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The New Zealand Dental Services

Treatment of the Division After Greece and Crete

Treatment of the Division After Greece and Crete

ON returning to Egypt the Division moved into the Helwan-Garawi area and the indications were that it would remain there during June and July before being sent again to the field. This was a short period in which to establish complete dental fitness even if the Dental Corps had been at full strength, but 36 per cent of the dental officers had been lost in Greece and Crete. The extent and type of treatment had to be limited to meet the situation. A reasonable standard of dental fitness for the whole Division was preferable to complete dental fitness for some and no treatment for others.

As there was now no Mobile Dental Section to do this work, No. 2 Camp Dental Hospital under the command of Captain B. Dallas1 moved to Helwan Camp. Its first task was to make a general survey with the object of finding out what work was urgent and what could safely be left for a time. The men were charted and graded T1, T2 or T3 according to the degree of urgency of the work to be done. The T1 patients were called up first and the important work was completed. They could then be regraded T2 or T3 and dismissed until those classes were being called for treatment. T2 or T3 patients could be regarded as reasonably fit and unlikely to be serious dental casualties should the Division move suddenly to the field. This system worked very well and by the end of July all urgent treatment had been completed and the Camp Dental Hospital was busy treating T2 and T3 cases, this time aiming at complete dental fitness.

Meanwhile, in Maadi Camp, No. 1 Camp Dental Hospital under Captain H. C. Colson2 was examining and treating the reinforcements as fast as possible so as to establish a high degree of dental fitness before they were sent to join the Division. All this meant very long hours for the depleted Dental Corps.

Apart from these two concentrations of troops, 6 Infantry Brigade was stationed in the Canal area, Brigade Headquarters and one battalion were at Ismailia, one battalion was at Kantara and the third page 196 at Suez. The Convalescent Depot was near Ismailia and the dental officer reported that patients coming in from the brigade were interfering with his regular work. In consequence a dental section was sent to work at the Convalescent Depot on the brigade patients and another one to Suez. Their work was completed by 16 August and they returned to Maadi Camp.

As was to be expected after the Greece and Crete campaigns, artificial dentures caused the most concern. The ADDS's report of 1 August 1941 is interesting as, being founded on information gleaned at the time, his deductions on the causes of this loss of dentures are probably as close to the facts as any deductions could be.

The number of artificial dentures lost or broken during the operations in Greece and Crete was considerable and when the troops returned to Egypt the position was alarming. A relatively large percentage of men returned to this country without their dentures and in each instance it was stated that they were lost either during operations on land or during one of the two evacuations.

The loss of dentures can be attributed to many causes some of which are unavoidable, others indicate either negligence or wilful intent to lose them, but whatever the reason may be, the fact remains that the loss of dentures under active conditions does occur to an abnormal extent and no doubt will occur in future campaigns.

It was found that the hard biscuits which form a large portion of the rations played havoc with artificial dentures and from all units breakages were reported in large numbers. Many of these broken dentures either had to be, or were, removed and placed in kit bags, haversacks or pockets and thus were lost or left behind at the evacuation.

It is of interest to compare the returns for denture work during the period February, March and April with the corresponding figures for May, June and July. The first period covers the interval before the Division moved to Greece and the second the period when those evacuated from Greece and Crete were being treated.

1st Period 2nd Period
Number of new full upper or lower dentures 271 663
Number of new partial upper or lower dentures 151 292
Number of dentures remodelled 452 582
Number of dentures repaired 532 1546

The issue of new full dentures and repairs to broken dentures are nearly trebled in the second period.

Another difficulty which faced the Corps immediately after the Greece and Crete campaigns was the shortage of equipment. The dental outfits sent to Greece with both the Mobile Dental Section and the field medical units were lost. The surgical and mechanical outfits ordered from the United Kingdom in 1940 had, according to a War Office cable, been despatched on 22 February 1941 but page 197 no trace of them could be found. Fortunately, the DDS in Wellington offered to replace the bulk of the lost equipment, an offer which was speedily accepted, but this could not arrive until the 6th Reinforcements came to Egypt somewhere about the end of July. The Middle East Dental Headquarters agreed to share its equipment with the NZDC, but at that time could not even re-equip the medical units. By careful stocktaking in every unit and a pooling of resources, with judicious borrowing and local buying, the gap was bridged and the work went on.

1 Maj B. Dallas, m.i.d.; Gisborne; born NZ 23 Jul 1900; dental surgeon.

2 Maj H. C. Colson, m.i.d.; Auckland; born NZ 11 Aug 1901; dental surgeon.