Following the failure of the action at Spion Kop, Buller prepared another offensive operation to relieve Ladysmith. His plan was to seize Vaal Krantz, almost in the centre of the Boer defensive positions, to serve as a base for artillery to provide supporting fire while his cavalry advances to Ladysmith.
The attack began at 6:00 on 5 February with a feint from the Maconochie Hills, north of the Tugela River toward the Brakfontein Ridge. British guns on surrounding hills supported the feint while artillery on Swartz Kop bombarded Vaal Krantz.
In mid-morning, a pontoon bridge was completed across the river, but not until the afternoon did Maj-Gen the Hon N G Lyttleton’s 4th Infantry Brigade cross. By this time the Boers had assessed that this was the main point of attack and became the focus of intense fire. Later, Vaal Krantz was taken by the Durham Light Infantry and the Rifle Brigade, forcing the Johannesburg commando, led by Kommandant Ben Viljoen, from the crest and the British troops entrenched there for the night.
During the night, Boer guns were relocated, and considerable reinforcements brought in.
Throughout the next day the Boers kept Vaal Krantz under constant rifle and shell fire and assaulted the hill twice. That evening Hildyard’s 2nd Infantry Brigade relieved the 4th Infantry Brigade.
Throughout 7 February, the 2nd infantry brigade was subjected to rifle and shell fire and in the evening, Buller ordered Vaal Krantz to be abandoned; it was evacuated that night.
“Boer War Gazetteer” by Jones & Jones.
QSA (1) RoL (3793 Pte. W. Haines, Durham Lt. Infy.)
Pte Haines was wounded in the follow-up Boer attacks on Vaal Krantz on 6 February. It seems that he was invalided to the UK: the single RoL clasp is his sole entitlement. He is noted as “Reservist” on the QSA Roll.