Ladysmith was established on the crossroads for transport riders between Port Natal (Durban) and the Transvaal. In 1886 the railway reached the town.

It became world famous between 1899 and 1900 as a result of its four month besiegement by Boer forces.

During the siege, food became very scarce and many of the 30,000 inhabitants died from enteric fever. In the final month of the siege, 28 British soldiers a day were being buried at the Intombi Hospital.

Many other victims of the siege are buried on Cemetery Hill. Of the garrison of 12500 only 9000 survived.

The town is today an active community with over 100,000 people and base town for Nambiti Big 5 Private Game Reserve, a conservancy offering 8000 ha of pristine, malaria-free bushveld and the Big Five, as well as cheetah, hippo and over 30 species of plains game.


Several walkabout tours introduce visitors to the town's many historic attractions and there is an excellent museum.

Dominating Ladysmith is the 'small mountain' - Umbulwane from the summit of which, the Boer forces could see almost all that was happening in the town.

There are self guided trails to the mountain which also has San historical significance and to the township at the base of the mountain where traditional Zulu beer may be sampled.

Ladysmith is famous for the architecture of its electricity substations.

Ladysmith is also the home town of the world-famous singing group "Ladysmith Black-Mambazo".

Anglo-Boer War Sites

Elandslaagte Battlefield
21 October 1899. Scene of a classic conventional battle that resulted in a staggering defeat of Gen. Koch's force. On R602 between Glencoe and Ladysmith.
Tel: 034 212 2654

Siege of Ladysmith & Wagon Hill Battlesite
2 November 1899 to 28 February 1900 (118 days). Sites in and around town. Historical walkabout from Siege Museum. Bookshop in Siege Museum. 6 January 1900. Wagon Hill, site of famous bayonet charge by Devonshire Regiment. Burgher Monument, Caesars' Camp & Military Cemetery on site.
Tel: 036 637 2992

Rangeworthy Military Cemetery
On site of British field hospital. Situated below iNtabamnyama battlefield

Spearman's Military Cemetery
On R600 between Ladysmith & Winterton. On site of British field hospital. Private property, obtain permission to visit site.
Tel: 036 637 2992

Spioenkop Battlefield
23/24 January 1900. Most futile and bloodiest of five battles fought in effort to relieve Ladysmith. Self-guided trail with brochure available at entrance. Gandhi's stretcher-bearers did excellent work during battle. On R616 between Ladysmith and Bergville. Entrance fee payable. Open daily.
Tel: 036 637 2992

Vaalkrans Battlefield
5-7 February 1900. Forth unsuccessful attempt by Gen. Buller to relieve Ladysmith. Arrange visit through the Siege Museum in Ladysmith.
Tel: 036 637 2992
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