Estcourt in Natal was described by Bennet Burleigh as being 30 miles due south of Ladysmith. The town was manned by men of the Natal Royal Rifles and ILH at the start of the war. By mid November 1899 over 5,000 troops were stationed in Estcourt. The Boers advanced towards Estcourt but were defeated at the battle of Willow Grange.
Estcourt was an vital supply point during the operations to relieve Ladysmith. Burleigh described how "Standing upon the hilltops near here, we can hear the daily booming of besieged and besiegers' cannon, and when the air is still, or the breeze is favourable, the threshing sound of musketry."
In the days of my youth, Estcourt was my home town. I have to confess to being a weird and mostly solitary teenager. I spent much of my free time wandering the countryside in search of fossils, Stone Age artefacts and relics of other earlier times, including items from the Boer War. The site of Winston Churchill's capture was the far limit of my bicycle rides.
Fort Durnford, now a museum, was then a military hospital and those soldiers who died there were buried in a cemetery on the banks of the Bushman's River. I spent a lot of time at the cemetery and I still have a few photographs (with negatives) of the graves taken with my mother's Box Brownie camera. It was during the 1970's, I think, that the graves were exhumed and the remains of the men were re-interred under a monument built on high ground on the opposite bank of the river. This monument is inscribed with their names and overlooks the site of the old cemetery and Fort Durnford in the distance.
I ascribe my particular interest in the Relief of Ladysmith to my formative years spent in Estcourt.
I too have fond memories of the Estcourt of old. I still have an office there so get to scrounge around for medals whilst on business. Sadly most of the old families (with their Zulu and Boer War medals in tow) have moved away or shuffled off this mortal coil.