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The New Zealand Dental Services

In exile, 1922–33

In exile, 1922–33

After the war, a Territorial Force was maintained in New Zealand on a compulsory basis, the training consisting of regular parades and annual camps. In the annual report for 1920, the General Officer Commanding the New Zealand Military Forces made the following reference to the NZDC:

It is not proposed to retain a permanent establishment of the Dental Corps, but experience has shown the need for an Army to be dentally fit and the great influence sound teeth in a soldier have in reducing the rates of sickness and invaliding. It is proposed to maintain the Dental Corps as part of the New Zealand Territorial Force, utilising it in all future camps of training that force. A definite establishment will be laid down which will provide for peace requirements and for the expansion of the Corps for war purposes if necessary.

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For the next decade, however, in spite of this statement of policy, the NZDC was not maintained as part of the Territorial Force, although there was retained a Director of Dental Services and a Reserve of Officers.

In 1930 Lieutenant-Colonel Hunter was posted to the retired list in the rank of colonel and was replaced as DDS by Lieutenant-Colonel J. N. Rishworth, MBE. Then, in 1931, the Territorial Force was placed on a voluntary basis, with considerable reduction in size. Strange to say, this general reduction was soon followed by a revival of the NZDC, but before describing this it is necessary to go back a year or so.

In 1928 a Territorial unit known as the Otago University Medical Company had been formed. It consisted of medical and dental students who were liable for compulsory military training and it aimed at combining this training with specialised work to qualify them as medical or dental officers in a future war. Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel C. E. Hercus, DSO, OBE, NZMC,1 it attended annual camps of fourteen days, the training consisting in instruction and exercises in stretcher drill, first aid in the field, military hygiene and the organisation of medical services in the field. This was in addition to instruction in general military subjects such as close-order drill, map reading and army organisation. The abolition of compulsory training produced a unit keen enough to flourish on a voluntary basis. From 1932 onwards, dental as well as medical instructors were included and the dental students were trained in the work and problems of a field dental officer in wartime. On the completion of their second and third annual camps, examinations, both practical and written, were held for the students. As a result of these examinations the dental students received an ‘A’ certificate after the second camp and a ‘B’ certificate after the third. A unit founded as a legitimate escape from the boredom and impracticability of the compulsory training scheme, which was lethargically administered and supinely accepted, fanned the spark of enthusiasm which had characterised the NZDC in the 1914–18 War. There would never be another war of course, the Great War had been a war to end wars, but the subject was extremely interesting and, who could tell, there were still armies and, where there were armies there was a need for a Dental Corps. The Otago University Medical Company thought so and so did the DDS.

In September 1931, Lieutenant-Colonel Rishworth submitted a memorandum to the GOC recommending that the Dental Corps be re-established as an active part of the Territorial Force. He sub-

1 Lt-Col Sir Charles Hercus, DSO, OBE, m.i.d.; Dunedin; born Dunedin, 1888; Professor of Bacteriology and Preventive Medicine, University of Otago; DADMS, A and NZ Mtd Div, 1916–19; Dean of Otago University Medical School, 1937–58.

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establishments for that Force and also for an Expeditionary Force in the event of mobilisation. Dental students who had completed their training in the Otago University Medical Company and had gained their two certificates would, on graduation, be eligible for commissions in the NZDC. They would be placed on the active list as soon as vacancies occurred in the establishment.

This was not wholly acceptable, and the matter was temporarily held in abeyance. Something, however, was done. Captains H. E. Suckling1 and R. B. Dodds2 were transferred from the reserve to the active list, the former as dental officer to the 3rd Territorial Field Ambulance and the latter as instructional officer to the Otago University Medical Company. In addition, Mr O. E. L. Rout3 was given a commission in the NZDC as a lieutenant in the Otago University Medical Company. Then, in January 1934, Lieutenant-Colonel Rishworth relinquished his appointment in favour of Lieutenant-Colonel Finn.

1 Lt-Col H. E. Suckling, ED; Blenheim; born Christchurch, 1890; dental surgeon; Capt, NZDC, 1917–19; ADDS, Army HQ, 1940–45.

2 Lt-Col R. B. Dodds, ED; Dunedin; born Ashburton, 1894; Dean of Dental Faculty, University of Otago; CO 15 Fd Amb.

3 Lt-Col O. E. L. Rout, ED; Wellington; born Invercargill, 15 Jan 1904; dental surgeon; ADDS (Army, Navy and Air) 1941–42, Mar 1946–Feb 1947; ADDS 2 NZEF(IP) 1942–44; ADDS 2 NZEF (UK) 1944–46.