At the intersection of West Street and Church Street is a plaque marking the spot where Winston Churchill addressed the people of Durban, who gaye him a hero’s welcome when he arrived from Lourenco Marques after his escape from Pretoria in 1899.
Twenty five year old Winston Churchill, cavalryman and newspaper correspondent for the London Morning Post arrived in Estcourt in 1899 as the British troops were preparing to march on Ladysmith to relieve the beleaguered town.
As a graduate of the Military College at Sandhurst, and having seen action in Cuba, India and the Sudan, he was aware of the Boers’ prowess in the field, commenting that “the individual mounted Boer, in a suitable country, is worth four or five regular soldiers.”
Churchill’s exploits during the Anglo-Boer War made him a national hero and lay the foundation for the-future British Prime Minister’s reputation for dogged determination and tenacity.
He didn’t have to wait a long for action. On 15 November 1899 he joined an armoured train that was reconnoitring towards Colenso, where enemy patrols had been spotted. The train was ambushed and derailed by the Boers, whereupon Churchill was captured as prisoner of war. He did not stay captive long, however, for within two months he had made a daring escape from prison in Pretoria and was back in Natal, ready to embark on another attempt to relieve Ladysmith. At the time. of his capture the Boer leader General Joubert, dismissed Churchill as ‘n klein koerant-skrywertjie. (A small newspaperman.)