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The New Zealand Dental Services

Treasury Islands

Treasury Islands

While 14 Brigade was on Vella Lavella 8 Brigade was preparing for the next operation, the capture of the Treasury Islands, about 70 miles north-west of Vella Lavella. The proposed date of the landing was dawn on 27 October 1943, and what was left of the Mobile Dental Section on Guadalcanal set to work to complete as much treatment as possible before that date. This was not easy as the brigade was fully occupied with battle exercises, even rehearsing attacks on the island of Florida across the Sealark Channel from Guadalcanal. Fortunately the men had become appreciative of the value of dental health and Major McCowan particularly commented on the number who came of their own accord asking page 327 for examination and treatment. Without this it would have been difficult to muster satisfactory dental parades. A large number of American troops was associated with the brigade for the assault, and as only one sub-section was to accompany the force, these men received treatment before leaving Guadalcanal. The sub-section was attached to 7 Field Ambulance on 20 October, to await embarkation with the second echelon.

The Treasury Group consists of two islands, Mono and Stirling, separated by Blanche Harbour, which is itself studded with small islands. Because of the difficult jungle country, it took days of slow painstaking work to exterminate the hidden enemy garrison but the brigade was in full possession by 1 November. As Stirling Island had been occupied unopposed, it was decided to bring up 7 Field Ambulance even though Mono Island, steep, cone-shaped, covered with jungle and scored by rivers, was still being cleared of the enemy.

It appears strange that only one sub-section was sent for a force of this size. This must also have occurred to Brigade Headquarters, which immediately sent an urgent signal to Guadalcanal asking for another dental officer. Sub-section 10/4 arrived on 15 November, which was just as well as the dental officer of 10/3 spent most of November and December suffering from dysentery, being in hospital almost as much as on duty.

On 1 December sub-section 10/6 also left Guadalcanal and was soon established on the north-east coast of Mono Island, where a radar station had been set up.

Rain was more or less continual, with seas of mud everywhere, and the heat and humidity made conditions most unpleasant. Stores and equipment were easily damaged by moisture and even sandpaper, arbor bands and discs had to be packed in airtight tins. The tins of a well-known and popular brand of cigarettes became passports to popularity with the Dental Corps.