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 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.;

Redoubt Lauwershoek

Description – The redoubt of Lauwershoek was built in the western sector of the Antwerp Fortified Position on the left bank of the river Scheldt. It is considered to be a standard concrete redoubt of the hoofdweerstandstelling but features a slightly different design. It did not participate in fighting during the Great War. It was refitted by the German army in 1917 when allied forces were able to increase the pressure on the western front.

Construction & Armament – This concrete redoubt was constructed between 1909 and 1912. Its design is based on the standard configuration featuring several artillery pieces but one of the towers of the main building is built closer to the entrance. The redoubt featured a wet moat and during war time the garrison entailed units from Fort Steendorp located to the south. One cupola was built in front of the redoubt: it had one 75mm gun installed. It was part of the hoofdweerstandstelling on the left bank of the river Scheldt; its main task was to secure the intervals between the forts. To the north one finds the redoubt of Landmolen.

Armament – Hoofdweerstandstelling Redoubt (Asymmetric design)

  • 4x 120mm fortress gun
  • 5x 75mm fortress gun

Commander 1914 – Lieutenant Stevelinck

Current condition – The redoubt of Lauwershoek did not participate in fighting during the siege of Antwerp in 1914. Some munition was transferred from the redoubt in order to replenish Fort Bornem and Fort Liezele. When the fortress of Antwerp had to be evacuated by the Belgian Field Army the garrison tried flee to the Netherlands (Hulst). Most of the garrisson  were able to keep up with the army retreating to the defense line of the canal Ghent-Terneuzen after disabling the guns of the redoubt. It was occupied by German forces shortly thereafter and refitted because an allied breakthrough at the western front seemed imminent (October 1918). The asymmetrical design might be contributed to the fact that the fort of Steendorp is located a bit more to the south. It is private property had is being used to shelter farming animals (cows). The redoubt is in relatively good condition and most features are still intact (the 75mm gun placement is still there although filled with dirt). The wet moat has been filled with earth. One can still find prints of sand bags (filled with plaster/concrete) probably dating back to either 1914 or 1918. Several bunkers were built in the vicinity. The existence of the redoubt might be in danger since the site was marked for sand reclamation.

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

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.

Redoubt Letterheide

Description – The redoubt of Letterheide was constructed in the southern sector of the Antwerp Fortified Position between Fort Liezele to the east and Fort Breendonk to the west. It is considered to be a standard concrete redoubt of the hoofdweerstandstelling. It did not participate in fighting during the Great War.

Construction & Armament – This concrete redoubt was constructed between 1909 and 1912. It was a standard design featuring several artillery pieces. The redoubt featured a wet moat and during war time the garrison entailed units from nearby forts.  One cupola was built in front of the redoubt: it had one 75mm gun installed. It was part of the hoofdweerstandstelling; its main task was to secure the intervals between the forts.

Armament – Hoofdweerstandstelling Redoubt

  • 4x 120mm fortress gun
  • 5x 75mm fortress gun

Commander 1914 – Capt. Demeur

Current condition – The redoubt of Letterheide saw only limited action during the siege of Antwerp in 1914. On October 6th the garrison deserted their positions except for captain Demeur and a handful of defenders who wished to surrender. The commander of Fort Liezele threatened to fire upon Redoubt Letterheide if they would do so. The surrender proved detrimental for the morale of Fort Breendonk. During the interbellum it was not refitted. The redoubt was used as a gathering park by the local community. Somewhere between 2009 and 2013 the redoubt was demolished.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R. ; (http://breendonk800.weebly.com)

Redoubt Puurs

Description – The redoubt of Puurs (Puers) was built in the southern sector of the Antwerp Fortified Position. It is considered to be a standard concrete redoubt of the hoofdweerstandstelling. It did not participate in fighting during the Great War.

Construction & Armament – This concrete redoubt was constructed between 1909 and 1912. It was a standard design featuring several artillery pieces. The redoubt featured a wet moat and during war time the garrison entailed units from Fort Bornem to the west or Fort Liezele to the east.  One cupola was built in front of the redoubt: it had one 75mm gun installed. It was part of the hoofdweerstandstelling; its main task was to secure the intervals between the forts and guard the railroad Boom-Puurs-Dendermonde.

Armament – Hoofdweerstandstelling Redoubt

  • 4x 120mm fortress gun
  • 5x 75mm fortress gun

Commander 1914 – Capt. Coune

Current condition – The redoubt of Puurs saw only limited action during the siege of Antwerp in 1914. When the fortress of Antwerp had to be evacuated by the Belgian Field Army the garisson tried to reach Dendermonde (Termonde) or tried to cross the Scheldt river at Bornem. During the interbellum it was not refitted with . Today it houses a environmental protection association. It is one of the rare examples of redoubts that still show their original name above the entrance.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Redoubt Schilde

Redoubt Schilde
Redoubt Schilde

Description – The redoubt of Schilde was built in the eastern sector of the Antwerp Fortified Position. It is considered to be a standard concrete redoubt of the hoofdweerstandstelling. It did not participate in fighting during the Great War but it was completely destroyed by the garisson when they evacuated the position.

Construction & Armament – This concrete redoubt was constructed between 1909 and 1912. It was a standard design featuring several artillery pieces. The redoubt featured a wet moat and during war time the garrison entailed units from Fort Oelegem to the south or Fort ‘s Gravenwezel to the north.  One cupola was built in front of the redoubt: it had one 75mm gun installed. It was part of the hoofdweerstandstelling; its main task was to secure the intervals between the forts and guard the road to Turnhout.

Armament – Hoofdweerstandstelling Redoubt

  • 4x 120mm fortress gun
  • 5x 75mm fortress gun

Current condition – The redoubt of Schilde did not participate in operations during the siege of Antwerp in 1914. When the fortress of Antwerp had to be evacuated by the Belgian Field Army the garisson subsequently destroyed the redoubt. This standard procedure would prevent German forces to occupy the redoubt. During the interbellum it was refitted and bunkers (pillboxes) were constructed and the redoubt was connected to the anti-tank ditch. In 1961 the redoubt lost its military role. Today it can be visited freely but some parts are overgrown.  A fishing club is located nearby.

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

Redoubt Audaan

Description – The redoubt of Audaan (Audaen) is located  built to secure the interval between Fort Brasschaat and Fort Schoten. It is a standard redoubt of the hoofdweerstandstelling built near ‘s Gravenwezel. It did not see any action during the Great War and was left intact by the retreating garisson.

Construction & Armament – This concrete redoubt was constructed between 1909 and 1912. It is considered to be standard redoubt featuring artillery and secured the interval between two adjacent forts. The redoubt featured a wet moat .  One cupola was built in front of the redoubt: it had one 75mm gun installed. It was part of the hoofdweerstandstelling.

Armament – Hoofdweerstandstelling Redoubt

  • 4x 120mm fortress gun
  • 5x 75mm fortress gun

Current condition – The redoubt of Audaan was propably intact when the Great War ended. It is not know weither interbellum upgrades were applied but is still private property thus and off limits to visitors. The redoubt was transformed in to a living home. The concrete facade has been restored. During the interbellum it did not receive a connection to the anti-tank ditch located more to the northeast.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.