Category Archives: 150mm

Features 150mm fortress artillery

Fort Saint Mary (II)

Description – Fort Saint Mary is located on the left bank of the river Scheldt close to Kalloo. It is named for an earlier fort built by Spanish forces during the siege of Antwerp in 1585. The fort was built to secure access to the city together with Fort De Perel (La Perle) up north and Fort Saint Philip to the northeast (right bank). It served as the headwaters of the Fortress of Antwerp on the 9th of October 1914.

Construction & Armament – Construction of the fort started in 1855 altering the existing design of the previous defensive structures. In 1858 the major works were completed. A coastal battery was built on the side of the fort close to the river. Between 1877 and 1878 an armored battery is placed on top of the existing battery building.  Later an underwater battery for torpedoes was built (1881-1882). It features a wet moat and the fort lies in an inundation area. To the south the fort connects to the left bank defensive dyke where one finds the redan (redoubt?) of Put van Fien.

Armament – Fort Saint Mary (III)

  • 6x 240mm (armoured battery)
  • 6x 210mm
  • 27x 150mm coastal gun
  • 12x 120mm coastal gun
  • ? x Whitehead torpedoes

Commander 1914 –

Current condition – The Fort Saint Mary has been altered several times. In all instances it was one of the spearheads of the coastal defense of Antwerp. When constructed the soil proved to contain organic material. In order to gain enough sand for the earth works a pond in the middle of the fort was dug. The armoured battery was one of the unique features of the fort but these have been removed. The presence of a torpedo battery next to the fort is also worth mentioning, remains can still be seen when the tide of the Scheldt is low. Today a secondary school is located on the fort, it served as an base for the Belgian Navy since 1861. This site can be visited upon request. Some of the original structures are still visible although a bit overgrown.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Liezele

Description – The fort of Liezele is a concrete (armored) fort of the second order with merged caponnieres. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the southern corner of the Antwerp defensive positions. This fort guarded a strategic railroad towards Antwerp. To the east one finds the Redoubt of Puurs on the left and the Redoubt of Letterheide to the east.

Construction & Armament – The fort was made out of unarmed concrete and construction commenced in 1906. In 1914 it was considered to be completed. Its design is similar to Fort Breendonk, Fort Broechem and Fort Ertbrand. It features a smaller number of artillery cupolas than first order designs. It features two merged caponnieres and a back/rear caponniere to defend the intervals between forts and redoubts. It features a wet moat.

Armament – Fort Second Order

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • 6x 120mm fortress gun
  • 8x 75mm
  • 18x 57mm

Commander 1914 – Capt. Fiévez

Current condition – The Fort of Liezele took part in the siege of Antwerp in 1914 but not suffer from any bombardment .  The nearby village of Liezele is burnt to the ground in order to allow the fort to control the entire surrounding area. It would also prevent any German forces to occupy the village and thereby gaining a small bridgehead. When the Redoubt of Letterheide wants to surrender the fort commander threatens to open fire on deserters. On October 10 the commander surrenders the fort after an appeal by the city of Antwerp’s civil authorities.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Bornem

Description – The fort of Bornem is a concrete (armored) fort with an unique design. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the south-east corner of the Antwerp defensive positions. This fort guarded the bridgehead of Wintham and the river Scheldt. To the east one finds the Redoubt of Puurs and Fort Steendorp to the north. Guarding the strategic bridge (crossing) of Temse and railroad to Antwerp proved to be invaluable to the Belgian Army in 1914.

Construction & Armament – The fort was made out of unarmed concrete and construction commenced in 1906. In 1914 it was considered to be completed. Its design is unique as it features a hybrid setup. Merging elements from the dyke forts and classic concrete forts it is referred to as a concrete fort with cupolas on the flanks/site. It features a wet moat and the unique design might be attributed to the fact that it’s location is quite isolated and due to its mixed role. Some might consider it to be a dyke fort on steroids.

Armament – Fort with Cupola’s on the flanks

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • ?x 120mm fortress gun
  • ?x 75mm
  • ?x 57mm

Commander 1914 – Capt. Rasquin / Capt. Jallay

Current condition – The Fort of Bornem did not participate in major fighting in 1914. It stopped the advance of the German Army (4th Erzats Division) and proved crucial since it was able to keep the the strategic railroad Antwerp-Boom-Temse open. The Belgian Army was able to evacuate the fortress of Antwerp using this railway and the bridge over the river Scheldt at Temse. This allowed for a retreat to positions defending the Canal Ghent-Terneuzen. On October 10th the fort surrendered after an appeal from the Antwerp civil authorities and after rendering useless most of the fort. Today the fort houses recreational associations and clubs (fishing). Part of the fort is being restored while others are a protected habitat for bats. Considered to be in more than reasonable condition its unique design warrants a visit.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Breendonk

Description – The fort of Breendonk is a concrete (armored) fort of the second order with merged caponnieres. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the southern corner of the Antwerp defensive positions. This fort guarded a strategic railroad towards Antwerp. To the east one finds the Redoubt of Letterheide and the inundation of Heindonk (Heyndonck) to the east.

Construction & Armament – The fort was made out of unarmed concrete and construction commenced in 1906. In 1914 it was considered to be completed. Its design is similar to Fort Liezele, Fort Broechem and Fort Ertbrand. It features a smaller number of artillery cupolas than first order designs. It features two merged caponnieres and a back/rear caponniere to defend the intervals between forts and redoubts. It features a wet moat.

Armament – Fort Second Order

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • 6x 120mm fortress gun
  • 8x 75mm
  • 18x 57mm

Commander 1914 – Capt. Weyns

Current condition – The Fort of Breendonk was hit by 305mm siege artillery during the Great War. On October 8th a final bombardment cripples the fort. It surrendered the same day when the commander was mortally injured and the fort had used up almost all ammunitionThe German army occupied the fort but in 1918 it got disarmed. During the interbellum it serves as a depot and a strong point for infantry units. During the German invasion of Belgium in 1940 it served as the headquarters of King Leopold III. It acquired a grim shortly thereafter as it was transformed into a concentration camp. After the liberation in 1944 it served a short time as a prison. Today it is a national monument to the victims of WO II. The fort is considered to be in good condition but most of the earth works were removed (1940-1944) and the setup of the fort was altered to serve the role as concentration camp.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Stabroek

Description – The fort of Stabroek is a concrete (armored) fort of the second order with detached caponnieres. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the upper north of the Antwerp defensive positions. This fort guarded the main road to Bergen-Op-Zoom (The Nederlands) and part of the Scheldt river.

Construction & Armament – The fort was made out of unarmed concrete and construction commenced in 1902. In 1907 it was considered to be completed. Its design is similar to Fort Sint-Katelijne-Waver and Fort ‘s Gravenwezel but features a smaller number of artillery cupolas. It features a detached reverse caponniere, two side caponnieres and back/rear caponniere to defend the intervals between forts and redoubts. It features a wet moat.

Armament – Fort Second Order

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • 2x 120mm fortress gun
  • 4x 75mm
  • 2(?)x 57mm

Commander 1914 –

Current condition – The Fort of Stabroek did not see action during the Great War. Some damage to the fort was inflicted by the retreating garrison. Later it became part of a German defensive position from 1917 onwards (Hollandstellung) and a garrison continued to occupy the fort until the armistice of 1918. In 1939 an anti tank ditch was built connecting the fort with the Redoubt of Smoutakker to the east and the Redoubt of Berendrecht to the west (part of the Scheldt river defensive positions). In 1944 it was damaged due to skirmishes between Allied and German units when the latter retreated to Rosendaal (the battle for the Scheldt river ensued short time later). Today it houses a paintball and airsoft venue (Stafort) and can be visited during opening hours. The fort still has original German wartime sings and markings.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Sint-Katelijne-Waver

Description – Fort Sint-Katelijne-Waver is located near Mechelen. It was the first concrete fort to be constructed. It features a wet moat and a detached reverse caponniere; Fort ‘s Gravenwezel is her only counterpart. Fort Groenstraat or Fort Midzele are known to be common nicknames. It was built to secure access to Antwerp guarding the village of Sint-Katelijne-Waver (Wavre-Sainte-Catherine) and the strategic railroad between the two cities. West one finds Fort Walem and to the east two half redoubts (Dorpveld and Bosbeek) were built. Close to the fort a railroad offered logistics support.

Construction & Armament – Construction started in 1902 and completion was scheduled for 1914. It is concrete (armoured) fort 1st order and the first one to be constructed at the hoofdweerstandstelling. A back (traditoire) caponniere secures the intervals between the forts while the wet moat is guarded by a detached reverse caponniere. It is considered to be a medium-well armed fort.

Armament – Fort Ist Order

  • 4x 150mm fortress gun
  • 2x 120mm fortress gun
  • 6x 75mm (only 4 were installed)
  • ?x 57mm

Current condition – The fort Sint-Katelijne-Waver was besieged together with Fort Walem. Because of shelling by 305mm and 420mm heavy artillery the fort is badly damaged. The entrance of the fort still bears the deep scars left in 1914. During the interbellum it was only partly restored. Today small dwellings are located on the fort. It can be visited without charge but the bad condition of the main building and post-war small buildings do not enhance its stature.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Schoten

Description – Fort Schoten is an unique hybrid Brialmont fort built between 1885 and 1893. Located close to Schoten and the Canal Dessel-Schoten, its main function were to secure access to the canal and to safeguard a beachhead north-east of Antwerp (Brechtsebaan). Some sources refer to it as Fort Elshout. It features both a wet and a dry moat, brick walls and concrete vaults . It did not see action in either world war. It is still used by the Belgian Army and since 1998 it became a protected heritage site.

Construction & Armament – Construction started in 1885 and ended in 1893 rougly at par with Fort Steendorp. It is a true hybrid fort since the supporting walls are built using brick but the vaults are made out of unarmed concrete. It features a unique central reduit which might be partly inspired by Steendorp. A wet moat encircles most of the fort but the dry moat features a front using bastions. It has only one entrance which is protected by a redan. Two half caponnieres guard the flanks of the fort, a caponniere secures the front end.

Armament –

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • 2x 210mm
  • 4x 57mm

Current condition – The fort of Schoten did not participate in any siege or conflict. Most parts have been overgrown but the fort is in good condition. It is still occupied by the Belgian Army.

WARNING: This site is off limits to visitors. Is it still considered an Belgian Army base and it guarded by regular patrols with dogs. 

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Kruibeke

Description – Fort Kruibeke is located on the left bank of the river Scheldt near Kruibeke and is still an army base. It is officially referred to as Fort Van Eepoel. It is a smaller asymmetrical 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) as it served a supporting role. It also guarded  the upstream part of the river Scheldt. It does not feature a central reduit but offers a small battery instead.

Construction & Armament – Constructed started in 1870 and the fort was completed near 1880. It served as a supporting position for the Belgian Field Army and a guarding station for the Scheldt river. It does not have a central reduit but a smaller battery offering indirect fire is present. Originally a brick fort it was upgraded with concrete by 1912. During the Great War it was not involved in any operations.

Armament –

  • ?x 120mm fortress gun
  • ?x 150mm fortress gun
  • ?x 210mm mortar (?)

Current condition – The fort is an overall bad condition since a large part has been destroyed due post-WO II industrial activities. The caponniere is gone as is a large part of the moat. The site is still occupied and maintained by the Belgian Army and serves the role of logistics depot. WARNING: This site can only be visited upon request. The Belgian Army still occupies this fort as a division of the logistics branch is stationed here.

Sources – Own elaboration; Fortengordels.be; Gils, R.

Fort Zwijndrecht

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.

Armament –

  • ?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.;

Fort Merksem

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).

Armament –

  • ?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.