War breaks out
On the outbreak of war, many insurance companies released staff already serving in the territorial forces to re-join their regiments. Staff were assured that they would retain full salary and that their jobs would be held for them until their return.
According to the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society Ltd Magazine in August 1914:
It will interest our readers to learn that 38 members of Fire and Accident Staffs at Head office are now on active military service under the Mobilisation scheme. In terms of a resolution of the Board they will not suffer any loss of income by their patriotic action, and, in addition, not only will their positions in the office be kept open for them, but their absence will not prejudice them as regards the usual promotions. - Norwich Union Fire staff magazine
The boards of many other Aviva constituent companies like Ocean Accident and Guarantee Corporation Ltd, Commercial Union Assurance Company Ltd and Ocean Marine Insurance Company Ltd made similar resolutions. These were regularly renewed at six monthly intervals as the war continued past its anticipated early conclusion.
Some companies very actively encouraged staff to enlist. Francis Norie-Miller, General Manager of General Accident Fire and Life Assurance Corporation Ltd, called together all the head office staff on 3 August 1914 and: "made a short but earnest appeal to everyone who was capable of bearing arms and who was not a member of the territorial forces to at once join, and pointed out that I would recommend the Board to grant full pay to all of them so long as they were with the colours; that their places would be kept open for them; and that the older men and lady members of the staff would willingly fulfil the extra work required to be done through their being absent on so noble a cause; and I was sure that those who were unable to have the great honour of going and fighting, or even dying, for their country, would be envious of those who could do so".
Norie-Miller also wrote to branch managers urging them to give a similar message to staff in the branches. On receipt of a letter from the London Manager saying that 17 of his staff had enlisted, he replied:
I hope to hear from you by return that at least another dozen of your men have volunteered. - Francis Norie-Miller
By the time the October 1914 issue of the General Accident staff magazine was written he was able to say: "I think it will interest my readers to let this number be a record of the part that the ‘General’ and its officials have taken in the great war, a part that I am quite sure will be second to that of no Company in self-sacrifice and patriotism, not only on the part of its staff in Great Britain and our Colonies, but also in France and Belgium, where we have so large and important a business".
By December 1915, Norie-Miller wrote that: “we [General Accident] have had a larger proportion of our staff with the colours than any company in the British Empire no less than 80% of the entire male staff between ages of 18 and 40. At Head Office Perth every available man has gone, even some over 40, leaving only 24 who have enlisted under Lord Derby's Scheme and three who for various reasons have not done so".