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 Steendorp

Fort Steendorp
Fort Steendorp

Description – Fort Steendorp is close to the Steendorp community on the left 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 was constructed in order to secure strategic bridgeheads for the Belgian Army. It guarded the left bank of the river Scheldt and is constructed on a hill top. Initially referred to as Fort Rupelmonde it was the last brick fort constructed in Belgium.

Construction & Armament – Construction started in 1882 and completion, after some setbacks, was heralded in 1892. It is the last brick fort constructed but also the most expensive one (two milion gold francs). By the time it was completed it was considered outdated because of new artillery. Building the fort on top of a hill proved to be cumbersome. The soil proved unstable and was not able to support the full weight of the brick works. Because of this, a planned coupola was never installed and concrete refitting was deemed risky. The fort features a central reduit and offers an unique feature: a dry moat surrounding the fort. Because the fort guards the bridgehead of Rupelmonde-Wintham several annex batteries were constructed. Next to this the fort offers a caponniere and two half caponnieres featuring unique designs. Two very deep drilled water wells served as an emergency drink water supply.

Armament –

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

Current condition – The fort did not suffer a siege during the Great War but during the retreat of the Belgian Field Army to the Canal Gent-Terneuzen it was damaged by the garisson. During the interbellum a military factory was built to produce war gasses (poison gas). The main building sustained heavy damage and the artillery entrance is partly destroyed. The dry moat has changed into a wet moat due to insufficient maintenance. The surviving parts of the fort are amongst the most remarkable and beautiful examples of brick defensive structures. The caponniere features oreillons and the overall aestethics are simply impressive. The annex batteries have been, to our current knowledge, been demolished. The fort currently serves as a hibernation site for bats.

CAUTION: This site can be visited upon request but is not freely accessible. Some parts of the fort are flooded by rising ground water and the dry moat is very treacherous.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

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;