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The New Zealand Dental Services

The Director of Dental Services

The Director of Dental Services

The General Officer Commanding a force is responsible for everything pertaining to that force, including the dental health of his troops, but being a layman, he appoints a dental expert to organise and carry out the necessary work on his behalf. The Director of Dental Services is therefore an administrative officer with dental qualifications. The terms of his appointment read that he is responsible to the Adjutant-General for the organisation, maintenance and efficient working of the New Zealand Dental Corps and to the Quartermaster-General for the provision and inspection of dental equipment and stores.

In addition to these administrative and supply duties he has another role, viz., operational. He has to deploy his units in accordance with the commander's plan and must issue his orders in exactly the same manner as does any other commanding officer, such as the Commander of the Royal Artillery or the Director-General of Medical Services. He must therefore have close liaison with the operational staff. The shorter the channels of communication between him and the heads of the other departments, the more expeditiously can his organisation function. Similarly, any interference with these channels of communication must affect the efficiency of his organisation. In the case of the Director of the New Zealand Dental Corps, there was interference with the channels of communication by the claim of the Director-General of Medical Services that the dental services were part of the medical and, as such, should be subject to his direction. The terms of the Director of Dental Services' page 39 appointment in this war were clear and precise so it would appear that the claim should have been dismissed, but unfortunately it was allowed to persist and became a source of annoyance and confusion. The main argument in favour of medical supervision was that the general health of the troops was the responsibility of the Director-General of Medical Services and that dental health was included in this category. This was correct up to a point, and the Director of Dental Services was always ready to agree that he had a responsibility to ensure that the dental health of the troops conformed to the general standards of health laid down by the medical services. To this extent he recognised a responsibility to the Director-General of Medical Services. A conference was held early in 1939, of which the closest search has revealed only pencilled minutes, in which it is claimed that the DDS agreed that the NZDC should revert to control by the DGMS. As no alteration in the terms of the appointment of the DDS was made officially by the Adjutant-General, it can only be assumed that this referred to the question of general policy affecting the health of the troops and not to matters of internal organisation. What the DDS did not agree to, and what the terms of his appointment contradicted, was the right of the Director-General of Medical Services to have any say in the method by which the standard of dental health was maintained. The controversy was bitter and undoubtedly affected the harmonious relationship which should have existed between the two Corps, and most certainly made the task of organisation more difficult for the DDS. Strong action by the Adjutant-General in support of his written instructions would have ended the controversy, but such action was not forthcoming, and what there was was tempered by expediency, allowing the sore to fester and erupt again.

Apart from his army appointment, the DDS was made responsible to the Naval Board through the Naval Secretary, and the Air Board through the Air Member for Personnel, for the dental health of the men in their services. His official title was therefore Director of Dental Services, Navy, Army and Air, but he carried army rank only.

The DDS was given the task of rendering all the armed forces dentally fit and maintaining them so. The responsibility was his and his alone. He had direct access to the heads of the services for his requirements, his immediate superior officer being the Adjutant-General or his counterparts in the Navy and the Air Force. He was expected to co-operate freely with the heads of other departments but was subordinate to none. All appointments to the NZDC were made by Army Headquarters on his recommendation. He was responsible for the training and distribution of officers and other page 40 ranks of the Corps and their calling up for service in New Zealand or overseas. His advice was available on professional questions, dental statistics and reports. In co-operation with other branches of the staff, he was responsible for the provision of accommodation in military districts, camps, depots, hospitals, transports and hospital ships for the successful dental treatment of the troops. He was expected to inspect the dental services in military camps and formations at bases and in the field. Also he was expected to co-operate with the dental council and the representatives of the dental profession in the conservation of the needs of the civilian population.

During the whole of the war the DDS was Colonel B. S. Finn, who received his army command in 1934, his naval command in April 1939 and his Air Force command on 17 September 1939.