. Most Viking armies were probably smaller - perhaps 1,000 to 2,000 men.