This town on the banks of the Klip River - proclaimed in 1850 - was named after the Spanish wife of Sir Harry Smith. It became a prosperous staging- post for fortune-hunters en route to the Transvaal gold-fields and diamond discoveries at Kimberley.
Ladysmith made world headlines at the turn of the century when it was besieged for 118 days during the most crucial stage of the Anglo-Boer War. Today a commercial centre for surrounding communities, the town is a natural gateway to the tourist delights of the Central and Northern reaches of the Drakensberg range. Snowcapped peaks during winter form a breathtaking backdrop.
Battles and Sites:
The Siege of Ladysmith:
In an effort to halt the Boer offensive of October 1899, Lt. General George White undertook a night march on the 30th October. Troops led by Colonel Carleton were ambushed and 800 PoWs were taken at Nicholson's Nek. Encounters at Tchrengula and Modderspruit, also known as the Battle of Farquhars Farm, followed. The British were also defeated in this battle. As a result on the 31st White finally withdrew to Ladysmith. The Boers were led by General Louis Botha.
The Boers then proceeded to surround Ladysmith and 'cut' the railway link to Durban. This town was then besieged for 118 days.General White, in command of the British forces in Ladysmith, defended the town but soon the water supply was cut off. Shortage of food and water became acute, resulting in rapid deterioration of general health conditions. This caused many deaths, mainly as a result of enteric fever. Attacks from both sides, in bids to break through each other's lines, claimed the lives of many men. The siege was finally raised on 28 February 1900 after the British forces under General Sir Redvers Buller succeeded in breaking through.
Platrand(Wagon Hill and Caesars Camp):
It was on Platrand that the Boers made their most determined effort to capture Ladysmith. They needed to release troops to counter the British forces that were moving in from the south.The British, however fought heroically and managed to drive the Boers away from the strategic heights of 'Platrand'.
A self-guide brochure available from the Information 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.
General Bullers second offensive to relieve Ladysmith commenced on the 20 of January. The plan was relieve Ladysmith on two fronts. General Sir Charles Warren was given command of 15 000 men and ordered to cross the Thukela River, 32km from Colenso and attempt to outflank the Boer defence line . Buller intended to break through the hills 8km lower down. They would then come together to relieve Ladysmith.
General Warren failed to penetrate the Boer defences on iNtabamnyama - the Rangeworthy Hills- and as a result decided to capture the highest hill in the area Spioenkop. He felt that this was the key to the Boer defence line.
Warren sent a column under General Woodgate to storm Spioenkop at night. They found that this rocky spur was almost undefended, but they failed to entrench properly. At sunrise they realised they were overlooked by Boer marksmen and 'artillery' on adjacent peaks. A fierce battle ensued, with both sides suffering heavy casualties.
At nightfall both parties believed that the other was in control and as result both withdrew from Spioenkop. However, the Boers eventually realised that the British had abandoned the hill and decided to reoccupy it.
The site offers a self-guided trail (with brochure) which winds past graves, monuments and trenches. Open daily from 6h00 - 18h00.Tel: (036) 488-1578 or Ladysmith Siege Museum at (036) 637-2992. Entrance fee
Monuments and Memorials
All Saints Church:
Built in 1902 from cut flagstones quarried in the area, it is renowned for the beautiful tablets in the transept, which bear the names of more than 3000 British soldiers who gave their lives in the Siege or the Relief of Ladysmith. Many priceless stained glass windows, including two depicting War and Peace. Open 08h30 - 12h00. Afternoons by prior arrangement. Tel: (036) 637-4960.
Castor and Pollux:
These twin 6.3 Howitzers, sent hastily from Port Elizabeth just prior to the investment of Ladysmith, served the town with distinction, to the extent that they engaged and damaged one of the Boer Long Toms of the Middle Hill. Not used again after the relief of the town, today they stand proudly in from of the Town Hall. Tel: (036) 637-2992.
A national monument. The Mosque obeys the decrees of Muslim canon law as it stands on the site of the original Mosque, built by the saint Hazrah Soofi Saheb. Completed in 1969. Acknowledged as one of the most beautiful Mosques in the southern hemisphere. Open 13h00-14h00 and 17h00-21h00. Tel: (036) 637-7837.
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 said that they 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 bloody Battle of Spioenkop. In 1993 the Hindu community in Ladysmith paid tribute to the Mahatma by celebrating the centenary of his coming to Natal. Arrange with the caretaker who will open the gates. Tel: (036) 637-7777.
Relics and memorabilia, uniforms, medals, flags and weaponry from various conflicts, including both World Wars and the Border War, are on display in this intriguing museum. Open 09h00 - 16h00.Tel: (036) 637-3762
Siege Museum (Murchison Street, next to Town Hall):
The building which houses the Museum was built in 1884. During the Siege it was used as ration post for civilians. A diorama depicts Ladysmith and surroundings at the time of the Siege. Artefacts, documents, uniforms, fire arms on display. Hours: Weekdays: 9h00 - 16h00, Saturdays: 9h00 - 13h00, Sundays and public holidays: by appointment only. Tel: (036) 637-2231 ext 318.
Town Hall & Town Hall Museum:
Elegant, romantic, grand - these words describe this architectural treasure. The history of the Town Hall since it was originally built in 1893 is depicted. Weekdays: 9h00 - 16h00.Tel: (036) 637-2992.
Other Cultural attractions
Ladysmith reflects different architectural periods, from Gothic and Edwardian to Indian and Renaissance. A self-guide brochure is available from the Information Office or Museums.Tel: (036) 637- 2992.
Ladysmith/Emnambithi Cultural Centre:
25 Keate Street. Houses the Ladysmith Black Mambazo Hall, with a lively display on this world-renowned group, as well as an entertaining exhibition on the Drakensberg Boys' Choir. Other exhibitions include Ladysmith's achievers such as artist Lallitha Jawahirilall and Springbok athlete Veronica Abrahamse. Tel: (036) 637-2231 ext 271 Hours: Weekdays: 9h00 - 16h00, Saturdays: By prior arrangement
Siegetown Walkabout and Drive about:
This comprehensive guide is available from the Information Office of Siege Museum. Includes over 80 historically significant sites in and around Ladysmith.Tel: (036) 637-2992.
Discover Umbulwane Tour:
A visit to Umbulwane (Zulu for the small mountain) on the outskirts of Ladysmith is a must. Tour guides reveal the hidden treasures of the mountain, as well as its historical significance during the Anglo- Boer War. The mountain also holds secrets of the San (Bushmen). Tel: (036) 637-2992 / (036) 631-7081.
Sunday Township Concerts:
Experience the vibrant atmosphere of a township. Local groups entertain with dance, choir performances and narration. Young and old alike can indulge in the richness of township culture. Contact the Information Office for booking on Tel: (036) 637-2992