Posted by: Bob Ringma | May 2, 2011

Getting Organized

The Brigade consisted of three battalions of infantry plus armour, engineers and all the supporting services.  The infantry units were the second battalions of the Royal Canadian Regiment, the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the Royal Twenty-second Regiment.

Because of my corps affiliation, I was a member of the 25 Brigade Ordnance Company, later to be renamed the Ordnance Field Park (OFP).  Our officer establishment consisted of one major as CO, one captain as second in command and four lieutenants.  My fellow lieutenants were assigned responsibility for spare parts and general stores, while I was to command the Mobile Laundry and Bath.  I presume that decision was made because the other functions required some technical skills, while the MLBU didn’t, at least at the officer level.  At twenty-two, I was the youngest and least experienced, the only one without a ribbon on his chest.  However, it instilled in me a determination to do my best and “show them.”

The MLBU was the largest of the OFP’s sub-units.  It was actually an OFP platoon but was known as a Unit.  It had an establishment of forty-eight men and an equal number of vehicles.  Although I was nominally in charge, the de facto leader was Freddy Reid, a Staff Sergeant with WWII experience running an MLBU.  I was also fortunate enough to have a couple of very good sergeants, one of whom, Tony Planinshek, had fought in Italy with the US/Canadian First Special Service Force, the “Devil’s Brigade.”

Since the Canadian Army had no MLBU equipment, we had to purchase it from the Americans, who had been smart enough in 1945/46 to mothball such equipment “just in case.”  We received three van-type laundry units and three 24 – showerhead trailers from the Red River Arsenal in Texas, and were then able to start a training program for our men.

While in the States, we didn’t know what conditions we would face in Korea.  Once there, we found that the large semi-trailers were sometimes difficult to handle on the narrow dirt roads.  The American MLBUs were equipped with smaller, two-trailer laundries, which were easier to maneuver.  We didn’t blame the Americans for selling us the older, larger units, and found that even though they looked clumsy they served us very well.

We were also uncertain about the reliability of the supply chain overseas therefore we took a year’s supply of detergent with us when we shipped out.  Staff Reid insisted on the large quantity.  He looked at me and said with a wink, “You’d be surprised what we got in exchange for soap when we were in France.”

Little did we know that Korean women did not use soap.

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