Thomas Dale was born in England in 1895. His family later immigrated to New Zealand, where his father set up a commercial fruit-growing business in the Auckland suburb of Birkdale.
Dale was working as a saddler when he enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in June 1916. He left New Zealand in October of that year and later arrived in France, where he joined the 1st Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment.
In 1917, Dale fought with his battalion at Messines in June and La Basseville in July. In October, during the battle of Broodseinde, he was temporarily attached to the Third Field Company of the New Zealand Engineers. He survived unscathed.
After spending his leave in the United Kingdom, Dale was back with the 1st Aucklands in the Ypres Salient by February 1918.
In late March, the New Zealand Division was rushed south to the Somme region after a German offensive – Operation Michael – broke through the British defences.
After a long and hasty march, the New Zealanders were plunged straight into battle.
"…While we ate our meal, which was soon prepared by the cooks, some seven or eight light Whippet tanks came across the fields at great pace. They are quite small things, mounting machine guns, and are able to move three times quicker than the big ungainly tanks we had at Messines and in the Salient. Where they were going we did not know at the time but they crawled up the bank on the right side of the road and soon passed out of sight.
Later we heard that these tanks had met the Huns at Colincamps and cleared the village of machine guns."
In a single day, the New Zealanders captured the town of Grévillers, Loupart Wood and the village of Biefvillers. The next day they began to surround the town of Bapaume.
Dale, who was running messages between headquarters and his battalion, described the operations.
"The guns snarl and bark occasionally but there has been nothing of a barrage nature during the day.
This spot, in which we find ourselves, is anything but pleasant; we are on pins and needles wondering when the next shells are coming over. Fritz has his Jaeger troops in front of Bapaume, or rather, in it. They are stiff with machine guns and are holding it well."
In late October 1918, Dale wrote to Emma, his wife-to-be, summarising the capture of Bapaume.
"The villages we came through at first were nothing but a mass of broken bricks, great shell holes everywhere. We were always packed up ready to move quickly day or night.
Up to Bapaume we went and we were rather close up and so were shelled and bombed. This town as you have read is nothing but a mass of ruins, it is worse than Ypres and that is bad enough.
The main roads at the entrance of these places were mined and great holes blown in them.
All the places were looted all such things as blankets and cotton goods and all household stuff, cups etc taken or smashed."
Dale survived the rest of the war and returned to New Zealand in May 1919, and soon after married Emma Newton.
Thomas Dale died in Auckland on 23 April 1985, aged 90.