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The New Zealand Dental Services

War Diary, 3 October 1940:

War Diary, 3 October 1940:

Informed all officers very frankly what was expected of them overseas as regards discipline, general demeanour and standards of dental treatment. It was very clearly emphasised that as much time and trouble must be given to treatment overseas as would be given to treatment in private practice. That when at the chairside they must consider themselves ‘Civilians in uniform’ and treat the men with all sympathy and understanding. When away from the chairside they must lose that self-consciousness associated with specialist officers in uniform and make every endeavour by the observance of military procedure to give their rank a military status at least comparable with that of other units.

There was nothing new in these remarks as they were impressed on all dental officers in New Zealand, but they are repeated in this context to show the importance attached to them in every sphere of operation. They also showed very definitely that the ADDS was determined to uphold the good name of the Corps and that defaulters from the strict code would be answerable to him. There were some defaulters, almost entirely in this transition period when work was not arduous, but on the whole there was little trouble and it can safely be said that eventually there was no happier service in the force.

The arrival of the Third Echelon, and especially of the Mobile Dental Section, provided an example of the result of differences of opinion at a high level. There were misunderstandings between the DDS in New Zealand and the ADDS in the Middle East concerning the function of the Mobile Section which, as already pointed out, produced a stalemate. Such irreconcilable views could not be confined to discussions between respective commanders and were reflected in the body of the corps. What began as a simple difference of opinion sowed the seed of partisanship which might easily have led to schism. A looseness in definition of the appointments of the ADDS and the Officer Commanding the Mobile Dental Section led to conflict between them, and in turn this conflict was reflected in the Corps as a spirit of uncooperation. Deep down the co-operation was there, but it was not until after brisk exchanges of correspondence backed by higher authority in the Middle East that harmony was restored. The conception of the Mobile Dental Section was so obviously in good faith that nothing is gained by recrimination. The lesson for the future is to point out the faults in execution and later to trace the evolution of a vastly different mobile section.