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The New Zealand Dental Services

The Fourth Year, 1 April 1943 to 31 March 1944

page 89

The Fourth Year, 1 April 1943 to 31 March 1944

This year saw the beginning of retrenchment of the armed forces as the threat of enemy action diminished. Consequently, many of the dental sections were disbanded. The effect of this on the store was an embarras de richesses. The equipment and stock held by the disbanded sections were returned to the store. At the same time the influx of stores already ordered from overseas gathered momentum and seriously taxed the accommodation available. As a last straw, stores began to arrive from the United States of America against an indent placed by the Rt. Hon. J. G. Coates when on a mission to that country in 1941. This equipment from lend-lease sources was unexpected. An attempt was made to cancel the order, but the New Zealand Joint Staff Mission replied that, as the items had already either been shipped or assigned to New Zealand, delivery must be accepted. Stores to the value of £17,440 duly arrived. To cope with this flood it was necessary to find bigger premises and a building was provided by the Government Accommodation Board in Molesworth Street, Wellington. It was conveniently situated, and was 3000 square feet as against the 1400 feet of the old store. The new store began operations on 18 September 1943.

Two important changes in the administration and distribution of the dental stores for the RNZAF took place at this time. Firstly, the station equipment officers handed over their accounting responsibilities to the dental officers, and secondly, the army system of accounting was adopted in place of the ‘Powers system’. This simplified the work of the store as well as making the interchange of officers between the Army and the Air Force easier.

In January 1944 the last accounting anomaly was removed and the Principal Dental Officers of the mobilisation camps relieved their respective quartermasters of all responsibility for dental stores and equipment. The quartermasters welcomed this move. This assumption of responsibility by the officers of the Corps made it incumbent on the stores staff to see that they were fully instructed in accounting procedure. Everything was laid down in ‘Instructions to Officers NZDC’, a copy of which was in every officer's possession, but, in addition, regular visits were made to each accounting unit by an expert from the store. There is no doubt that this was the right policy for from then on the efficiency and simplicity with which the system worked were remarkable. Stores were being handled by people familiar with their uses. Clerical duties were standardised, were quickly and easily mastered and were by no means onerous. The change did not, however, reduce the debt of gratitude the Corps owes to the quartermasters and station equipment officers who administered the supplies for so long, who bore with infinite patience the puzzled and sometimes indignant inquiries of the page 90 fledgling resenting the inflexibility of service procedure, extricated the over-confident from costly mistakes, taught those willing to learn and, having taught, retired with grace and, it is suspected, with some measure of relief.

In December 1943 the accountant of the store, WO II G. Hay, was commissioned and given the appointment of Quartermaster of the Dental Services. This was a big advance for, apart from the individual merits of the officer himself, it was a recognition of the level to which the Corps had advanced from the days so short a time ago when it was the Cinderella of the services.

In May 1943 a curious suggestion was made by the New Zealand Medical Corps that the Army Optical Service should incorporate its supplies with those of the Dental Corps, and should be administered by the dental quartermaster. The reason for the suggestion is somewhat obscure, for the dental staff knew no more about optical equipment than the general QM branch or the Medical Corps knew about the dental. The DDS wisely refused.

The organisation continued in this form until the end of the war and for two years afterwards, when the store moved to Trentham in charge of a Warrant Officer first class, with the Ordnance Department once more as accounting official. It was well stocked, in fact overstocked, from the Molesworth Street store. Some of the more perishable stock was sold through the War Assets organisation and some, such as rubber for vulcanisation, and the vulcanisers themselves, is obsolete. The nucleus though is still there and, unless the apathy of 1918 to 1939 is repeated, the NZDC of the future should not be embarrassed by short supplies.