Dental medical services within the armies of the Allied Powers (Entente) during World War I (1914-1918) – Part V

Univ. Lecturer Dr. Mihai Burlibașa (1), Cpt. Dr. Simion Gh. Dumitru (2), Univ. Assist. Dr. Radu Costea (1), Univ. Assist. Dr. Mihai David (1), Univ. Assoc. Assist. Dr. Raluca Costea (1)

(1) U.M.F. “Carol Davila” from Bucharest <br>(2) U.M. 1751 Braşov


WWI, also called in history The Great War, was a major conflict of the 20th century, in which were involved no less than 25 countries. Approximately 8,500,000 people died and more than 21,000,000 were wounded. Furthermore, the civilian population sweated to make an impressive number of arms, ammunitions and other necessities. Due to the contribution of the civilians, World War I was also the first “total war“. Starting from these details, I attempted in this material an as brief as possible approach both in historic view and in medical view, of the organization of the Medical Services, inclusively Dental ones, of the combating forces that activated within the Entente (or Allied Powers, as such were also known in history), during this huge world conflagration.

Key-word: World War I, Entente, dentistry services.

6. Italy

It is known that Italy was the ally of the Prussian Empire and the and the Austro-Hungarian Empire since 1882, but this country also had its own plans against the Austrian territory in the regions of Trentino, Istria and Dalmatia. (1-4)

Concretely, Italy concluded in 1902 a secret pact with France, which cancelled the country’s debts towards the previous alliance. Italy refused to join the German and Austro-Hungarian Army at the beginning of World War I, because the initial alliance with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire had only a defensive purpose. The defensive nature of this alliance was fully cancelled as the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on the Kingdom of Serbia. (1-4)

Although the Austro-Hungarian Government had started serious negotiations to obtain if not the support, at least the neutrality of Italy by promising to it Tunisia, the Italian Kingdom joined the Entente, signing the London Pact in April 1915, declaring war against the Central Powers (Austro-Hungary in May 1915 and Prussia/Germany 15 months later). (1-4)

The Italian troops had generally throughout the war a clear superiority versus the Austro-Hungarian troops, but they were poorly organized and supplied throughout the course of the hostilities so that, starting in 1915, Italy launched 17 important offensives on the Isonzo Front (part of the Italian-Austro-Hungarian border near Trieste), but all were rejected by the Austro-Hungarian troops, which had the advantage of the higher ground. (1-4)

The Central Powers on the Italian Front had the initiative almost all the time, inflicting upon the Italian Army some devastating defeats during the war (see the Battle of Caporetto in November 1917) and only the capitulation of the German and Austro-Hungarian Army in front of the French, English and American Army saved Italy from a humiliating capitulation. (1-4)

When we talked about the poor organization and supply of the Italian Army during the WWI, we referred to both Military Medical Services of this army, but also to the civilian ones, including dental ones, the latter being nonexistent at the onset of the hostilities. (1-5)

Although there has been an important infrastructure in Italian military and civilian hospitals as early as the beginning of the war, it was serviced by rather poorly trained staff. Concretely, dental services, oral and maxillofacial surgery and plastic and reconstructive surgery of the face have found no place in these Italian military medical structures. (1-6)

But, with the start of the trench warfare, it became clear that in the case of oral and maxillofacial lesions, the activity of the campaign surgeon had to be supported by the contribution of a dentist. (1-6)

Confronted with such evidence, an impressive number of Italian civil dentist practitioners offered their services to the Italian Ministry of War to support the activity of the Campaign Medical Services. (1-6)

They were also joined by dentists who worked at the Red Cross and the Order of the Knights of St. John of Malta. These professionals joined the Italian Campaign Military Hospitals not only with their equipment but also with their own auxiliary staff: dental nurses and dental technicians. (1-6)

The highest authorities of the Italian Government decided very quickly to set up Military Dental Services to operate both within Military Territorial Hospitals and Military Campaign Hospitals. (5, 6) These dental services included both dentists, specialists in plastic and facial surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, as well as dental medical assistants, dental technicians and stretcher bearers/nurses. (5, 6)

If at the beginning of the hostilities dentists were enrolled into the Italian Army as simple soldiers, further to the decree issued by the Italian Ministry of War on 6 September 1917, all dentists were enrolled in the medical structures of the Italian Army with degrees of officers. (5, 6) The age of such a volunteer should not exceed 46 years and the number of dentists enrolled with degrees of officers in the Italian Army should not exceed 600. (1-6)

In 1917, seeing the large number of war injured among Italian soldiers, wounded in terrible clashes with the troops of the Central Powers, the Italian Government decided to set up 3 oral and maxillofacial prosthetic centres operating within the Dentistry Services of the Italian Army, and each such centre was managed by a French oral and maxillofacial surgeon, as they were already aware of the extraordinary experience such had gained on the West Front (in this situation was also Dr. Mousis, a oral and maxillofacial surgeon from Bordeaux, France, a person with extensive experience in the treatment and recovery of the great war injured). (5, 6)

Here should be also mentioned the contribution of Dr. Henri Joseph Lentulo (whom I have already mentioned in the material dedicated to the Dentistry Services of the French Army), a reputed French physician and inventor of Italian nationality, in the management and administration of the Centre of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Milan as of the year 1918 and whose activity I already discussed in the material dedicated to the Dentistry Services of the French Army. (5, 6)

Thus, by the end of the WWI, the Italian Government decided both to create new such centres of dentistry and oral and maxillofacial surgery and prosthesis application, but also to reorganize the existing ones both in the Italian Army and the civilian structures, and placed them under the command and control of Territorial Military Hospitals. (5, 6)

7. Portugal

During the WWI, Portugal participated along the Entente troops, with an expeditionary contingent on the Western Front (the French Front). (7)

Thus, the Prussian Empire (Germany) declared war on Portugal on 9 March 1916, while the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on it 6 days later, on 15 March 1916. (7)

In regard to the Medical Services of the Portuguese Army on the Western Front, they have been relatively well organized. In regard to the Dentistry (Dental Medicine) Services of the Portuguese Army, it was decided to establish such on 21 August 1917. (5, 6)

Such a dentistry structure should not have more than 16 doctors, up to the age of 45 years, all with the rank of officers (the lowest rank being lieutenant-major), but it should also have the appropriate auxiliary personnel (medical dentistry assistants, dental technicians, stretcher bearers/nurses), as well as adequate equipment for both work on site and fixed sanitary units, such as military campaign hospitals. (5, 6)

8. Belgium

The situation of Belgium during the WWI was a bit more special. Belgium was actually the first country occupied by German troops in their victorious advance to the French territory.

Concretely, in 1914, in order to implement its plan of invading France, the German Army penetrated into neutral Belgium, becoming the target of public stigma, when the news of the atrocities committed against civilians appeared in the international press.

Physical violence, rapes, forced requisitions, destroyed localities, brief executions have tainted the German Army considered so disciplined, the occupation of Belgium being called in the propaganda “The Rape Against Belgium” and the German soldier presented as a bloodthirsty beast, under the nickname “The Hun”. (8, 9)

Small Belgium enjoyed a huge wave of sympathy, its defeat being used in the UK and later in the US to mobilize young people to join the army in order to fight in Europe on the Western Front. (8, 9)

The German army entered Belgium on 4 August 1914. (8, 9) At that time, Belgium had only 120,500 soldiers under arms, grouped in 6 divisions and 3,500 gendarmes. The officer corps was short of 2,300 men; 65,000 elderly reservists were deployed by garrisons. (8, 9) The Civic Guard, having 46,000 members, served as a police force behind the front lines. (8, 9) These were joined by approximately 18,000 volunteers plus 38,000 recruits and volunteers in the early days of war. Belgian colonial troops have not been used in Europe, as such only operated on the fronts of Africa. (8, 9)

Following the confrontation with the Belgian troops, the German Army had about 43,000 soldiers taken out of battle (dead and wounded). Probably due to such frustrations, the Germans committed in the first month of war various atrocities in the occupied areas, the atrocities I mentioned earlier. (8, 9)

Virtually, approximately 5,000 civilians were killed in August 1915, during the invasion. Since September 1915, these atrocities of the German Army have ceased at the order of German commanders, amazed by the acts committed in the campaign by the own soldiers. (8, 9)

As far as the organization of the Medical Services of the Belgian Army is concerned, they have been relatively well established. At the beginning of the invasion of the German Army, in August 2014, Military Hospitals in Belgium had well-organized dental services. (5, 6)

Thus, at the outbreak of hostilities, Dr Watry, battalion surgeon in the Belgian Army during the Great War, presented at the Inter-ally Dentistry Congress held in Paris in 1916 several issues related to the organization of the Dentistry Services of the Belgian Army, thus (5, 6, 10, 11): “In each division of the Belgian Army, there was a dentistry service in the front area (mobile in wartime and fixed in time of peace), rather well-equipped and organized, being serviced by at least 2 dental military officers, with the appropriate auxiliary personnel: nurses and dental technicians. At the Military Hospitals in La Panne, Cabourg, there was besides the appropriate dental services, a plastic and reconstructive surgery service for facial and/or oral and maxillofacial surgery”.

Continuing these ideas of the reputed Belgian physician, but also studying other bibliographic sources, we can state that at the Océan Hospital from Panne, in addition to the aforementioned services, there was an important centre of oral and maxillofacial prosthesis application, having also a clinical and laboratory component. (5, 6, 10, 11)

At the same time was set up in the city of Calais, an important base of the Belgian Army, an excellent Centre of Dentistry and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, attended by several specialists where, during 2 years of war, over 11,905 specialized interventions were carried out in the oral and maxillofacial area, most of which being dental interventions.

Also in the city of Calais, there was an oral and maxillofacial prosthetic centre with a dental technique laboratory where, in just 9 months were made approximately 406 surgical prostheses of different types.

Other smaller centres of dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery and surgical prosthesis application also functioned in the French cities of Rouen, Rennes and Le Havre (approximately 43 dentists, plastic or maxillofacial surgeons worked with ranks of officers, with appropriate auxiliaries), cities where, with the consent of the Belgian authorities in exile, military commanders of the Belgian Army Regiments decided to set up smaller medical services, including dental care, to provide treatment to the wounded of this courageous armed, which although withdrawn from the territory occupied by the German troops, continued the fight on the French Front with the Forces of the Entente until its victory. (5, 6, 10, 11)

9. United States of America

After the outbreak of the Great War, the American nation chose neutrality. The US was at that time only half a century after the civil war trauma and after a short but fierce conflict with Mexico. However, the United States has provided the British with significant logistical support: ammunition, raw materials and money. (12-14)

In 1915, the sinking of the Lusitania vessel, with 128 American citizens on board, seemed to lead to the joining by the US of WWI along with the Entente. But this was not the case: President Woodrow Wilson only decided to finally ask Germany to fully renounce the submarine war and especially to the attacks on passenger vessels. Germany accepted and observed the conditions of Washington for a while. (12-14)

However, the American society was then divided into two sides, and the pro-war side led by former President Theodore Roosevelt was exerting ever stronger pressure. Thus, at the beginning of 1917, the situation changed radically. (12-14)

Germany resumed the submarine war against US-flagged vessels and tried to persuade Mexico to attack the United States and the Mexicans were to receive in exchange the lost territories: Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The telegram intercepted by the British had a terrible impact on Washington.

Specifically, in April 1917, President Wilson asked the approval of the US lawmakers for the US to join the war with the Entente and voted the war declaration against Germany (12-14).

In a first stage, President Wilson hoped that he could negotiate a separate peace with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but finding out that this was not possible, the US declared war also against Austro-Hungary on 7 December 1917. (12-14)

If at the beginning of the war the United States had a modest army of about 500,000 soldiers, in 1917 nearly three million soldiers were mobilized, one million of whom were sent to France in 1918. An impressive force at first sight, all the more so as the Germans were suffocating and had no more human and material reserves. (12-14)

The American units entered the battle quite late, only in the summer of 1918, and the 100-day offensive eventually led to the conclusion of the armistice. (12-14)

The United States incurred huge losses: 110,000 soldiers died in World War I, almost half of them due to the Spanish influenza epidemic. The US Participation in World War I, allowed however to President Wilson to impose his ideas on the Versailles negotiations, even if his objectives, the reform of the international system and world peace, were only the illusions that eventually led to the outbreak of World War II. (12-14)

However, starting from the massive losses incurred by the US Army in such a short time (dead, injured, sick following the Spanish influenza epidemic), we can say that everything that meant Medical Services of the American Army in this huge confrontation were called for to the fullest. And when we refer to the Medical Services of the American Army, we also refer to the Dental Services (Dental Medicine), including plastic and reconstructive facial surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery or surgical prosthesis application, which have brought a remarkable contribution in the subsequent treatment and recovery of the great war mutilates. (5, 6)

However, in order to better understand this phenomenon of the US Army’s Dentistry (Dental Medicine) Services, a series of clarifications are required in regard to the setting up of such centres of great importance in the geography of a conflict of this magnitude, as was World War I.

First of all, on 11 February 11 1901, Dr. John Sayre Marshall became the first senior office, and concurrently the first dentist under contract in the US Army. (5, 6) In the same year, on 3 March 1901, following a Decree of the American Congress was officially established the the American Army’s Corps or Dental Service (Dental Medicine). On 22 August 1912, a similar dental service was established within the American Navy. (5, 6)

Concurrently with the outbreak of World War I in 1914, only in the first two weeks, at the American Ambulance Hospital of the American Military Hospital in Paris, an ambulance directed by Georges B. Hayes and W.S. Davenport, no less than 150 soldiers with severe injuries in the oral and maxillofacial region were treated. (5, 6)

As a result, at the outbreak of this bloody global conflagration, no less than 4,000 dentists were enrolled in the American Army as dental officers in the Dental Services of the American Army or Navy. (5, 6) They were rather briefly trained by the League for the Training of American Dentists, an association established in March 1916, training that concerned effective care for patients with dental emergencies and/or with wounds or severe trauma in the oral and maxillofacial region, treatments that had to be provided under war conditions (or better said, under front conditions). (5, 6)

The main purpose of setting up this League for the Training of American Dentists was to provide free dental services to all volunteers who wanted to join the American Army.

Thus, approximately 1700 dentists who have joined this organization have made around 1,000,000 dental treatments free of charge for future American Army recruits. (5, 6)

At the same time, this League for the Training of American Dentists has organized, qualified, trained and selected groups of dentists who wanted to join the various military structures in the US: Terrestrial, Navy and/or Aviation.

On the other hand, certain dental schools in the U.S. have been requisitioned by the US Federal Government for the students of these higher education units at the time of graduation to become future dental officers of the US Army, Navy and/or Aviation. (5, 6)

Thus, the American Government paid both for the medical training of these students and their subsequent military training. Among the faculties of dentistry involved in this project with the American Government, we can mention the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Washington in Saint Louis, the Faculty of Dentistry of the North-western University of Chicago, the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. (5, 6)

On June 3, 1916, the American Congress adopted the National Defence Law, which modified the structure and composition of the US Army Dental Corps. Specifically, dentists could join the US Army with the rank of officers, more specifically Lieutenant, which is valid for medical officers of any specialty. These dental officers could be promoted to superior ranks of captains, majors, colonel-lieutenants or colonels, either by seniority, i.e. after having spent a number of years in the American Army practicing dentistry, or in time of war by carrying out important deeds of arms. Also under this law was approved the setting up of a Reserve Body of Dentists of the American Army. (5, 6)

Following the declaration of the war on Germany by the American Government, on 6 April 1917, the first Dental Contingent of the US Army went to France on the Western Front on 20 August 1917. (5, 6)

This contingent of American dental practitioners and auxiliary dental staff was at that time under the command of Captain Robert T. Oliver. 13 dentists from the Reserve Corps of the US Army joined the Campaign Hospitals of the American Army and other 26 American dental officers were lent to the Dentistry Services of the British Army. (5, 6)

At the same time the dentistry equipments of the French and British Army were relatively few and of a precarious quality in the early part of World War I, but concurrently with the entry of the United States in the war, much more numerous medical equipment and of excellent quality, including dentistry ones, arrived by US vessels on the French territory.

As for the dentist officers from the US Navy Corps, such were in the beginning 35 in number, but at the end of the conflict, their number increased to 500. (5, 6)

A law passed by the American Government on 6 October 1915, provided for dental officers to benefit of the same salary rights and then of retirement as other military doctors from other specialties. (5, 6). The same law also stipulated that a dentist officer of the American Army should be obliged to provide specialized treatments for at least 1000 American Army soldiers. (5, 6)

What is to be mentioned, however, is that all American Army dentists have actually been instructed to restore only the teeth in the frontal area of those who have suffered trauma on battlefields, but later was cancelled this very contradictory decision and it was decided that everything that means lesion or trauma in the oral and maxillofacial area that led to tooth loss, either in the frontal or lateral area, should be treated and properly restored both during the hostilities and later in time of peace. (5, 6)

Varaztad Hovhannes Kazanjian, a famous dentists who served in and/or to the benefit of the Allied Armies during WWI (1914-1918)

Professor Varaztad Hovhannes Kazanjian (1879-1974). A personality of universal dentistry, a remarkable American volunteer, who served as an officer in the British Army and who stood out on the Western Front during World War I, was Professor Varaztad Hovhannes Kazanjian.

He was a reputed American oral and maxillofacial surgeon of Armenian origin, considered to be one of the pioneers of plastic and reconstructive surgery overseas, but also one of the most inventive and experienced maxillofacial prosthesis applier ever, performing surgical prostheses and epitheses of great precision and accuracy, being rightly considered as the founder of the American School of Oral and Maxillofacial Prosthetic Restoration. (15-21)

Little Varaztad was born on 18 March 1879, in a family of Armenians, in the Erzincan province of today’s Armenia, a province occupied at the time by the Ottoman Empire.

In 1893, Varaztad Hovhannes Kazanjian settled in the city of Samsun in Turkey, and in 1895, at only 18, he emigrated to the United States of America. (15-21)

Once in the US, the new emigrant settled in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1902, Varaztad H. Kazanjian was admitted to the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, attending university courses and obtaining his diploma on 28 June 1905. (15-21)

In the first instance, the American scientist of Armenian origin acted as a teacher at the same Harvard School of Dental Medicine, but also attended the courses of the Faculty of Medicine at the same prestigious university.

On 21 December 1912, Kazanjian married in Boston, Massachusetts, US Sophie Augusta Cuendet (she died on 10 August 1919).

In the same year 1912, Varaztad Hovhannes Kazanjian left the Harvard School of Dental Medicine without graduating the university medical studies, preferring to practice dentistry in the private environment. (15-21)

During the World War I (1914-1918), Kazanjian acted as a dentist in the English Army, where he volunteered. Specifically, in 1915, when the Armenian scientist obtained American citizenship, he was appointed chief of staff of the Harvard Military Unit, a unit of American volunteers who joined the British Expeditionary Forces, which fought during WWI on French territory against German troops. (15-21)

In the same year 1915, the American surgeon of Armenian origin arrived in France, in Camiers, where he worked at Campaign Hospitals no. 20 and 22. Here he mainly dealt with the fractures of the jaw bone, especially mandible fractures resulting from various traumas or bullet wounds following the great battles that took place on French territory. (15-21)

In October 1915, Kazanjian returned to the United States, but one month later, in November of the same year, he returned to Europe, this time in England, alongside the second group of volunteers from the Harvard Military Unit. (15-21)

In December 1915, Varaztad Hovhannes Kazanjian returned to France, at Camiers, at Campaign Hospital no. 20. (15-21).

But one thing is certain, during his military experience on French soil, the great American surgeon developed both a number of innovative techniques of a very large scale and accuracy in terms of immobilizing fractures with oral and maxillofacial localization, but also found new ways of correcting maxillofacial defects as a result of war traumas, thus succeeding to perform facial and maxillofacial facial restorations for the great war mutilates. (15-21)

As a recognition of his special merits, Kazanjian became on 3 June 1918, the Compagnon of the Saint Michael and Saint Georges Orders. (15-21)

In the same year 1918, Varaztad Hovhannes Kazanjian was appointed full-time professor at the newly established subject of oral surgery within the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, USA (15-21).

In 1919, the young Harvard University professor was disbanded after treating more than 3,000 war-wounded patients throughout World War I, gaining a truly extraordinary experience and prestige.

Due to his special merits, Kazanjian was decorated in May 1919 at Buckingham Palace by King George V of England himself. (15-21)

Returned to the US, Kazanjian continued his university career at the Harvard School Dental Medicine. At the same time, the reputed American scientist continued his university medical studies interrupted in 1912 after the death of his wife, obtaining the title of physician in 1921. (15-21)

In the same year 1921, Varaztad Hovhannes Kazanjian opened a private office of plastic and reconstructive oral and maxillofacial surgery right in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, USA where, in parallel with his academic activity, he revolutionized oral and maxillofacial prosthetics. Two years later, on 15 August 1931, the great American surgeon remarried. (15-21)

In 1931, Varaztad Hovhannes Kazanjian was appointed physician in charge with the plastic surgery at the Ophthalmology and E.N.T. Hospital Massachusetts, becoming also a consultant at Massachusetts General Hospital.

It should be remembered that Professor Kazanjian was the one who performed the surgical prosthesis of the great Sigmund Freud, a prosthesis necessary to restore the large bone defect that arose from the removal of the tumour process by Professor Hans Pichler. (15-21)

But over the years, remarkable Varaztad Hovhannes Kazanjian has been rewarded with numerous awards and medals (the Leonard Wood Memorial Medal from the Boston Municipal Hospital, Massachusetts etc.) for his outstanding medical and scientific work, concurrently becoming a member or honorary member of reputed professional and scientific associations and societies (British Association of Plastic Surgeons, American Society of Maxillofacial Surgery, Massachusetts Dentistry Society, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Oral Surgeons Society of New England etc.). (15-21)

Professor Varaztad Hovhannes Kazanjian died on 19 October 1974, at the venerable age of 95, being considered by his contemporaries one of the most representative figures of oral and maxillofacial surgery of the 20th century. (15-21)

10. New Zealand

As previously mentioned, during WWI, the former British Dominions – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa – joined almost automatically England in regard to the war declarations against the Central Powers.

Strictly referring to New Zealand, we can say that there was a Military Contingent of the New Zealand Army fighting in the Middle East and Europe, participating in both the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns, the disastrous Landing in Gallipoli (Dardanelles) in Turkey, as well as the bloody battles of the Allies on the Western Front on French territory.

Thus, at the outbreak of hostilities, the New Zealand military troops did not have any dentistry services within the medical bodies of this army. (5, 6)

Exactly 10 days after New Zealand joined World War I, a New Zealand expeditionary force participated in the campaign of allied troops from Samoa, New Guinea against the local German forces, a New Zealand force that was accompanied by two dental officers. (5, 6)

Two months later, the New Zealand Expeditionary Corps, this time accompanied by 10 dental officers, began its extraordinary adventure outside the national territory, alongside the other troops of the Entente, against the troops of the Central Powers in the Palestinian and Sinai Campaigns, in the Gallipoli Landing (Dardanelles) and in the devastating battles on the French Front. (5, 6) On this occasion, the work of the Dental Service of the New Zealand Army proved to be an extraordinary one. (5, 6)

Specifically, in the first 9 months after the outbreak of hostilities, the new recruits of the New Zealand Army were treated in their home country by local dentists either in their offices or in base camps, free of charge or against modest prices. (5, 6)

Considering the major difficulties in the dental treatments of new recruits enrolled in New Zealand Army, the Association of Dental Medicine from New Zealand and the Government of New Zealand have concluded a highly profitable partnership with regard to these dental care by setting up a Civil Corps of Dentists from New Zealand to deal with these issues, not only ensuring very low costs, but also a very fast rate of these treatments. (5, 6)

At the same time, this partnership also enabled the appropriate professional training of future dental officers who would join the Medical Services of the Expeditionary Corps within the New Zealand Army. (5, 6)

The two officers from the New Zealand Army who oversaw the work of this Civil Dental Service (Dental Medicine) from New Zealand were Colonel Hunter (Chairman of the Dental Medicine Association from New Zealand, 1863-1958) and Lieutenant Colonel Pickerill (Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry from Otago, New Zealand). (5, 6)

Very quickly, in November 1915 was also established the Dentistry Service of the New Zealand Army, completely separate from the Regular Medical Services of the same New Zealand Army. (5, 6) The official announcement of setting up this new dental medical body of the New Zealand Army was announced only on 24 February 1916. (5, 6)

Specifically, the work of this newly established medical body has been overwhelming for its members, both for those who have exercised their profession on national territory and for those working in the New Zealand Expeditionary Corps outside the country, particularly on the Western Front, in France. (5, 6)

Although attempts have been made to achieve more complex and complete dental treatments, this has been relatively difficult to do due to the low number of dental military practitioners and auxiliary staff (dental assistants and dental technicians). (5, 6)

An absolutely sensational contribution was also made by the specialists in plastic and reconstructive plastic surgery of the face, as well as the oral and maxillofacial surgeons from New Zealand who treated with great professionalism and devotion the soldiers with wounds in the oral and maxillofacial area, as well and the great mutilates of the war. (5, 6)

Unfortunately, the working conditions of the Dental Services of the New Zealand Army in the Campaigns from Palestine, Sinai, Gallipoli (Dardanelles) and the Western Front were in most cases extremely precarious. Although they had mobile dental equipment of good quality, most emergency dentistry treatments were conducted in conditions of war: in trenches, battlefields, or soldiers’ camps. (6, 6) The most frequent dental surgery performed by the Dental (Dental Medicine) Services of the New Zealand Army was dental extraction. (5, 6)

During the Allied Landing in Gallipoli (Dardanelles), Turkey, the Dental Services of the New Zealand Army was managed and supervised by Captain Finn (1880-1952). He created several sections of dental medicine that included both practitioners and nurses and dental technicians. Two such sections of dentistry were attached to a number of 3 campaign ambulances. (5, 6)

Finally, on the French Front there were many more dental sections attached to both campaign ambulances and the Campaign and Central Military Hospitals of the New Zealand Army. (5, 6) But it should be noted that these dental units were equipped with British equipment and materials of British origin, purchased from the English Army. (5, 6)

The number of dental practitioners enrolled as officers in the New Zealand Expeditionary Body increased substantially (on 13 March 1917, there were more than 70 dentists officers within the New Zealand Army in Europe), but also the loss of human lives among soldiers of the New Zealand Army increased in the gruesome clash on the Western Front. (5, 6)

In December 1917, Colonel Pickerill, Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry in Otago, New Zealand, arrived in England and formally established the first Oral and Maxillofacial Hospital of the New Zealand Army.

In particular, soldiers injured in the oral and maxillofacial region of the New Zealand Army were given emergency treatment in France and afterwards, the same treatment was continued and then completed in the specialized military hospital on English territory. (5, 6) Captain Finn, advanced in the meantime in rank, becoming the head of the Dentistry Services (Military Medicine) of the New Zealand Army Overseas. (5, 6)

Also in 1917, all dental units of the New Zealand Army increased their mobility by equipping themselves with appropriate vehicles and adopting far less bulky dental equipment, which substantially facilitated patient care. (5, 6)

At the end of the World War I hostilities, in November 1918, the Dentistry Service of the New Zealand Army in Europe had about 42 dental officers and further 70 auxiliary employees, nurses and dental technicians. (5, 6)

However, at the end of this material about the Dentistry Services of the New Zealand Army, we must also mention the difficulties that occurred in the repatriation of this military contingent that had fought on the French Front (the Western Front).

Specifically, this repatriation has meant fantastic efforts for the Military Medical Services of the New Zealand, including dental services, for each transport of troops, naval transport, needing also the contribution of dentists, together with the equipment and auxiliary personnel to solve specialized emergencies. (5, 6)


  6. Riaud X. Le service dentaire et de stomatologie des autres pays engagés dans la Première Guerre mondiale. În:
  10. Cf. Watry. Les services dentaires à l’armée belge. În: Congrès Dentaire Interallié 1914-1917, G. Villain (éd.), Tome II, Paris, 1917, pp. 1219-1220.
  20. Riaud X. Le professeur Varaztad Hovhannes Kazanjian (1879-1974), l’homme miracle du front de l’ouest. În:
  21. Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine – Harvard Library.

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