Category Archives: Hoofdweerstandstelling

The “Hoofdweerstandstelling” or main defensive position is considered to be the most important line of the fortress. It features several forts and redoubts. In times of peril it featured barbed wire and non-monumental gates.

Fort ‘s Gravenwezel

Description – The fort of ‘s Gravenwezel 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 Turnhout together with the redoubt of Schilde.

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 Stabroek and features a full range of 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 ‘s Gravenwezel 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 Nord) 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 Schilde to the south and Redoubt Audaan to the north. The fort became private property after the Second World War. Today it is a trailer residence site. Some parts of the fort are still visible but a general visit to the fort is not possible. The fort is considered to be in bad condition as much of the original layout was altered.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Berendrecht

Description – The fort of Berendrecht is a concrete fort built on a dyke near the village of Berendrecht close to Zandvliet and Stabroek.  It was part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the northern sector of the Antwerp defensive positions.  Also referred to as the redoubt of Berendrecht it is considered to be a coastal defense site of Antwerp. Nearby areas could be flooded if under threat by an advancing army. The fort is sometimes known as Fort Frederic (Fort Frederik) for the now gone dwelling located within the former fort Henrik-Frederic.

Construction & Armament – The fort was made out of unarmed concrete and construction commenced in 1878. Completion followed in 1888. Its design is similar to Fort Oorderen differs only in details. The Fort features a wet moat surrounded by the dyke, a main building with a cupola, an entrance building and two traverses. To the west one find the river Scheldt and Fort Stabroek to the southeast.

Armament – Dyke Fort

  • ?x 150mm fortress gun
  • ?x 120mm fortress gun
  • ?x 75mm
  • ?6x 57mm

Commander 1914 – ?

Current condition – The Fort of Berendrecht did not see action during the siege of Antwerp in 1914. It was most likely rendered useless by the garrisson when they evacuated the fort. It is unknown if the fort was refitted during the interbellum but since the German army built the Hollandstellung in 1917 this might be plausible. The Belgian Army abandoned the fort in 1961. During the expansion of the port of Antwerp in the 1960’s the fort was demolished and its remains were covered by earth. . No traces can be found in the landscape.

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 Brasschaat

Description – The fort of Brasschaat is a concrete (armored) fort of the second order with attached reverse caponnieres. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the eastern corner of the Antwerp defensive positions. The fort has the same design as Fort Kessel. To the east one finds the Fort of Kapelles and the redoubt of Dryhoek to the southwest.

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 Kessel and differences are only found in details. Being a fort of the Hoofdweerstandstelling it features a smaller number of artillery cupolas than first order designs. It has an attached reverse caponnieres and a back/rear caponniere to defend the intervals between forts. It is surrounded by a wet moat, later an anti-tank ditch was constructed. To the northeast one finds the Brasschaat Polygon military site and base.

Armament – Fort Second Order

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

Commander 1914 – ?

Current condition – The Fort of Brasschaat did not see any action during the siege of 1914. The garrisson evacuated the fort and retreated to The Netherlands. In 1917 it became part of the German Hollandstellung (nord). It was refitted during the interbellum and a anti-tank ditch was constructed, some locks are located nearby. After the Second World War the fort was decomissioned although it remaind a military site. The Belgian Army conducted explosives practice on the fort; the left wing of the fort has been partly destroyed. The fort is in average condition but is off limits to visitors.

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 Broechem

Description – The fort of Broechem is a concrete (armored) fort of the second order with merged caponnieres. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the eastern corner of the Antwerp defensive positions.  To the north one finds the redoubt of Massenhoven and the fort of Kessel to the south.

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 Ertbrand and Fort Liezele. Being a fort of the Hoofdweerstandstelling it features a smaller number of artillery cupolas than first order designs. It has two merged caponnieres and a back/rear caponniere to defend the intervals between forts and redoubts. It is surrounded by a wet moat and is part of the Hoofdweerstandstelling.

Armament – Fort Second Order

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

Commander 1914 – Captain Van der Eycken

Current condition – The Fort of Broechem sustained considerable damage during the Great War. It was shelled by heavy siege artillery in 1914; the traditoire battery was hit as was the main building. On the 7th of October the defenders left the fort and regrouped near Zwijndrecht. During the interbellum it was refitted and pillboxes between the fort, Fort Kessel and the redoubt of Massenhoven were built. They are still present in the landscape. The fort can no longer be accessed using the main entrance, part of the moat has been filled with dirt. After WW II British forces occupied the base. Fort Broechem is still an army base and the Province of Antwerp owns the nearby terrain.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Duffel

Fort Duffel
Fort Duffel


Description –
The fort of Duffel is a small fort built in order to secure the railroad between Antwerp and Brussels. It is a hybrid fort equipped with armored cupolas. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the southern sector of the Antwerp defensive positions.  To west one finds the fort of Walem and the fort of Sint-Katelijne-Waver to the east. It held out for a considerable time during the siege of 1914.

Construction & Armament – The fort had brick walls and concrete vaults. It is considered to be a hybrid fort. Initally its design featured only earth works (1888). Later it was armed with cupolas and concrete protection covering the brick underground hallways (1894). The fort is surrounded by a wet moat and features three cupolas (1x2x150mm and 2x1x57mm).  It was formerly known as the Railway Redoubt (redoute du chemin de fer) later as the small Fort of Duffel (fortin de Duffel).

Armament – Fort Duffel

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • 6x 57mm fortress gun

Commander 1914 – Lieutenant Hastray

Current condition – The Fort of Duffel was besieged in 1914. The fort held out for a considerable time while positions at Walem and Sint-Katelijne-Waver were lost. The garrisson destoryed part of the fort when they were forced to evacuate on the 3rd of October. The traditoire battery still shows considerable damage. It was not refitted during the interbellum and did not participate in any operations during WW II.  German forces stripped most of the metal from the fort. The fort was sold to a construction firm when the Belgian state declassified the entire site. For some time it remained in the same condition as during its abandonement. The fort was purchased by the Province of Antwerp and has become a heritage site. Today it can be visited; it offers information to visitors and some exhibitions are held. Several restorations and repairs have been carried out (e.g. the brigde has been rebuilt). These efforts have given back much of its former splendor. It is quite good overall condition.

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Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.;

Fort Ertbrand

Description – The fort of Ertbrand is a concrete (armored) fort of the second order with merged caponnieres. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the northern corner of the Antwerp defensive positions. This fort guarded the frontier with The Netherlands and secured a strategic road to Bergen-Op-Zoom. To the east one finds the fort of Kapellen and the redoubt of Smoutakker 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 Liezele. Being a fort of the Hoofdweerstandstelling it features a smaller number of artillery cupolas than first order designs. It has two merged caponnieres and a back/rear caponniere to defend the intervals between forts and redoubts. It is surrounded by a wet moat.

Armament – Fort Second Order

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

Commander 1914 – ?

Current condition – The Fort of Ertbrand did not participate in combat during the siege of Antwerp in 1914. It did suffer from damage done by the garrisson when the fort was evacuated. In 1917 it became part of the German Hollandstellung (north). During the interbellum the fort was refitted and the wet moat became part of the anti-tank canal (1939). During the Second World War it briefly became the theater of skirmishes between Canadian and German forces when the latter retreated to Rosendaal (1944). The fort is in reasonable condition. Since it is private property it cannot be visited. It features original writings on the wall of the hallways by German and Belgian soldiers who occupied the fort. To the east one can still find almost intact trenches and earth work defenses in a nearby forest (Mastenbos).

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

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 Kapellen

Description – The fort of Kapellen is located near Kapellen guarding the railroad connecting Antwerp to Rosendaal. It is a small concrete fort.

Construction & Armament – The fort was made out of unarmed concrete and construction commenced in 1893 and. In 1897 the fort was considered completed but installing armaments took until 1900. Being a fort of the Hoofdweerstandstelling it features a smaller number of artillery cupolas than the full fledged forts nearby. It is surrounded by a wet moat.

Armament – Fort Kapellen

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

Commander 1914 – ?

Current condition – The fort did not see any action 1914 and it was disabled by the garrisson when they retreated to the Netherlands. The fort was refitted during the interbellum. Today it is part of the army base of Brasschaat and a tank museum is located nearby. The fort is in quite bad condition since the moat has been filled on one part, the main building served as a practice shooting range. Some windows are bricked up. The site is off limits to visitors, a tour might be possible upon request. The fort cannot be accessed using the main entrance since a canine training association is located on this premises. A railway junction leading to the Polygon of Brasschaat runs next to the fort.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.