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The New Zealand Dental Services

The Withdrawal of the Division and Scheme RUAPEHU

The Withdrawal of the Division and Scheme RUAPEHU

DURING the early weeks of May 1943, treatment of the Division fully occupied the dental officers attached to the field ambulances and 1 Mobile Unit which, at this time, was located at Sidi Bou Ali with the open MDS, 12 miles south of Enfidaville. On 16 May, all enemy resistance having ceased, the Division began the march back to Egypt which was expected to take about three weeks. The field ambulances and the Mobile Dental Unit went with it, also the section at the Advanced Base when that was disbanded. No. 1 NZ Convalescent Depot and 3 NZ General Hospital, however, remained at Suani Ben Adem in case of operations against enemy-occupied Mediterranean islands and the European mainland. No. 1 NZ CCS began the move back to Egypt but, before arriving in Tripoli, it was decided to keep it in Tripolitania in an operational role at Suani Ben Adem. Later, this dental section worked hard on 1 British Armoured Division, the extent of this work bringing a letter of thanks and appreciation from the DDMS of the Tripolitania district.

Other things, too, were happening at this time which considerably affected the Dental Corps. The first was that, at the express wish of Headquarters 2 NZEF, Lieutenant-Colonel Fuller joined the Hospital Ship Oranje as ship's dental officer for a three weeks' tour to Durban and back. It was felt that three and a half years of administrative duties had earned him a change of air and a rest. Captain A. Dickens, NZDC,1 the Oranje's dental officer, came ashore in the meantime. Major Middlemass was appointed to take over the duties of ADDS as well as his command of 1 Mobile Unit but, until he could be flown from Tripoli, Major G. McCallum, OC 1 NZ Camp Dental Hospital, acted for him.

The second was Scheme RUAPEHU. The New Zealand Government decided that a large number of long-service personnel should be returned to New Zealand on furlough. It was not expected that the draft, consisting of all married men and a large percentage of single men of the First, Second, and Third Echelons, would leave

1 Maj A. C. Dickens; Invercargill; born Auckland, 28 Mar 1900; dental surgeon.

page 241 for a few months and certainly not until after the 9th Reinforcements had been absorbed and deputies trained to take over. Considerable disorganisation was caused, therefore, when it was announced that the date of sailing had been advanced, coinciding almost to the day with the arrival of the 9th Reinforcements and leaving only three weeks to make arrangements. The scheme did not apply to dental officers, who already had the hospital ship scheme of exchange with New Zealand. It did, however, apply to other ranks in the Corps. The extent of the disorganisation will be appreciated when it is realised that, of the 17 men selected for repatriation, 15 were NCOs. This meant a big reshuffle so that administrative posts could be filled. Promotions could be temporary only, in case some of those repatriated returned to the Middle East.

It had always been the practice to make all men returning to New Zealand dentally fit. In this case, the large number in the draft (about 6000) and the short time between the publication of the names and the date of departure made it impossible even to attempt it.

The return of the Division to the Delta and the decision to quarter it in Maadi Camp, with its greater convenience and comfortable hut accommodation, made it necessary to move most of the New Zealand Base units to another camp. Mena Camp, a tented camp in the vicinity of the Pyramids, was selected and the Base Depot Dental Hospital moved there on 24 May with the Reception Depot, setting up in three tents. No. 2 Mobile Dental Unit, which had been working on 4 Armoured Brigade, also moved to Mena Camp, where 2619 of the 9th Reinforcements were expected to undergo training. No. 1 Mobile Dental Unit was to stay of course with the Division in Maadi Camp; in fact it remained under the command of the Division as presenting fewer difficulties of administrative control. Quite obviously the ghost of non-cooperation so active before the Greece campaign had been successfully laid. No. 1 Camp Dental Hospital also remained at Maadi, firstly to treat 876 of the 9th Reinforcements, chiefly Armoured Corps, secondly to provide a service for those base units which did not move to Mena, and thirdly to take over the Discharge Depot duties of the Base Depot Dental Hospital and those of the Convalescent Depot, most of whom were in Tripolitania.

The Division arrived in Maadi on the last day of May 1943 and immediately all its units made arrangements for fourteen days' leave on a 50 per cent basis. There was therefore little opportunity for carrying out serious routine work during June, especially as 1 Mobile Dental Unit itself was included in the leave. July, however, found the Division once more settling down to a programme of page 242 training and steps were immediately taken to catch up with arrears. By this time the 9th Reinforcements, who arrived in Egypt on 11 June, had been made dentally fit and 2 Mobile Dental Unit was able to return to Maadi to assist in the work on the Division. With the departure of 2 Mobile Unit from Mena the Base Depot Dental Hospital was the only dental unit left in Cowley Lines, Mena Camp, where it was fully occupied making all those passing through the Reception Depot dentally fit.

The Hospital Ship Oranje returned to Suez on 13 June but it was decided that Lieutenant-Colonel Fuller, who now automatically came within the Ruapehu scheme, should travel in her to New Zealand on three months' furlough. This time he went as a ‘protected personnel’ passenger. Major Middlemass relinquished his command of 1 Mobile Dental Unit, was promoted temporary lieutenant-colonel and appointed ADDS. Major G. McCallum assumed command of 1 Mobile Dental Unit, Captain C. Moller of 1 Camp Dental Hospital and Captain K. Moss1 of 2 Mobile Dental Unit. Captains Moller and Moss received temporary majorities.

During July, while the Division was being treated under good conditions in Maadi Camp, Captain Pickerill of the CCS in Suani Ben Adem was having a busy and trying time treating British troops from Sicily. The temperature at times was 123 degrees in the shade. At this temperature copper and silicate cements set extremely fast. Even cooling the mixing slab had little effect as both the powder and liquid were hot themselves. His mechanic had great difficulty working with wax models and it was some time before a daily supply of ice could be got from the ADDS in Tripoli. Under these conditions his section established its record month: 523 examinations, 354 fillings, 89 extractions, 16 dentures and 30 repairs.

1 Maj K. T. Moss; Auckland; born Carterton, 25 Sep 1911; dental surgeon.