Ladysmith was the most crucial strategic point for the British in Natal, due
to the fact that it was the closest to the old Free State and Transvaal borders.
As soon as the Anglo-Boer war broke out, the British sent a regiment to
Ladysmith to defend the town against possible attacks or invasion by the Free
State, and "Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek". On the second of November 1899,
Ladysmith was besieged by the Boers. All means of communication with the outside
world were cut, including the town water supply. The last train left Ladysmith
on the 2 November 1899, and for the next hundred and eighteen days which
followed, approximately twenty six thousand British soldiers, and about eight
thousand civilians were held captive in the town.
Ladysmith made world headlines when it was held under siege by Boer forces for three months in 1899 and 1900. The Ladysmith Siege Museum houses various displays and artefacts from this historical time and is a popular tourist attraction for those touring the Battlefields Region in KwaZulu Natal. The Ladysmith Siege Museum is considered to be the best Anglo-Boer War museum in South Africa, and has also gained international acclaim.
The building which houses the museum, was originally built in 1884 as a marketplace and later served as a ration post for civilians during the siege. In the mid 1960's, the building served both as museum and as library but in 1985 was converted for the sole purpose of housing the museum.
The Ladysmith Siege Museum houses an excellent collection of Boer War artefacts, documents, uniforms and firearms, as well as a diorama which depicts Ladysmith at the time of the siege. The diorama displays the various positions where the Boers had their guns placed, the names of the geographical features, the positions of the Boer searchlights and the point where the Boers constructed a dam with the intention of flooding the town. Also represented is Intombi Camp, which was a neutral hospital in the no man's land at the foot of Umbulwane Mountain.
Standing outside the museum entrance, are the two well known 6.3" howitzers, Castor and Pollux, which were used in defending the town during the siege, as well as damaging one of the Boer guns. The Bill Mackay Gallery provides visitors with interesting glimpses into daily life during the siege.
Hours: weekdays 08h00 - 16h00 / Saturdays 09h00 and 13h00
Address: Murchison St, Ladysmith
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