Homemade 'medal'. Gift from the men of Robert Ringma's service battalion, the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, who thought that he deserved more credit for his service in Korea, and created this medal and personal message. Gift presented in 1971.Robert Ringma
Statuette of Korean woman and bullock, c. 1950-1951. Statuette given to Robert Ringma in Canada as a gift from an officer who served with him in Korea in 1951, and has great nostalgic value. Object was likely purchased in Korea.Robert Ringma
Robert Ringma, served with the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps in the Korean War.Robert Ringma
Robert Ringma.Robert Ringma.
Photograph donated by Robert Ringma. Persons unidentified.Robert Ringma
Photograph of 'some of the boys' in Korea.Bob Ringma
Internal correspondence received by Robert Ringma, serving with the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps and in charge of the Mobile Laundry and Bath Unit (MLBU).Robert Ringma
Front side of propaganda leaflet, c. 1951. Guessed to be Chinese or North Korean, based on the poorer quality of the paper.Robert Ringma
Propaganda leaflet, reverse side. C. 1951. Guessed to be Chinese or North Korean, based on the poorer quality of the paper.Robert Ringma
"The main thing we had to do was to get our equipment ashore, and get it organized and protected. "
Now I was, of course, only a lieutenant, and I was still shaking out to say what exactly should I be doing, but the main thing we had to do was to get our equipment ashore, and get it organized and protected. We had supplies, mountains of supplies, and that was one of the roles of the Ordnance Company,* was to take care of all these supplies for the Brigade Group. And some of the stuff that we got was destined for Japan but it was shipped into Korea by mistake. We had to have a barbed wire fence because thieving, stealing, was endemic in the country at that time. So we had to protect the stuff. That was one of our roles, was just that, protection of our supplies, and then getting our vehicles ready. And then after about two weeks, we headed north out of Pusan up toward, to where the frontline was.
My God this is an awful bloody country. You know it was my first experience in a war, in a war zone. I mean, you saw damage all around. You saw Korean civilians, children, with, you know, one leg, that sort of stuff. So it was traumatic to look at it all. And then during all this while was this stench around, the smell, and you didn’t have much regard for the Korean people at the time. They were just… they were there, but they weren’t very high in our estimation. Now that, as I say, really changed with the years, but, at the time, it was there. The other thing that happened of course is that we took under our wing some of the little orphan kids and they were, you know, tractable, good kids. You could train them, and they wanted to do well. So that worked out for us as well and for them, of course.
I was getting the word from brigade headquarters. That’s when I learned my job, and they were fingering me, saying okay, I want you to set up, we want you to set up a bath section so that the people that are in the line can come out and get their first shower, and change of clothing. And we weren’t quite ready, and I was after my sergeant major. I said, “You’ve got to get it going,” and this was on the banks of the Han River that we first set up. And I sent word back to brigade saying, “We won’t be ready until tomorrow.” And I got word back from the DAA [Deputy Assistant Adjutant] and QMG [Quartermaster General] Major C.J.A. Hamilton saying, “I’m going to have two companies of infantry at your location this afternoon at two o’clock. Be ready.” So I have a photo, which you’ll see with the book as part of the cover of the book. The subtitle by the way is Full Monty in Korea. That’s my subtitle. Anyway, it shows this winding line. Fortunately, it was a nice sunny day, but all these troops were lined up. My God, they were… it looked like a quarter of a mile long lineup winding back and forth waiting to get into the bath unit. And that was our first operation. Well, it was slow and awkward, but we improved after that.
In my sub-unit it was just a platoon of the Ordnance Company, which later became, was renamed the Ordnance Field Park, but I started off with about 48 men because I had an awful lot of two and a half tonne trucks to carry all this clothing exchange with us. Now gradually that number dwindled down so that I had less, but I started off with the bulk of the men, the biggest platoon in size, 48 men, I think, I had.
Particularly in the first weeks or even months that we were there, it was work all the time. You did not take any days off. If I had time as I developed the unit, I might occasionally go to the Ordnance Field Park, you know, the company, and spend the evening with my fellow officers and friends there. But we were also, in those first weeks and months, very, very mobile. The brigade was mobile. It was constantly on the go, on the move, here there and the other place. There was very, very little time for anything but work. That’s all I can think of. You know, you took care of… we messed with the ordinance company for a number of weeks. We lived with them. They had a cook, a corporal cook and a private cook, and so we had a lot of our meals with them. As we got mobile, we started to produce meals of our own, and I always looked forward to having C-rations. I liked them. C-rations were excellent.
* Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps.