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The New Zealand Dental Services


page v


APART from the factual recording of past incidents, there are two qualities essential in any history. Sufficient emphasis must be laid on errors of commission and omission to prevent their repetition in the future and the whole must be presented with enough interest that he who runs may read, not nod. In telling the story of the New Zealand Dental Corps it is impossible to avoid the use of technical terms, for dentistry is a scientific subject, so if some of the explanations seem empirical to the dental reader, his indulgence is craved. May he share with the lay reader some enjoyment of the successful struggle of the Corps for recognition by the Armed Forces, which should appeal to anyone who has read ‘Cinderella’.

There is little of the blood and thunder of war but enough fights, if only on paper, to satisfy even an Irishman. There is something from every theatre of war in which the New Zealand troops fought, for the Corps was responsible for the dental health of every man and woman of the Navy, Army and Air Force at all times. If there is some pride of achievement there is some justification, for New Zealand led the way in providing organised dental service for her armed forces; conceived the ideal of the establishment of complete dental fitness at all times, as distinct from the maintenance of a casualty service, not only at the Base but in the field; clung to this ideal with such fierce intensity that the New Zealand forces, handicapped by an initial grave burden of dental infirmity, enjoyed a standard of oral health second to none of their Allies.

It is a far cry from the experimental inclusion of two dental officers in the field ambulance that left New Zealand in 1914 with the Samoan Relief Expedition to the highly organised and efficient dental service of today known as the Royal New Zealand Dental Corps. Memory is short and the achievements of 1914–18 were mostly forgotten until Hitler jolted the world out of peaceful slumber. The achievements of 1939–45 could easily suffer a similar fate should, as we hope, our prayers for a lasting peace be granted. So this saga has been told. The facts have been carefully checked amid the chaos of a peculiar recording system and anything not documentarily substantiated has been labelled as such.

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The thanks of the author are offered to many, too numerous to mention in detail, for willing assistance. It is desired to place on record, however, the names of some without whose help it would have been well-nigh impossible to complete the task: the late Colonel B. S. Finn, whose long and intimate association with the Corps shone a beacon of light through the fog of early research; Colonel J. F. Fuller, who read and corrected Part II of the history and lightened the task of the author by the excellence and lucidity of his war diaries; Captain B. Wilson, WO I Peters and WO II Styche of RNZDC Headquarters, who were more than willing at all times to give of their experience; Miss Lorna Clendon of the War History Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs, who searched and annotated the files and records with such meticulous care; Major G. H. Gilbert, who began the writing of this history when stationed at Army Headquarters; and the late Major-General Sir Howard Kippenberger, Editor-in-Chief of the War Histories in New Zealand, and his staff, whose maps, indexing and general supervision were so essential.

T. V. Anson, bds

Wellington, New Zealand