Veteran Stories:
Ralph Yorsh

Army

  • Ralph Yorsh's Certificate of Service, September 12, 1946.

  • Group photo of Officer's Training Course in Brockville, ON, Sept 1944.

  • Service photo of Ralph Yorsh, 1947.

  • Photo of Mr. Ralph Yorsh taken in Vancouver, 1947.

  • Mr. Yorsh on September 12, 1946.

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"Now, when the war was declared, of course they signed up dentists because the rules were that nobody could go overseas unless they were dentally fit. In other words, they couldn’t have decayed teeth."

Transcript

There was a tremendous shortage of dentists and doctors in the country [during the Second World War]: Because during the Depression, times were tough and a lot of people couldn’t afford to get anything more done than emergencies. In other words, they would arrive at the dentist with a raging toothache when something had to be done. Because a third of the country were unemployed, so dentistry was rather low on people’s list of priorities. So there was an awful lot of dentistry to be done and not enough dentists to do it.

Now, when the war was declared, of course they signed up dentists because the rules were that nobody could go overseas unless they were dentally fit. In other words, they couldn’t have decayed teeth. They could have missing teeth but they had to be in sort of a decent state of repair to go overseas. Well, since there was as shortage, there was a group called the Canadian Association of Medical and Dental Students and Interns, they made a deal with the government that we could join the army when we went into the third of the fourth year of dentistry. Dentistry and medicine were four year courses and we could join up in third year as privates, draw private’s pay and allowances, look after our own housing,we wore a uniform, we were entitled medical and what have you, health. We looked after our own housing and our own food and so we graduated a year earlier. So normally I would have been class of 1945 and I graduated a year earlier, class of 1944 [Dentistry, University of Toronto].

Our major job [as dentists in the Canadian Dental Corps (CDC), in Dr. Yorsh’s case, working with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)] was keeping people healthy and comfortable. About the only thing which was - and this didn’t help the war effort but it certainly helped this one man - we had one man on the station and I looked at him and I said, come into the dental clinic, I want to have a look at you. And he came in. Well, this poor fellow, his upper front teeth literally were so badly crowded that they stuck straight out. He couldn’t close his lips over these teeth. I’m sure he’d never kissed a girl in his life. There was just no way - these teeth were stuck out and he come from some village somewhere and no one had done anything about it. So I decided that my, I thought he would be much happier and these were the only facilities available to me at the time, so I said to him, we’ll take up your upper four front teeth, your central and lateral incisors, I will make you a temporary partial denture to replace these and we will bring these teeth in where I feel we can get them and where they belong.

Well, I proceeded to do that and he was the most delighted man in the world. The only problem was his sergeant came a while later and said to me, I wish you’d left that man alone, he was the best man in my section, he was the hardest worker. Now, we can’t even find him. He’s out chasing girls day and night. But on the other hand, he was one very happy airman.

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