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The New Zealand Dental Services

Finn to Fuller, 29 April 1940:

Finn to Fuller, 29 April 1940:

I note you say ‘Don't allot the personnel, but leave it free’ and I agree and will when the Division is formed, but have to allot personnel to Field Ambulance, General Hospital, Convalescent Depot and, of course, the Mobile Dental Section, but the balance I have marked as Base Depot and will [include] in the reinforcements. The Mobile Unit will not be broken up as they will all be selected and trained and MacKenzie will command not you as I stated in the original notes to ADDS and GOC. You have got your own job and cannot handle a unit like this…. you of course must see that you are at Base for no move has apparently been made to provide the ADDS Division as I asked. MacKenzie will have to be advisor to ADMS as OC Mobile Unit. The Unit (Mobile) as a whole can always be moved in its entirety and always be ready to divide up when war conditions admit and should never have to be left out of the movements of the Division and I see no reason why it should ever leave the Divisional area.

Keep to the figures you quote as necessary to maintain dental fitness (one officer to 600) which I agree with and was working to until your cable came. Don't forget that you cannot draw on the Mobile Unit for any personnel nor the Medical Units. If you want officers or mechanics in addition to what is already on the stocks, be definite in your demand and I will get them away, but I should be warned in plenty of time if possible.

The Officer Commanding the Mobile Section is the link with ADMS and responsible to you through him.

page 144

There was no advantage to be gained by attempting to reconcile such fundamental differences of opinion and the ADDS had to content himself by relying on the security of his appointment within the 2 NZEF to establish his organisation in accordance with his convictions. That the DDS did not support him was unfortunate and, as will be seen later, led to disharmony in the Corps in the Middle East, fortunately of short duration. The goal was clearly defined, and if obstacles could not be avoided they had to be surmounted, even at the cost of strained relations. In the meantime it was necessary to convince Headquarters 2 NZEF beyond all doubt of the correctness of the proposed organisation, and accept reinforcements in whatever form they arrived and rely on the full support of Headquarters 2 NZEF for changing that form. In his war diary of 13 May 1940 the ADDS wrote:

A decision has been made regarding movement and distribution of dental personnel in conditions such as this where the Force is concentrated in two training camps and where the General Hospital, Convalescent Depot and Field Ambulances do not function in their normal manner. All Dental Corps personnel will be concentrated in dental blocks, one in each camp; the distribution of the personnel in the respective camp dental hospitals will be dependent upon personalities, ability etc. Dental Sections as shown on embarkation from N.Z. will not necessarily remain intact but may be reformed according to the ability either of the officers or other ranks. Thus it is essential that the NZDC be established as a separate unit to facilitate movements in particular and administration in general. To this end all NZDC personnel will be transferred from their present units to HQ 2 NZEF Base on arrival. They will then be attached to Camp Dental Hospitals (or units requiring dental services) for duties and to neighbouring units for pay, discipline, rations etc. Dental sections with medical units will be reformed at a later date depending on requirements.

Already a decision had been made that, on the arrival of the Second Echelon which was then at sea, the NZDC personnel would be concentrated at the camp dental hospital at Helwan to the number of six officers, seven orderlies and three mechanics. The course of the war, however, was changing. The Germans were driving all before them in Belgium and France and threatening Britain's very existence.

On 22 May 1940 the ADMS called Captain Fuller to Divisional Headquarters to meet Brigadier N. S. Falla, CMG, DSO, VD,1 who gave him the information that the Second Echelon had been diverted to England and would not arrive in Egypt as expected. Brigadier Falla was the newly appointed Commandant 2 NZEF Base and was leaving for England immediately, to be followed in page 145 about forty-eight hours by the ADMS. The first essential was to outline a dental organisation for the Second Echelon, amplifying the written instructions by as much verbal information to these two officers as time would permit. This meant a stocktaking of the dental condition of both echelons on which to base the allocation of personnel and equipment, the appointment of a dental command in England to function within the 2 NZEF organisation, and a temporary cancellation of many arrangements in the Middle East.

The position can be summarised under four headings:


Dental condition.






Reallocation of personnel.

1 Brig N. S. Falla, CMG, DSO, m.i.d.; born Westport, 3 May 1883; managing director Union Steam Ship Coy; NZ Fd Arty 1914–19 (Lt-Col comd 2 and 3 NZ FA Bdes); comd 2 NZEF Base, Feb 1940–Jun 1941; NZ representative on Ministry of Transport, London, 1941–45; died 6 Nov 1945.