Ladysmith: A well adapted village in 1849 was a proclaimed township in 1850. Named after the Spanish wife of Sir Harry Smith and prospered after the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand and diamonds in Kimberley it became an important stopover.

During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) the town was to be a key point in the struggle for Natal. Besieged by Boer forces for 118 days, Ladysmith made headlines around the world and its name entered the annals of military history.

 

Above: Statue of Ghandi. Mohandas Ghandi was a stretcher bearer with General Buller’s relief forces after the Siege of Ladysmith and trained some of the 1100 Indians in this dangerous task. It is said that he left on the last train out of Ladysmith before the siege. Ghandi and his stretcher bearers are reported to have performed sterling work during the Battle of Spioenkop. His statue can be seen in Ladysmith.
 

 
 

Above: One of the two Howitzers that served Ladysmith with distinction during the 118 siege, stands proudly in front of the Town Hall

Brief Editorial: Ladysmith - Kwazulu-Natal

 In 1849 the town was described as a “well adapted village” and on 20 June 1850 it was officially proclaimed a township. It was named after the Spanish wife of Sir Harry Smith, Lady Juana Maria de los Dolores de Leon Smith. The railway was established in 1886 making Ladysmith an important halfway stopover. With the discovery of gold and diamonds on the Witwatersrand and at Kimberley the town prospered. October 1899 marked the beginning of the South African War. Ladysmith was to be the key point in the struggle for Natal. For 118 days the town was under Siege by Boer forces. This plunged the name of Ladysmith into newspaper headlines throughout the world. General Sir George White VC, in command of the British forces in Ladysmith, defended the town but soon the water supply and all communication lines were cut off. Shortage of food and water became acute, resulting in rapid deterioration of health conditions. This caused many deaths, mainly as a result of enteric fever. 

 

Above: Site of the Battle of Platrand/Wagon Hill. A self-guide brochure available from the Info Office will assist you to discover the historical sites in the area, including a sculpted memorial to fallen Boers, various monuments to the British forces, gun emplacements and a military cemetery. Splendid view of the entire Siege area.


Above: A replica of a Long Tom cannon used by the Boers during the siege placed next to the City Hall. This is the heart of our town where the information bureau is situated in the Siege Museum between the historic Town Hall and Post Office.

 

Above: Beautiful Dutch Reform Church built of sand stone is situated in Murchison Street.

The post SA War period saw Ladysmith growing steadily. The farmers had to start all over again. The road to success was slow as the town and area was struck with floods and draught. The worst snowstorm ever struck Ladysmith in 1924 with the main street covered in half a metre of snow. By the late 1920's the town was providing mostly for the needs of its farming community. During the Great Depression of the 30's people flocked to the town to make a living. In the mid 1950's the railways again took the lead and the town prospered as an important railway link.

Today Ladysmith is a friendly, peaceful town, and being the largest in the area, it serves as major shopping centre for the surrounding towns such as Colenso, Glencoe, Bergville and Dundee.

Snippets from Ladysmith

Did you Know ?

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      Frank Rhodes, brother of Cecil Rhodes, as well as Dr. Leander Starr Jameson who led the Jameson raid, were both resident in the Royal Hotel during the siege of Ladysmith.

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      The railway bridge across the Onderbroek Spruit was washed away by a flash flood on the March 15, 1925, with the loss of the engine tender and the driver, Mr. Venter.

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      In the siege museum there is a light artillery shell on which the boers stamped the words “Complements of the season” and into which they placed some Christmas pudding and two small Union Jacks before firing it into the town on Christmas Day in 1899.

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      The breech block of the Long Tom put out of action on Gun Hill by the British on December 7, 1899, is in the siege museum.

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      The two 6.3-inch howitzers that stand in front of the town hall, called “Castor and Polux”, proved effective deterrents to any boer guns advancing to within their 3000- yard range.

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      The Long Tom in front of the museum is a replica and not the real thing. Other replicas are in Bloemfontein, Pretoria and on the Long Tom Pass.

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      Acknowledgement to John Snyman, registered tour guide.

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