Lieutenant Colonel W.M.O. Lochead
118th (North Waterloo) Battalion
Give us leaders! Men of ability. Soldiers who know what soldiering is. We deem it unwise to hand our bodies over to the keeping of a four-month recruit. If you want to accomplish results in recruiting, get a competent soldier at the head of the regiment.
(Berlin Trade and Labour Council, 1915)
William Merton Overton Lochead was a leading figure in the Berlin business community and insurance firm manger. He was born on 10 January 1874 in Camden Township, Ontario and graduated from Queen’s University. Although he had limited experience in the militia, Lochead was selected to raise the 118th Battalion due to his reputation for business management and organization.
When Waterloo County failed to respond enthusiastically to his appeals for recruits, Lochead blamed the Germanic immigrant population. He denounced the Trade and Labour for lack of patriotism and pro-Kaiserism. The 118th soon earned notoriety for violent street-recruiting tactics as they provoked riots, harassed citizens and beat suspected “enemy aliens.”
Lochead admitted his unit was not a “model lot,” but argued they were no more unruly than other battalion. In some cases he explained, a soldier’s “enthusiasm for the British cause” could overcome “good judgment and sense of proper self-control.”
In the atmosphere of imperialist fervor and anti-German sentiment, Lochead endorsed a movement to change the name of Berlin. During a poorly attended city referendum, voters selected a new name in honour of British War Minister Earl Kitchener, who had been killed when his vessel struck a German mine in June 1916.
The controversial and antagonistic 118th Battalion left for England in January 1917. It was absorbed into the 25th Reserves and Lochead eventually returned home.
He died in Kitchener on 19 January 1960.