Description – Fort Zwijndrecht is located on the left bank of the river Scheldt near Zwijndrecht. It is officially referred to as Fort Colonel Brosius. It is a large brick fort with a trapezoid shape. It was constructed in order to allow the Belgian Army to conduct offensive operations on the left bank (Waasland). It is considered a unique fort since it does not feature a central reduit. Instead it commands a full fletched artillery battery. The surrounding area could be inundated, the fort of Kruibeke and the redoubt of Halve Maan (part of the defensive dyke) are located nearby.
Construction & Armament – Constructed started in 1870 and the fort was completed near 1880. It served as a base of operations for the entire left bank of the river Scheldt. Next it served as an arsenal for artillery pieces. Originally a brick fort it was upgraded with concrete by 1912. During the Great War it was not involved in any major operation.
- ?x 210mm fortress gun
- ?x 120mm fortress gun
- ?x 150mm fortress gun
- ?x 90mm fortress gun
- ?x 57mm fortress gun
Commander 1914 – Captain Verbiest / Lieutenant Vermeulen / Captain Olivier
Current condition – In 1914 the fort did not take part in direct hostilities although it seems a German spy named Paul-Auguste Ehrardt was apprehended and was put to death by a firing squad in the fort. He was interred in the Zwijndrecht church yard. German forces occupied the fort during the Great War and added a railway junction to the fort. From 1919 onwards the fort houses a munition production facility (Ateliers de Fabrication des Munitions). During the occupation of 1940-1944 a German factory (Whüle) takes over most of the activities. The fort is in mint condition and named after the Belgian commander Brosius during WW II. It still has all original structures and buildings within the fort. Some features are not found in any other fort. The site is still occupied and maintained by the Belgian Army and serves the role of ammunition dismantling facility. WARNING: This site cannot be visited. The Belgian Army employs regular armed patrols with dogs and access is restricted. The moat of Fort Zwijndrecht is filled with ammunition that contain warfare gasses (poison gas). This gasses are kept stable by the moat’s water level and constant temperature.
Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R. Van Meirvenne, R; Lataer, J.;
Description – Fort Merksem is located near the community of Merksem (Antwerp). It is a trapezoid schaped brick fort which loosely resembles a six pointed star. The design of the fort is unique since it features a wet moat encircling the central reduit. It was built in order to protect the city of Antwerp from bombardement. The site was one of the strategic positions where allied could attack the city in 1841. Its main function was to prevent enemy advance by securing the Bredabaan main road and the Campine Canal. The surrounding area could be inundated.
Construction & Armament – Constructed started in 1871 and completed in 1882. Fort Merksem is unique because of the additional wet moat in the center of the fort. The central reduit had a roughly hammer shaped configuration. It features a wet moat, two half caponnieres and one caponniere. It was upgraded with concrete before the outbreak of the Great War since it was part of the veiligheidstelling (security defense line) but retained an isolated postion (1911-1912).
- ?x 120mm fortress gun
- ?x 150mm fortress gun
- ?x 210mm mortar (?)
Commander 1914 – Lieutenant Dethieux
Current condition – The fort is average condition: the central reduit was destroyed during the Great War by the fort’s garrison while retreating to the Netherlands in 1914. The commander and one soldier (Meeus) were killed when they detoneted the central reduit’s powder magazine on the 9th of October. A monument commemorating them was placed in 1919. German forces occupied the fort. When the war ended it became a storage facility for seized German artillery pieces. During the interbellum the fort was refitted with machine gun pillboxes. Parts of the main building are occupied by recreational assocations and sports clubs. Access to the caponniere is available upon request since it houses a sports club. Part of the moad was fulled up with earth and the central wet moat is no longer visible. The artillery entrance serves as the main point of access. It can be visited freely during the day. Some parts are a bit overgrown.
Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.
Description – The battery of Blauwgaren was a coastal defensive structure located near Lillo (port of Antwerp) built in 1911. Its namesake dates back to earlier forts and redoubts during the Dutch war of independence against Spanish forces. This concrete coastal battery was constructed to prevent an enemy naval force sailing up the river Scheldt.
Construction & Armament – This coastal battery comprised several earth works, four gun platforms and a concrete main building. The southern flank remained open but the surrounding area could be inundated when necessary.
- 4x 120mm Coastal Gun (M1913)
Current condition – In 1914 Blauwgaren Battery didn’t participate in any operation but the Belgian Army command of Antwerp ordered the garrison to destroy the guns and the main building on the 8th of October. German forces occupied the site and built five bunkers during the Great War to close the Scheldt access. Remains of the battery and the German bunkers were displaced during the 1953 flood. In order to close breached dykes sand and dirt was retrieved from the earth works. Remains of the battery were burried and levelled when the port of Antwerp expanded in following years. The presence of munition could not be confirmed nor denied.
Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R; Oliviers, T.; Documentatiecentrum Antwerpse Noorderpolders