National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

English Book Keeper Dies at the Daisy Patch

Thomas Gerald Norman Screaton was born on 28 November 1891 in Leicester, England, to parents Frederick and Edith Screaton. Educated in England, Tom Screaton arrived in New Zealand in 1908 and eventually found work as a chemist at the Wilson Portland Cement Company in Warkworth.

Tom Screaton completed Territorial service with the 15th (North Auckland) Regiment, being promoted from Sergeant to Second Lieutenant on 28 November 1912 and further promoted to Lieutenant on 28 August 1913.

The uniform of Thomas Screaton.

The uniform of Thomas Screaton.

At the outbreak of World War One, Tom was working as a Book Keeper for R. Screaton of Helensville and enlisted on 13 August 1914, embarking with the Auckland Infantry Battalion from Auckland on 16 October 1914 aboard the troopship Waimana bound for Suez, Egypt.

Tom Screaton first encountered the Turkish forces at the Suez Canal in January and February 1915, before leaving for Gallipoli aboard the Goslar on 17 April.

Tom Screaton and his fellow North Aucklanders went ashore between 10.00 am and midday on the 25th and would come under heavy fire for the remainder of the day, digging in and watching out for Turkish snipers who were causing mayhem amongst the Kiwis and Aussies along with heavy machine gun and artillery fire.

As the Anzacs could not take the high point and the Turkish troops could not force the Anzacs off the peninsula, it was a stalemate, and due to that stalemate, it was decided by General Sir Ian Hamilton

(Dardanelles Commander-in-Chief) to launch another attack on the village of Krithia (Helles sector). This would be known as the Second Battle of Krithia or the “Daisy Patch” due to the long-stemmed daisies that covered the open ground.

On 5 May, the New Zealanders including Tom Screaton were shipped to Helles and on 8 May, they prepared to go into battle.

At 10.30 am, the whole line moved forward, only to be hit by lethal machine gun fire. Men dropped along the length of the line as bullets ripped into them. The Auckland Battalion had moved up a winding creek bed, getting some cover and then had to dash 150 metres to the forward British trench, losing more men. Once there, they took a breath and were given the order to push ahead.

The Auckland Infantry Battalion officers bravely led the charge across the open ground from the front but nearly all were shot down, some managing to take temporary cover before moving forward again. One of those was Lieutenant Tom Screaton. Sergeant William Brydon of Dargaville saw Tom Screaton get hit and would later state “He was only about three feet from me and a bullet hit Lieutenant Screaton in the head, death being instantaneous.”

The attack was a disaster. For the New Zealanders, there were 850 casualties on the 8th; 170 killed and more would die later of their wounds.

Tom Screaton’s body would never be recovered and he is commemorated on the Twelve Tree Copse (NZ) Memorial, Helles, Gallipoli. In New Zealand, he is commemorated on the Kaipara Memorial in Helensville.

Tom Screaton’s uniform and medals are currently on display at the National Army Museum in Waiouru.