"I took over at the helm of the ship at a time of unprecedented difficulty."
Hypolite Worms, 1949
Assistance in setting up a briquette works in Constantinople by Foscolo Mango & Co. (March). Dockers strike Bordeaux (May-June). Registration of the brand "W" identifying the coal briquettes manufactured by Worms & Cie (June).
Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand,
the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo (28 June)
Death of Lucien Worms (22 July), his shares in Worms & Cie going to his widow, his son, Hypolite, and his three daughters.
General mobilisation of troops in many European countries including France following the assassination of Jean Jaurès (31 July). Declarations of war between the countries of the Triple Alliance: Germany, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ottoman Empire (August-October)... - and those of the Triple Entente:
Russia, Great Britain (and the countries of the Commonwealth), France,
and subsequently Japan (August)
Reservists called up in Paris and the branches. As France's leading British coal trader, the Maison Worms, had 21 branches in the country at the time that war was declared, plus branches in Algiers (Algeria), Pasajes (Spain), Cardiff, Newcastle and Great Grimsby (Great Britain), Port Said, Suez, Cairo and Alexandria (Egypt), as well as Buenos Aires (Argentine Republic). Its fleet comprised 18 steamships offering regular services between French ports and Great Britain, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Scandinavia. With the declaration of war, contracts for coal supplies in Port Said (including the contract with the Navy) immediately became null and void. The sharp increase in demand in Cardiff, given the local coal's suitability for powering warships, led to a crisis and created confusion. Intermittent requisition of vessels in the fleet depending on the needs of the national Administration. Cessation of operations on lines in the North Sea, with Germany and the Baltic (the "Listrac" and its crew blocked in Hamburg). The stocks of coal in Marseilles and Bordeaux requisitioned by the military equipment authorities.
Government takes up quarters in Bordeaux (2 September)
Henri Goudchaux moved to Bordeaux, leaving the main office in the hands of the young Hypolite Worms. Growth of oil sales (Port Sudan and Jeddah) and Romanian kerosene stocked in Alexandria (Egypt) to local customers of the Asiatic Petroleum Egypt Ltd. French warships supplied with coal by Worms & Cie Port Said (September). Commissioning of the "Château-Palmer" (October) and "Château-Yquem" (November).
The war of movement (August-September) becomes a trench war on a front extending
from Switzerland to the North Sea
While the requisitioned vessels were being used to carry raw materials for the Navy and public authorities and for troop supplies, the rest of the fleet continued to serve ports on the Atlantic and in the Channel to supply the civil population, providing back-up for the railways whose services were suffering from delays or disruptions. Being based in Britain, Worms & Cie played an active part in shipping British coal abroad, volumes increasing as a result in substantial proportions.
Volumes of British coal imported into France doubled following the occupation of the coal basin in the Pas-de-Calais and the halt of imports from Belgium and Germany: soaring prices exacerbated by port infrastructure incapable of receiving incoming consignments and shipping them on to their hinterland
Closure of the Bordeaux and Rouen line because of the slump in freight volumes.
Start of the air and submarine war. British blockade of German ports stepped up (January-March)
Retirement of Henri Goudchaux on health grounds. Disorganisation in trade exchanges because of the German blockade, the priority given to Admiralty ships interfering increasingly with coal traffic in Cardiff. Steamer "Emma" hit by a German torpedo between Bordeaux and Dunkirk, the first vessel to be a victim of the war (31 March). Delivery of the "Château-Lafite". The Merchant Navy faced with problems of crew shortages (April). Re-start of food shipments from Bordeaux (May). Delivery to the Navy of coal ash briquettes produced by Worms in Le Havre.
Launch of a weekly Bristol-Swansea and Le Havre service (July)
with traffic consisting solely of goods either for the War Office or for suppliers working on its behalf. Plans to start a shipping service in the Baltic studied with the Commission for the Development of Franco-Russian trade (July). The Army and the War Office's use of the equipment needed for ship unloading purposes brought chaos to the ports and resulted in shipping lines having to pay inflated demurrage charges. Agreement under discussion with the Navy, Ministry of Trade, Public Works and with the State Railways to stop the requisition of steamers used to carry coal (October). Renewal of the pool agreement between the companies in Port Said and Suez (November). New contacts with the Tonkin Mining Company. Transfer by Paul Rouyer to Michel Goudchaux and Georges Majoux, Head of the Worms Shipping Department, of all his stakes in the capital of Worms & Cie, which, from 1 January 1916, was in the joint names of Hypolite Worms, Henri Goudchaux, Michel Goudchaux and Georges Majoux and in which Mrs. Delavigne and Lucien Worms' heirs had general partner status (December).
Dutch companies stopped shipping via the Suez Canal. Efforts to find a combined solution to enable the Navy to stock up on coal with the company in Port Said rather than from the British Admiralty. Loss of the "Léoville", sunk by a floating mine between Dieppe and Grimsby (19 January). Plans to establish monthly stocks of 8,000 tonnes of coal to cater to the Navy's needs in Port Said and ensure its handling operations. Deliveries to lighting companies and supply of gas coal in the Bayonne, Pau region, etc. Delivery of the "Château-Latour" (March).
Organisation of the coal market by the French State: 22 April bill "on charging for and transporting coal on vessels flying the French flag" and Sembat-Runciman agreement (25 May) on the charges for freight transport and for British coal. Introduction of import and chartering licences. Establishment of a Coal Office to place orders for British coal with the British authorities and issue the corresponding authorisations
Difficulties with the Coal Export Committee in obtaining export licences for the graded coal of Scottish origin used to supply the national powder works in Toulouse, Bergerac and Oissel, in particular. Death in Paris of Henri Goudchaux (25 April), his stakes being shared between his son, Michel Goudchaux, already a fully-fledged associate, and his daughter, Marie Labbé. At his express wish, Hypolite Worms succeeded him at the head of the company. Stronger controls exerted by the authorities and the customs in England and France over coal purchases (June). Enforcement of the measures approved by the Administration in all the branches (July-August). Cardiff docks seriously congested. Signature of a contract with the Naval Ministry according to which Worms would carry 8,000 tonnes of coal each month between Wales and the port of Brest. Plans to represent the Compagnie Française de Navigation in Copenhagen. Operations in Marseilles, with the Andalusia railway and in Spain (September). Information about the Tonkin Mining Company sent by James Burness & Sons (October). First reference to the Ateliers et Chantiers de la Seine-Maritime in written correspondence (November) and first purchases of land in Le Trait (December), a small town on the right bank of the River Seine upstream from Rouen, where these shipyards would be built. This initiative was taken at the request of the Government which was anticipating a shortage of vessels, with so many ships in the existing fleet being sunk by German submarines, and via its spokesman Anatole de Monzie, Under-Secretary of State for the Merchant Navy and Maritime Transport, requested three industrial and financial groups, one of them being Worms, to play a part in reconstructing the fleet and thus ensure French independence in the shipping sector.
Appointment of Hypolite Worms to the post of Assistant Treasurer of the Central Committee of French Shipowners. Rise in cost of living in Port Said. Agreement signed with the Government over 13 ships to be placed in service by Worms & Cie between Bordeaux and Dunkirk and over coastal shipping services between French ports (January). French merchant ships camouflaged in a bid to ward off the growing number of attacks from German submarines. Freight rates in the Mediterranean increased. Establishment of the "Cardiff Institute of Shipbrokers" (February). Transfer Restrictions Acts: ban on the resale of British ships to foreign shipping companies. The "Michel" sunk by a mine (19 March). Ever growing delays in delivering coal to industrial clients. All stocks sold out in the Province of Oran.
Russian Revolution (March-October), United States enters the war (6 April)
first Battle of the Atlantic
In a request to further defer the call up of the Manager of Worms & Cie in Port Said, it was argued that in Egypt the company supplied the coal needed for vessels chartered by the State, the Suez Canal Company, the Messageries Maritimes, the Chargeurs Réunis, and numerous other French, British, Japanese and Dutch shipping companies, for which it was also the local shipping agent, that it ran the general agency of the "Shell" Group and, as such supplied the country with petroleum, fuel oil and petroleum spirit, and more particularly the French and British Navies and the Salonika base, that it also managed the oil concessions in the Red Sea (Anglo-Egyptian Oilfields) and the oil refinery in Suez, this latter being contracted to cater to all the Salonika base's petroleum spirit needs. Loss of the "Château-Yquem" (30 June), the "Saint-Émilion" (24 July), the "Sauternes" (5 August) and the "Thérèse-et-Marie" (9 August). Creation of the Committee of Five, comprising the Managers of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, the Messageries Maritimes, the Chargeurs Réunis, the Affréteurs Réunis and Worms et Cie, with the role of assisting the Under-Secretary of State in all matters relating to maritime transport (14 July). Agreement between Worms & Cie Bordeaux and the British Admiralty over handling operations. Transfer of freight operations (especially those for the Navy) to dedicated subsidiaries, given the growing scale of these activities, which had become too much for the port agencies to handle: establishment of the Compagnie Charbonnière des Appontements de Bassens & de Lagrange (near Bordeaux), specialising in the handling and transhipment of bulk goods and miscellaneous commodities in French and foreign ports (July). Stake taken in Basile Have & Cie (Rouen), when this general partnership was converted into a private limited company, renamed the Compagnie Charbonnière de Manutentions et de Transports (August). The Administration took complete control of the receipt of incoming goods in Dieppe and distribution of domestic coal in neighbouring provinces (August). One of the participants in forming the Société Commerciale du Canal de Tancarville, the purpose of which was to study and perform all the various works needed in the ports of Le Havre and the Seine Estuary (September). Ban on transfer of flags and on the sale of French ships abroad. Contract signed with the Navy for the carriage of 8,000 tonnes of coal per month from Wales to the port of Brest reduced to 6,000 tonnes given the large number of Worms vessels torpedoed or sunk by mines (November). Transhipment operations on behalf of the French Government in Port Said impeded by the branch's involvement in meeting the military and merchant needs of the port (December). Worms & Cie mandated by the Navy to make its organisation in all ports in the United Kingdom available and act as the Navy's general agent in taking over the steamships allotted to France by the Inter-Allied Committee without delay and managing them until they reverted to time charter (28 December).
Foundation of the Ateliers et Chantiers de la Seine-Maritime,
third department of the Maison Worms
Creation of the Chantiers du Trait in the heart of the countryside – in other words development of the industrial site (with 8 building berths, sheet metal, boiler making, mechanical engineering and carpentry shops, etc.) and transformation of the original village into a city with infrastructure, homes and shops, etc., to cater to expected population growth, an operation spearheaded by Georges Majoux. Further workers would continue to arrive and more facilities be built in 1918 and the immediate post-war period.
Ships chartered to carry pit props from Bordeaux to the Bristol Channel on behalf of the Merchant Navy. Signature of a new agreement with the State under the terms of which Worms & Cie undertook to operate 10 vessels between Bordeaux and Dunkirk and to perform coastal shipping operations between French ports. Import of coal into Rouen for the Paris public authorities, and, in particular, the electricity sector. "The "Barsac" torpedoed off Le Havre (11 janvier 1918) and the "Château-Lafite" in Penmach (12 January). Commissioning in Le Havre of ships of the New York-based American Metal Transport & Cy. Participation in setting up the Société d'Études Industrielles et Commerciales (February). Development of business (ship charter and coal bunkering) with South Africa, Mozambique (Delagoa Bay) and Ceylon (Colombo) in association with the Messageries Maritimes (March). Hypolite Worms appointed to the Maritime Transport Executive Committee, a gathering of the Chairmen of the major French ship-owning companies (30 April). Proposal from Worms & Cie to the Navy to organise coastal shipping services between Dunkirk and Bayonne (May). Licensing system based on import groupings and the role of the National Coal Office challenged (July). Loss of the "Pontet-Canet" to the North of the Sept-Îles ("The Seven Islands") off the Breton coast (25 August 1918). Management of refuelling opertions for the 3 steamships of the Société Nantaise d'Éclairage & de Force par l'Électricité corresponding to the equivalent of 50,000 tonnes per year (September).
Establishment from Port Said of a branch and coal depot in Beirut at the request of the Navy (October-November)
with a view to supplying the French and Allied fleets disembarking in Syria and to contribute to economic development in the region: attempts to attract business among the clients of Prince Line Ltd and Ellerman Line.
Signature of an armistice between France and Germany (11 November),
the latter's capitulation signalling the end of the war
Despite the requisition of a number of its ships and the loss of 10 of its vessels, Worms & Cie was still able to maintain as regular as possible sailings between ports on the Atlantic and in the Channel, thereby playing a leading role in keeping industry and the civilian populations supplied with staple needs. It was during this period that that the "British Channel line" was created, a line linking Le Havre and Caen with Bristol, Swansea and Newport. In the wake of the general trend towards an increase in the exports of British coal, the volumes carried and sold in France and Egypt (especially in Le Havre and Port Said) rose in hitherto unprecedented proportions. For efforts in supplying warships "under very attractive conditions" for the State, Hypolite Worms was awarded the Légion d'honneur (12 February 1923). Foundation of the Agricultural and Forestry Consortium of Russia and Poland, under the auspices of the Ministry for Agriculture and Supply, with Hypolite Worms as a member of the first Board of Directors. Traffic re-started between Bordeaux and the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway (December).