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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Control of New Zealand Dental Corps

Control of New Zealand Dental Corps

The control of the Dental Corps was the subject of differences of opinion between the DGMS and the DDS at Army Headquarters in New Zealand, and it could not be claimed that any unity of opinion or clearly defined policy of administrative control was achieved during the war. The problem in 2 NZEF was not in any real degree connected with this, but similar difficulties arose.

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In 2 NZEF in October 1940 the question of the recognised channel of communication for the NZDC had been raised and defined. The DDMS had asked that all dental communications with Headquarters 2 NZEF be forwarded through him, but with this ADDS did not agree. The question was submitted to the Officer-in-Charge Administration, 2 NZEF (Brigadier Stevens),1 whose ruling was as follows:

The DDMS is responsible for the health of the NZEF as a whole. The ADDS, while retaining a certain degree of independence technically, is responsible to the DDMS for the dental health of the NZEF.… The ADDS commands the Dental Corps in the NZEF and the Mobile Dental Section is, therefore, under his command as far as personnel and technical work are concerned, and should at all times be at liberty to communicate with the ADDS direct on technical matters. While with the division in the field the Mobile Dental Section comes under the command of the ADMS as far as its location and duties are concerned. It should communicate with the ADMS on these matters. If necessary the ADMS communicates in turn with the ADDS, a copy of such communication going to the DDMS.… When not with the division in the field, i.e., while under training in Maadi Camp, the Mobile Dental Section is under the ADDS for all purposes, the ADDS in turn reporting if necessary to the DDMS.…

In the period November 1941 to February 1942 there was further disagreement as to the definition of command when the Mobile Dental Unit was in the field. The ADDS contended that it was wholly a non-divisional unit and that when it was with the Division it should be attached to the headquarters of the area or sub-area in which the force was located. On this basis the ADDS 2 NZEF sent movement orders from Headquarters 2 NZEF in January 1942. But the ADMS NZ Division considered, with some justification, that while the Mobile Dental Unit was with the New Zealand Division it became one of the five medical units under his command, and that therefore he should control its movements.

The controversy was decided on 26 February 1942 when Brigadier Stevens issued the following instructions which were an expansion of his earlier ruling:

While with the Division, the Mobile Dental Unit comes under command of the ADMS as far as its location and duties are concerned. It should communicate with the ADMS on these matters. If necessary the ADMS communicates in turn with the ADDS, a copy of each communication going to the DDMS.

The OC Mob. Dent. Unit will presumably be the senior Dental Officer with the Division in the field, and in these circumstances is the principal advisor of the ADMS on dental matters.

When not with the Division the Mobile Dental Unit is under the ADDS for all purposes, except such matters as rationing, quarters, etc., as may be arranged by any unit to which the Dental Unit or part thereof is attached.

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The Mob. Dent. Unit is intended to serve the NZEF as a whole and will therefore from time to time be moved where it can most usefully carry out its duties.

The decision whether the Mobile Dental Unit or part thereof is to be attached to NZ Div. or withdrawn from NZ Div. rests with the DDMS and it is for him to say at what stage attachments are to commence or cease. The ADDS is the advisor of the DDMS in this matter as in other matters.

When NZ Div. is under orders to move from one location to another, it will be the responsibility of the ADMS to raise with the DDMS the question of whether or not the Mobile Dental Unit or such part of it as is attached to NZ Div. is to move with the Division.

After this clarification of the position there was no further friction during the war.

As regards the Dental Corps generally, the staffing and equipment proved ample to cope with the needs of the force, and the whole force was regularly examined and made dentally fit. The 1st Mobile Dental Unit detached sub-sections to medical units in the forward areas, and a second mobile unit was formed at this period to serve non-divisional units sited away from the Base. A Base Dental Hospital was also established at Maadi Camp. At the hospitals, the CCS, and Convalescent Depot every endeavour was made to see that all patients were examined and made dentally fit before discharge, and this was the normal procedure. It was reported from time to time that the teeth and gums of the troops were in good condition.

1 Maj-Gen W. G. Stevens, CB, CBE; AA and QMG, NZ Division, 1940; Officer-in-charge Administration, 2 NZEF, 1940–45; GOC 2 NZEF, 22 Nov 1945–6 Jul 1946.