The Siege of Ladysmith
Did you know?
Legend has it that the ghosts of the slaughtered Siege of Ladysmith horses can still be heard.
While the Siege of Ladysmith was the shortest of the three major sieges of the South African War (previously known as the Anglo-Boer War), it was also the nastiest.
'Mournful Monday', 30 October 1899, was 'one of the gloomiest days in the history of the British army' as losses soared, especially at Spioenkop during one of the major battles of the second South African War.
To cap that, the Boers under Commandant-General Piet Joubert pushed Sir George White's 13 500 strong force into the town and laid siege to it, becoming known as the Siege of Ladysmith.
Added to the misery of daily shelling was the worse prospect of death from typhoid or dysentery, diseases that thrive in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions. During the 118-day Siege of Ladysmith over 10 000 fell ill and more than 500 died from these diseases.
Then there was starvation. White made no real effort to break out, but refused to believe that his was anything but a strike force.
The result of this blinkered approach was that food supplies were not adequately monitored from the beginning and when the situation became dire soldiers were forced to eat their cavalry horses.
The Siege Museum remembers this and other battles that took place around the town. Other places of interest are White's old headquarters in Poort Road and the La Verna Hospital where many of the sick were treated.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)36 637 2992
The Royal Hotel, Ladysmith
Tel: +27 (0)36 637 2176
How to get here
Ladysmith is on the N2 highway between Johannesburg and Durban and easily accessible by car from either city.
Best time to visit
All year round, but winter is better as it is cool and dry.
Around the area
The majestic central Drakensberg, a prime eco-tourism and nature destination, is only an hour away.
Tours to do
An excellent guide is available from the information office at the Town Hall, or from the siege museum. Tour options cover more than 80 historically significant sites in and around Ladysmith.
The town is small and can be explored on foot.
What to pack
Comfortable walking shoes or boots. Make sure you always have your hat, sunscreen and bottled water.
Where to stay
There are a number of quality guesthouses and B&Bs in the area. One of the oldest hotels in the region is The Royal Hotel, which has been around for over a century.
There are many mountain bike races and running marathons in the area throughout the year, but possibly the most interesting event hosted by Ladysmith is the Swartkop Challenge, an extreme sport in which a heavy old cannon is hauled over a set distance by competing teams.