Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1900, took place the Relief of Ladysmith. 

Ladysmith was a quiet town in Natal, South Africa named for the wife of the governor of Cape colony, Sir Harry Smith. When the British went to war with the Boers, the enemy seized control of railway junctions. British troops, fighting to regain control found themselves surrounded and took refuge in Ladysmith.  

The Boers placed howitzers four miles to the north and bombarded the town. British forces staged an attack on the Boer positions but failed to dislodge them. They did, however secure a pass, known as Nickolson’s Neck, which prevented the Boers from gaining reinforcements. A royal Navy detachment arrived by rail with twelve-pounder guns which could retaliate against the enemy fire but the Boers then completely surrounded and besieged Ladysmith.  

The siege lasted for 118 days. The British continued to hold on expecting reinforcements. They refused to surrender. The Boers stormed the town on several occasions but were beaten back. On one occasion, the garrison was about to break when a fierce thunderstorm intervened.  

British relief efforts were thwarted by a defeat at Spion Kop but just when the garrison had almost consumed the last of it pack horses, regular rations having long since gone, a relief column under Major Hubert Gough arrived. The garrison commander remarked ‘Thank God, we kept the flag flying.’

When the news hit London, it was proclaimed by the Lord Mayor from the Mansion House to a large crown waiting below. The crown exulted at the news. Newspaper reports speak of men and women frantic with delight, of spontaneous singing of God Save the Queen and hats thrown into the air. The Lord Mayor remarked that  ‘Never in my life, have I had the pleasure of witnessing such a scene of enthusiasm as this’. This occasion was Britain’s first major victory since Waterloo, nearly a century earlier and there would be no time like it until the end of the First World War.

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