Going Over is the biography of Titus Mossman, a veteran of the “Great War” who served with the 85th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) on the Western Front. This book blends social, political and historical issues of those turbulent times with the story of one young Canadian turned soldier, caught at the sharp edge of history.
A sixth-generation Nova Scotian, born in 1894 in Upper Kingsburg, Lunenburg County , Titus survives an austere upbringing in a family of twelve and goes to sea at thirteen, a basic training in survival which would serve him well as he rose through the ranks to Company Sergeant Major (CSM) in the 85th Battalion.
Against an overview of trench warfare, the campaigns undertaken by the 85th Battalion unroll. Titus dodges death throughout, earning the Military Medal at Amiens and further commendation for his actions at Dury. As Company Sergeant Major, Titus has the task of resolving life and death issues throughout the conflict. It is a terrifying job, with almost every action opposing the instinct for self-preservation. At war’s end he is one of about a hundred “old originals” in his battalion, a military unit which started out as 1,115 soldiers. Of that total, 614 were killed while on “trench tours” and hundreds more were wounded.
Going Over describes the activities of the 85th in Belgium and France during the months following war’s end as well as the celebrations and homecoming on June 8, 1919. Physically unscathed, Titus accepts his severance package of $420 and returns to sea on the Grand Banks schooners. As a sea cook and family man, his humble life continues, interspersed with nightmares and recurrent domestic violence, due to stress experienced during trench warfare.
This dramatic story underscores the close kinship among soldiers, the tremendous self-sacrifice, the costs and dubious glory of war, and the after-effects on soldiers, their families and succeeding generations. Just beyond the realm of living memory, the experiences and lessons of the Great War haunt us still.
David Mossman, a seventh-generation Canadian, was born in Rose Bay, Nova Scotia. He makes his home with his wife in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. A geologist by choice, he has taught geoscience most recently at Mount Allison University where he is research professor emeritus. He has written biographies of noted geologists and articles on topics ranging from Nova Scotia gold, tidal phenomena, carbonaceous meteorites, and extinct animals.