In 1915, Rupert left Scotland for Australia. For most of his life, he had been tied to Glasgow and now, having the freedom, he set sail for the other side of the world. However, the timing of his departure is curious as it was only the second year of the First World War. This may indicate Rupert’s objection to the conflict.
In 1915, the war was going badly for the Allies, and the army realised it could no longer rely only on volunteers. The casualties were higher than anyone could have imagined, so plans were made to not only introduce compulsory conscription but also to extend the upper age limit to 41. Raising the age limit would now make the unmarried Rupert eligible to go to war, and he could expect to be called up for service. By the time the Military Service Act 1916 became law, Rupert had already left the country. Maybe Rupert felt he had been deprived of his youth by his obligation to his grandmother, and just as he had been set free, fate conspired to send him to war, perhaps to be killed or maimed. No doubt he felt life was unfair, and like thousands of others, believed the war was wrong on many levels.
However, research in Australian records has identified enlistment records for the 5th Field Artillery Brigade for ‘Rupert Watson’ from 1916. Listed as a ‘Driver’ he remained in service until 1918, returning to Australia after the war ended. Drivers were often conscientious objectors, choosing to undertake non-combatant roles rather than accept internment. It may only be that at the age of 38, the army considered him too old to fight on the front line and assigned him driver duties, but there may have been another reason he left Scotland when he did.