Your Guide to the Drakensberg and Natal Midlands

Colenso - KwaZulu Natal South Africa

The town of Colenso in South Africa is situated on the banks of the Tugela River and surrounded by the Drakensberg foothills, Colenso was known as Commando Drift before being renamed in honour of the first Bishop of Natal. John William Colenso was a missionary who translated the New Testament into Zulu...earning the title Sobantu - Father of the People. African life can be observed here in an undisturbed natural state, unspoiled by any form of commercialization.

Recommended accommodation in Colenso


Colenso Accommodation

Battlesites around Colenso

The Colenso Battlefield is best visited with the aid of a battlefields guideThe Battle of Colenso:
On 15 December 1899, General Buller's advanced on the lines of defense that had been set up by General Louis Botha along the Thukela River. The purpose of this offensive was to relieve the besieged town of Ladysmith. The British forces advanced on three fronts. On the right flank towards Hlangwane Hill, led by the Earl Douglas Hamilton, who was repulsed. On the left flank by Major General Hart, who was ambushed in a blind loop 7km upstream from Colenso with heavy causalities. In the centre by Colonel C.J Long. The heavy guns were advanced into the bend in the river. They came under heavy fire and as a result were abandoned. Buller then ordered an attempt to retrieve these guns. Only 2 of the 12 were recovered. One of the those who died trying to save these guns, was Lieutenant Freddy Roberts, son of Field Marshall, Lord Roberts. Altogether Buller lost more than 1 100 men at Colenso, while 8 Boers lost their lives and 30 were wounded.

Battle of Thukela Heights:
This battle took place on 21-26 February 1900. It represented General Bullers fourth attempt to relieve the town of Ladysmith. Numerous battles were fought on the hills of Hlangwane, Monte Christo, Cingolo, Pieters, Kitchener's, Wynne's and Inniskilling before the reoccupation of Ladysmith. Turn off from the Colenso road towards Ezakheni/ Newcastle. This road travels through a number of these battlefields. The graves and memorials on the side of the road bear testimony to this fact. For a detailed map call at the Siege Museum in Ladysmith. Tel:036-637 2231.

Site of the Guns:
Ten of the twelve British guns brought forward during the Battle of Colenso, were lost to the Boers, under the leadership of General Louis Botha. Freddy, son of Lord Roberts, was mortally wounded here. A marker indicates where he fell.

Colenso Monuments & Memorials

Ambleside Military Cemetery:
Many of the men who fell in the Battle of Colenso, during the Anglo- Boer War, particularly the Irish regiments, are buried here.Take the Weenen/ Colenso off ramp from the R103 (approaching from Estcourt) and turn left to Winterton. Follow the signs to the cemetery. Open daily.

Armoured Train Cemetery: It was near this site that Winston Churchill was captured by Boer forces, who derailed the armoured observation train which he was travelling. A plaque just off the road records the event and the cemetery set among trees. Off the R103 near Frere. Signposted

Chieveley Military Cemetery:
Here Lt. Freddy Roberts, the son of Lord Roberts, lies buried. He was posthumously awarded the VC. Follow the dirt road past the railway station to the cemetery set among trees. Off the R103 from Estcourt to Colenso. Open daily

Clouston Garden of Remembrance:
Many of the Memorials and graves from the Battle of Colenso have been moved to the Clouston Garden of Rembrance. This site was General Buller's headquarters during the Battle of Colenso. There were a number of brigade hospitals here during the battle to which the wounded were brought. The graves of many of the men killed on the 15 December and Thukela Heights battles are found in this 'garden'.

Colenso Museums

R.E Stevenson Museum(Old Toll House):
Erected in 1879 as the house of the Bulwer Bridge. The military historian Dr R.E. Stevenson made a study of the Battles fought in and around Colenso during the Anglo-Boer War. Obtain the key from the police station next door.


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