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The New Zealand Dental Services

Revival, 1934–39

Revival, 1934–39

Due to Lieutenant-Colonel Finn's strong recommendation to the GOC, the NZDC was re-established in the Territorial Force in 1934. He submitted that this was the only method of ensuring an efficient dental service to be put into the field in the event of general mobilisation, in contrast to the position in 1914. A peacetime establishment was authorised:


Six dental sections, each consisting of one officer and two clerk orderlies. Two of these were to be attached to each of the three Territorial field ambulances.


The Dental Section of the Otago University Medical Company, which was recruited from dental students and officered by two NZDC officers.

With the appointment of officers already mentioned, this left a vacancy for five more officers for the sections attached to the field ambulances. These were filled by commissioning recent graduates from the Dental School instead of using reserve officers who had served in the last war. To complete the establishment, dental clerk orderlies were recruited, chiefly from the staffs of the dental trading companies. There were fourteen days of annual training, made up of weekend or whole-day parades and an annual camp of six days.

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Although, on the establishment of the Territorial Force, each dental section was attached to a field ambulance, it went into camp attached to some other unit. In this way as many Territorial units as possible were provided with an emergency dental service and each dental officer gained experience in setting up a field dental section and fitting it and himself into the general military organisation. The emergency treatment for so short a time was not enough to interfere with general training but was greatly appreciated by the Force. In the first years the dental officers themselves provided all the equipment, but later, seven outfits of standard equipment were provided by the Army, each contained in two panniers and one chair case.

Very soon two significant facts were noticed. Firstly, there were more applications for commissions in the NZDC than there were vacancies, and secondly, there were more requests from commanding officers of Territorial units for dental sections than there were sections available. The enthusiasm of the profession, and of the Territorial units, did not result in an increase in establishment. New Zealand, in common with other members of the British Commonwealth, had not as yet provided the funds for other than a peacetime army. This, however, did not deter the DDS from planning for war, and Lieutenant-Colonel Finn gave freely of his own time in preparing a basis of organisation and administration which would serve the NZDC in time of peace, and provide for its rapid expansion in time of war. His persistence was rewarded by the authorisation of various regulations from time to time dealing with:


The dental standard required and the procedure for the dental examination and charting of recruits:


For the Permanent Force.


For the Territorial Force.


For general mobilisation.


The standard of dental treatment for peace and war.


Equipment tables.


Accounting for stores.


Mobilisation regulations.


War establishments.


Dress regulations.


NZDC regulations and standing orders.


General and field notes for the examination of officers.


Prescriptions for examination for Certificates ‘A’ and ‘B’ (Dental) and for the promotion of officers, NZDC.


Instructions to dental officers, Territorial Force.


Syllabus for courses of instruction for officers, NZDC.

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A course of instruction at the Army School, Trentham, of one week's duration was held for officers of the NZDC in October 1938 and another in June 1939. Here they were instructed in general military subjects by the Chief Instructor at the school and in the organisation and work of an army dental service in war by the DDS himself.

In April 1939 three Assistant Directors of Dental Services were appointed, with the rank of major, one to the staff of each Military District headquarters.

As a result of Lieutenant-Colonel Finn's initiative and perseverance and the ready response of members of the profession, the skeleton of an army dental service was built up prior to the outbreak of war in September 1939. It was a new skeleton, for the old one had been buried after the last war, but it was ready to be clothed with the traditions of the past, so carefully preserved by the small band of enthusiasts to whom the NZDC owes a lasting debt of gratitude.