History of Ladysmith

Ladysmith is a town in the Uthukela district of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. It is 230 kilometres (140 mi) north-west of Durban and 365 kilometres (227 mi) south of Johannesburg. Important industries in the area include, food processing, textiles and tyre production. 


Ladysmith is the seat for both Alfred Duma Local Municipality and the Uthukela District Municipality.


In 1900, the unincorporated town of Oyster Harbour (established c. 1898) on the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, was renamed Ladysmith by James Dunsmuir, in honour of the British lifting of the siege of Ladysmith in South Africa (28 February 1900) during the Second Boer War.


In 1847 after buying land from the Zulu king Mpande, a number of Boers settled in the area and called it the Republic of Klip River with Andries Spies as their commandant. The republic was annexed by the British in the same year and on 20 June 1850 was proclaimed a township called Windsor. On 11 October 1850 the name was changed to Ladysmith after Juana Maria de los Dolores de Leon Smith also known as “Lady Smith”, the Spanish wife of Sir Harry Smith, the Governor of the Cape Colony. Sir Harry Smith was the British general governor of Cape Colony and high commissioner in South Africa from 1847 to 1852.


A fort was built in 1860 to protect the villagers from the Zulu


Battle of Ladysmith


During the Second Boer War the British commander Lieutenant General Sir George White made Ladysmith his centre of operations for the protection of Natal against the Boer forces. Starting on 29 October 1899 a number of short lived battles were fought for control of the town, but after suffering heavy casualties the British forces retreated to Ladysmith and the Boer forces did not make use of the opportunity to follow up the attack and take control of the town. 


Siege of Ladysmith


Following the battle of Ladysmith, whilst British forces under Lieutenant General Sir George White regrouped in the town, Boer forces surrounded Ladysmith. The siege lasted 118 days, from 2 November 1899 to 28 February 1900, during the most crucial stage of the war. Approximately 3000 British soldiers died during the siege.


Relief of Ladysmith


Three attempts by General Sir Redvers Buller to break the siege resulted in defeat for the British forces at the battles of Colenso, Spioenkop and Vaal Krantz. On the 6 January 1900 the Boer forces of Commandant-General Piet Joubert attempted to end the siege by taking the town before the British could launch another attempt to break the siege. This led to the battle of Platrand (Wagon Hill) south of the town. Buller finally broke the siege on 28 February 1900 after defeating the Boers by using close cooperation between his infantry and artillery.


Sir Winston Churchill, then a young war correspondent for The Morning Post (London), was present at the Relief of Ladysmith after having been taken prisoner (between Ladysmith and Colenso) and escaping earlier during the war.


Mohandas (Mahatma) Karamchand Gandhi and the stretcher-bearing corps that he established earlier during the war, was involved in a number of actions that took place in and around Ladysmith during the relief.




The Boer en Brit Self Catering Guest House was established in 1998 with the centenary celebrations of the Siege of Lasdysmith, and our logo depicts Genl. George White and Genl. Louis Botha, the leaders at the time of the British and Boer forces respectively.



Ladysmith is located on the banks of the Klip River (“stone river”), with the central business district and a large part of the residential areas located within the flood basin of the river. It is on the foothills of the Drankensberg mountains, about 26 km from the Van Reenen pass.




Since it was established the town has suffered severely from flooding of the Klip River. During the 110 years up to 1997 with completion of the Qedusizi Dam, 29 serious floods have occurred. Minor flooding occurred nearly every year.


The worst flooding in 30 years occurred in 1996 leading to R500 million in damages and the evacuation of 400 families.


Efforts to control the flooding date back to the 1940s. In 1949 the Windsor Dam was completed, but this dam silted up very fast and was not an effective means of flood control.




Ladysmith has a subtropical highland climate(Cwb, according to the Koeppen climate classification), with warm summers and cool, dry winters. It borders on a humid subtropical climate (Cwa). The average annual precipitation is 639mm (25in), with most rainfall occurring during summer.




The Soofi Mosque on the banks of the Klip River was originally built sometime between 1895 and 1910, but it was greatly extended in the 1960s. Other buildings of interest are the Siege Museum, originally built in 1884 as a marketplace and the Town Hall, damaged by the Boer artillery during the Second Boer War.