Dental hygiene in the navy 1890s and now.

8 Dec

Lt. Col. Henry Worsley who is following in the steps of Scott and Amundsen  to the South Pole, writes in The Sunday Times Magazine 27/11/2011 of brushing his teeth as an amazing pick-me-up.

Dental hygiene was a problem that Scott was well aware of. Before expeditions the crew had to visit the dentist; there were little facilities for dealing with tooth ache in Antarctica. The ratings particularly had an amazing number of teeth removed before expeditions. This is not surprising when the dental regulations for boys entering the Navy in the 1890s are considered. Boys up to 17 years could have SEVEN rotten teeth and still be accepted, older recruits more.

In fact with Scott’s precautions there were relatively few problems though Engineer Skelton had to have a tooth removed under anaesthetic and one of the ratings endured several failed attempts at removal

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4 Responses to “Dental hygiene in the navy 1890s and now.”

  1. Arthur Woolgar December 13, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    A facinating fly on the wall insite of these brave and robust men,what amazes me is that many having suffered the rigours of one journey to these totally unhospitable parts,signed up and did it all over again!!!! Isobel Williams “Wilson” gave a very clear insite into the character of an extordinary,intelligent and sensative man,I look forward to her new profile of Taf Evans which I believe is due to be published .

    • isobelpwilliams December 14, 2011 at 10:45 am #

      Thank you. You are right,they were amazing men. But I think the lure of Antarctica ‘got’ to them. There is a poem by Service which is quoted in many of the diaries (the ‘Men’ as well as the Officers), which talks of ‘The Lure of Little Voices that sentinel (guard) the Pole’ and I think that, although when they were in the Antarctic they often vowed that they would never return, when they actually got home they began to miss the continent’s challenges, mystery and beauty

  2. Chick Redgrove January 2, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    To a lay person, it is the anecdotal evidence such as this that makes Dr. Williams’ book so eminently readable.and accessible. As someone who cannot endure the slightest chill in the air (!) I marvel and am incredulous at the conditions which they endured. I have been rivetted by Wilson’s story as it is an area I would not normally be attracted to—-and now eagerly look forward to the Evans’ saga!!

    • isobelpwilliams January 3, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

      Thank you. It is true. it is the little things that bring the story alive. These were real men, though of remarkable stamina.
      People often wonder why they undertook these hazardous expeditions. There are the obvious reasons: an unknown continent, honour of King and country, scientific advance, etc; but there is another probable reason; for the poor working man in Edwardian Britain opportunities of adventure and advance were few. They had received limited education (full time from 5-10 years) and earned little. Few managed to travel further than the nearest large town. A chance to get to the end of the world must have seemed an irresistible adventure.

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