Posted by: Bob Ringma | July 1, 2011

POW Postscript

  Back at the OFP, Capt. Fred Dunbar, proud of the MLBU’s action, arranged for the shipment of the Russian-made rifle to the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps School in Montreal.  The RCOC Museum, which would come into existence at that location several years later, would become the home for the rifle, but in the meantime, it languished in the quartermaster stores of the School.  At one point, someone, probably wanting to steal the artifact, cut it in two so as to smuggle it past the security gate.  Later, it mysteriously reappeared in the QM stores, no doubt the result of a guilty conscience.  I think I know who the thief was.

Soviet rifle, bayonet folded

All of us in the MLBU had been teased about our vocation since we had started training back in Fort Lewis.  The razzing continued after the POW capture but with a different, sometimes envious, undertone.  Some stated that the Chinese had not been captured at all; hearing there was a laundry in the area, they had come in looking for a job.  Talking up the story, others created “Lobby Lingma’s secret weapon.”  When a button was pushed on the side of the laundry van, the sides would spring open revealing a crew of jabbering Chinese with washboards, tubs and with soap bubbles everywhere.   We had previously been dubbed the Chinese Dragoons; now the sobriquet stuck, but since it was applied with a sense of humour, we didn’t mind at all.  Where we had to tread carefully, though, was to not take the capture of our brigade’s first POWs too seriously; in other words, there was to be no bragging.  Although it was a first, and was deliberate, it wasn’t as if it were the result of an attack or defense against the enemy.  It was an accident of war precipitated by our forward position.


To my knowledge, the only other nationals running MLBUs in Korea were the Americans, Australians and the British.  When the Commonwealth Division was formed in 1951, there was some talk about our Canadian unit joining the Aussies and Brits.  I resisted this for a couple of reasons.  First, I would lose my command, something that I was enjoying.  Second, the service to Canadians would probably go downhill since the other laundries and baths were located farther to the rear.  Although it might have happened, I did not hear of any American or Commonwealth MLBUs picking up any prisoners during the war.


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