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Rochester was established on an Iron Age site by the Romans, who called it Durobrivae (meaning "stronghold by the bridge"), to control the point where Watling Street (now the A2) crossed the River Medway.

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278 died, including 78 workers from nearby towns and villages. A Court of Inquiry was held into the loss and evidence was given that priming of the mines was being carried out hurriedly and by untrained personnel. The Royal Marines also have a long association with Chatham.

The Chatham Division was based in Chatham until the closure of the Chatham Dockyard.

Before she could leave Britain she was commandeered for war service and became HMS Princess Irene, and was used as a minelayer.

After several trips she was back in the Medway for a refit when on the morning of a huge internal explosion tore through the vessel, shaking the ground for miles around and showering the surrounding villages with remains of bodies and debris.

The main towns in the conurbation are (from west to east): Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, and Rainham. Many smaller towns and villages such as Frindsbury, Brompton, Walderslade, Luton, Wigmore etc., lie within the conurbation.

Outside the urban area, the villages retain parish councils.

The Chatham naval memorial commemorates the 18,500 officers, ranks and ratings of the Royal Navy who were lost or buried at sea in the two World Wars.

It stands on the Great Lines between Chatham and Gillingham.

Cuxton, Halling and Wouldham are in the Medway Gap region to the south of Rochester and Strood.

Hoo St Werburgh, Cliffe, High Halstow, St Mary Hoo, Allhallows, Stoke and Grain are on the Hoo Peninsula to the north. Medway includes parts of the North Kent Marshes, an environmentally significant wetlands region with several Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

Over half of the unitary authority area is rural in nature.

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