Monday, 1 November 2010

Siege of Ladysmith

30 October 1899 and 28 February 1900.

I am 45 now, when I was a nipper I remember every Sunday Uncle Gil, actually Great uncle Gil (Gilbert) coming round for his Sunday dinner. I imagine he was in his early eighties. Most kids at that time would get Second World war stories as in the late sixties WW2 was fresh in everyone memory, or even World War One stories, but I got the Boer war.

Gil would get my toy soldiers out, line them up, some train track and buildings from my train set and he would give me a history lesson, the full 118 days of the siege and just to add icing on the cake after the story was told I was shown his war wound, his lower right leg has missing bone that was clear to see. In the winter time he would hobble onto the Settee and mum would get him hot water bottle to put directly on it.

On Christmas day he would proudly arrive in his best suit and medals with an uneaten box of chocolates he received from Queen Victoria for his service, with the inscription "I wish you a happy new year Victoria Reg", in a few weeks I will go up into the attic and get the Christmas decorations out and Gils Chocs will be placed once again at the centre of the dining room table and I will be asked the same question "Can we eat one?"

I visited Ladysmith three years ago and sadly got my camera stolen, not much to see really apart from noticing you are the only white person in town, but I did get a few on the phone from Rorkes Drift just a few miles up the road, and one of the best war memorials in the world.

Its also worth noting that the Boers just a few years after fighting this terrible dirty war fought side by side with allied troops in the trenches of France and Belgium as comrades.

Gil has 116 days to survive. Including Christmas and the heat of summer.


Gaw said...

You're right about how strange it was that Brits and Boers fought side-by-side so soon after being at each other's throats. The career of Smuts is totally amazing really - from fierce guerilla leader to one of the top war leaders in the Empire. Come to think of it a bit like Lloyd George but more so. Great at co-opting outsiders, the English.

Chuck said...

Got to agree, Ladysmith is not the worlds greatest mecca of tourism, but the historical sites are interesting.
Apart from the ones you noted, the site where Churchill's train was ambushed and he was captured by the Boers is just down the road as well.