Category Archives: 57mm

Features 57mm fortress artillery

Fort Haasdonk

Description – The fort of Haasdonk is a concrete (armored) fort of the second order with merged caponnieres. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the western corner of the Antwerp defensive positions.  To the north one finds inundated areas (polder) and the redoubt of Landmolen to the south. It was the last fort to surrender to German forces on the 10th of October 1914. It became part of the Hollandstellung in 1917.

Construction & Armament – The fort was made out of unarmed concrete and construction commenced in 1909 by the Bolsée (Bolsée Frères & Co – Travaux Militaires) construction company and in 1912 the fort was considered to be completed. Its design is similar to Fort Breendonk, Fort Broechem, Fort Liezele 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. Because of the elevation level the fort moat was installed with a lock to a small stream (Barbierbeek).

Armament – Fort Second Order

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

Commander 1914 – Captain Van Loo

Current condition – The Fort of Haasdonk did not take part in the siege of Antwerp in 1914. The inundation north of the fort did not reach the required water level but four defensive positions are built and guarded by one battalion each (Nerenhoek, Vrasene, Beveren and Hoogeinde). Since no forts or redoubts were built north of Fort Haasdonk the main line of defense would be the defensive dyke futher to the east. Nevertheless part of the village of Haasdonk was raised in order to allow the fort to control the surrounding area. It did not suffer from any bombardment and surrendered intact. Relicts of the German occupation of the fort are still visible as the fort features unique writings and signs in the hallways. In 1927 it lost its role as a fort, later it becomes a storage facility for ammunition serving Fort Zwijndrecht. In 1943 a German FLAK battery occupies the fort and the fort itself is stripped from any metal. From September 1944 it becomes a bomb shelter to the local population. Today it is private property and off limits to visitors.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Van Meirvenne, 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 Lier

Description – Fort Lier served as the third fort so secure a bridgehead for the Belgian Army in the advent of the Franco-Prussian War. It’s design is close to that of Fort Walem and differs  only in details with fort Walem. It was constructed in order to secure positions near the Nete river close to Lier. As is the case with her twin fort brick works are predominant but concrete reenforcements were installed as were armoured coupolas. It served as the headquarters of the Field Army under Albert I of Belgium during the initial phase of the Great War. It suffered from heavy siege artillery.

Construction & Armament – Construction started in 1882 and completed near 1892. It is a brick that shares many features with Walem. By the time it was completed it was considered outdated because of new artillery and therefore concrete reenforcements and coupolas were installed. Fort Lier is defended by earth works and a wet moat; as is the case with its counterpart Walem the fort features a main barracks builing in the center (terreplein). As a Brialmont brick fort it has two half caponnieres and two entrances. Only one entrance was used during peace time. Two caponnieres can be found: one at the front of the  fort and one at the back of the fort.

Armament –

  • 3x 120mm fortress guns
  • 5x 150mm fortress guns (only 4 were installed)
  • 4x 75mm fortress guns

Current condition – Fort Lier was damaged during the First World War by heavy siege artillery (420mm, 210mm). When German forces advanced to Antwerp is was one of the forts that held out longer due the fact that the terrain of the fort is quite large (concrete forts are smaller) and proved more difficult to destroy. The garisson commander ordered the fort to be evacuated when all coupolas were disabled. The fort still clearly shows the damage done by the siege in 1914: the barracks are partly destroyed as was one of the 57mm gun coupola. During the interbellum the fort was reenforced with machine guns. It did not see any action during WW II. The fort is in rather bad condition: damage dating back from 1914 is clearly visible and most areas are off limits. The barracks are in moderate condition but the caponnieres are considered to be preserved substandard. A firing range and firearms sports club is present in the main building, but visitors who are interested in the fort’s history are not deemed to be quite welcome.

Sources – Own elaboration; Ryheul, J;

Fort Walem

Description – Fort Walem is located near Mechelen (Walem) on the right bank of the river Scheldt. It is one of three forts constructed in order to safeguard Antwerp just before the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. It is a large brick fort with a trapezoid shape. It was constructed in order to secure strategic bridgeheads for the Belgian Army. It guarded the road from Mechelen to Anwerp and nearby areas could be inundated (Heindonk). It differs from fort Lier only in details. During the Great War Fort Walem was severely damaged by Austrian 350mm and German 420mm siege artillery. The powder magazine of the main building was hit and exploded killing several soldiers and officers. The fort continued to offer resistance despite uninterruped fire and surrendered with full honours in 1914.  During the interbellum the fort was refitted with concrete bunkers (pillboxes) and heavy machine guns.  A monument marking the burial site was unveiled in following year. After WO II it became a storage facility of gas masks and a storage location for the Civiele Bescherming.

Construction & Armament – Construction started in 1878 but by the time it was completed it was considered outdated. During the Franco-Prussian war the Belgian Army concluded that new forts were needed but the development of new explosives made matters more urgent.  New concrete protection was installed as well as armoured coupolas.It features barracks, a wet moat, a caponniere and two half caponnieres fitted with armoured coupolas.

 

Armament –

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

Commander 1914 – Major Dewitte

Current condition – The fort suffers from heavy damage inflicted during the Great War. The main building sustained damage and the caponniere is completely destroyed. It is the last resting place for several soldiers and officers. During the 1958’s world Exposition in Brussels a part of the fort was demolished in order to straighten the main road. The Belgian Army left the fort in 1961. The site is polluted by stockpiles of gas masks left by the Civiele Bescherming when they abandoned the fort. In recent years vandals have damaged the site by setting fire to gas masks in the barracks and underground hallways. Some grave robber activity have been reported.

CAUTION: This site can be visited upon request but is not freely accessible. Since it is the last resting place of soldiers who died during the explosion of the main building we kindly ask you that, during a visit, you show respect and leave this burial site undisturbed.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R. De Wit, G;