NZ Dental Corps cap Badge -Vulcanite

The New Zealand Dental Corps was formed on 7 November 1915 as part of New Zealand’s contribution to World War 1.  The corps was formed from personnel who were transferred from the New Zealand Medical Corps, who were charged with ensuring the dental fitness of New Zealand troops being sent overseas, and for the provision of emergency dental care in the field. The royal designation was adopted in 1947. Today, the corps consists of full-time and part-time commissioned officers and soldiers who are employed in a tri-service environment, using their specialist skills and knowledge as dental officers, dental hygienists and dental assistants.

The outbreak of war in September 1939 found the New Zealand Dental Corps poor in strength but rich in theory. On 6 September 1939, three days after the declaration of war, Cabinet authorised the mobilisation of a Special Force of 6600 men to serve within or beyond New Zealand. Volunteers for this force were immediately dentally examined according to plan. Within two weeks, the results showed that the number falling into dental category ‘F’ was so low that too many otherwise medically fit men were being rejected for dental reasons. The standard for acceptance was then lowered by including in category ‘F’ those whose treatment to make them dentally fit would take six instead of three hours. Even then, many men who were medically fit were rejected because of dental defects. The added burden to the civilian dentists by this change of standard and the rejection of valuable manpower gave impetus to the Army’s programme for the construction of dental hospitals in the mobilisation camps and the formation of a Corps capable of undertaking full treatment of all troops.

It has been estimated that 50 to 60 per cent of New Zealand WW2 troops were wearers of artificial dentures of some kind. All these artificial dentures were made from a substance called vulcanite.

In 1843, the American Charles Goodyear discovered how to make flexible rubber, named vulcanite, which he made from India rubber (caoutchouc). In 1851, his brother, Nelson, patented an improved manufacturing process to produce hard rubber. Vulcanite found instant use in the fabrication of denture bases world-wide and quickly replaced previously-used materials as it was cheaper. Vulcanite starts out as a soft, rubber-sulphur compound. It fits precisely to a model of a patient’s gums and palate. The main disadvantage was that the material was dark-red colour. To obtain the pink colour, to resemble gum, weakened the vulcanite. 

In my collection I have a very interesting NZ Dental Corps badge that has been made out of this substance, vulcanite.

NZ Dental Corps badge made out of vulcanite

The reverse of this badge shows that loops have been added meaning that it could have been worn as a cap badge.

Reverse of the vulcanite badge

I do not know why this badge was made, if it was just an experiment to see if it could be done or was it a legitimate way a serviceman could replace a lost badge. Rather than go to the Engineers workshops and use sandcasting with brass, did they use a much lighter and more readily available substance to achieve this? I have seen another example of one of these badges in another collectors items so I know there are more examples out there, just not how many.

For comparison here is the normal brass, pre-1947, NZ Dental Corps cap badge .

NZ Dental Corps

The back of the same badge showing the mounting loops.


Jay Force was the name by which New Zealand’s contribution to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) was known. Between 1946 and 1948 approximately 12,000 New Zealanders served in Japan as part of the Commonwealth Occupation force. The first kiwis to land in Japan were sent over as part of the Featherston Camp Japanese POW repatriation. The 8 guards on board the two LST’s (LST 273 & 275) transporting the 800 former POW’s stayed on in Japan and later joined the first batch of servicemen who arrived from Italy in March 1946. The initial contingent of the NZEF (Japan) was formed in Florence, Italy, on 19 November 1945. 

The initial draft consisted of two infantry battalions—the 27th and 22nd Battalions—as well as the 2nd Divisional Cavalry Regiment, the 25th Field Battery, and the 5th Engineer Company along with supporting elements which included signals, transport, workshops and medical units. Among the first draft were 36 Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps personnel (WAACs) and 30 women from the New Zealand Army Nursing Service (NZANS). All were volunteers.  

Jay Force’s first task was searching for and collecting military equipment. Little was found as Yamaguchi had not had a major military presence during the war. Jay Force also oversaw the repatriation of Japanese soldiers coming home from the war and Koreans being returned to their country. Post-war Japan was economically devastated which made it an ideal environment for black marketeering. As such, Jay Force’s policing duties included monitoring black market groups and also large gatherings of people on public occasions and generally keeping order until civilian government could be re-established. Jay Force also assisted the Americans in promoting democracy in Japan by supervising local and national elections in the prefecture. For a period of a month Jay Force also provided a guard battalion to Tokyo. This was based at Ebisu Barracks and took part in ceremonial guard duty at the Imperial Palace and the British Embassy. 

When Great Britain and India withdrew from the BCOF in 1947 enthusiasm for New Zealand’s ongoing involvement waned. In April 1948 the New Zealand government made the decision to withdraw from Japan. The last New Zealand Jay Force troops returned home in September 1948.

My first figure represents an Major of the 22nd Battalion dressed in a wonderful badged service dress and type 1 cap.

Service Dress and cap

The ribbons on his chest indicate pre war Territorial service. They are, from left to right, War Medal 1939-45, New Zealand War Service Medal, Efficiency Decoration and Rosette, and finally NZ Territorial 12 Year Service Medal. The last two medals are particular to the Territorial Force. The NZ Territorial 12 Year Service Medal was introduced in 1911 and replaced by the Efficiency Medal in 1931. The Efficiency Decoration was introduced in 1931 as an Territorial officer only long service medal recognizing 12 years service, clasps were awarded after an additional 6 years.

WW2 and Territorial Long Service Medal ribbons

On the left shoulder is the first type red diamond distinguishing patch of the 22nd Infantry Battalion.

On the right shoulder is a nice example of the British Commonwealth Forces patch and another 22nd Battalion distinguishing patch.

BCOF Patch

The BCOF patch is not the standard type of model (almost looks like watered pattern silk). Below, on the right, is an example of the standard BCOF patch and next to it is a standard patch that has had the crown over wire embroidered.

Standard BCOF patch and with crown wire embroidered

The second figure represents a Driver (same rank as an infantry Private) of the 19th New Zealand Army Service Corps Company.

Battle Dress Blouse and Trousers

Close shot of the General Service Cap with standard NZ “Onward” badge, shirt, tie and Battle dress blouse.

On the left arm is an example of a Japanese silk made white distinguishing patch of the NZ Army Service Corps.

On the right sleeve is example of the standard BCOF patch and another white diamond distinguishing patch that have been nicely cross stitched onto the blouse.

BCOF patch and Japanese silk white diamond NZASC patch

Amongst some of the photo albums I own, one belongs to a former 19th NZASC company serviceman. Below are some of the photos from the album.

19th NZASC coy, Jay Force

On the front of the truck you can see two BD’s badged up like the example above. Hanging on the bumper are two General Service caps, again badged up like the example above.

Some of transport platoon.

Number 1 section Transport Platoon, 19th NZASC Coy 1947
Ebisu Barracks, Tokyo
Japanese being transported to Hong Kong to stand trial for war crimes.
Coming ashore Wellington, New Zealand July 5th, 1947