The “Veiligheidsstelling” or safety defensive line features updated brick forts and concrete redoubts. In case the main defensive position was breached this line should be able to slow down enemy advance.
Description – The battery of Blauwgaren was a coastal defensive structure located near Lillo (port of Antwerp) built in 1911. Its namesake dates back to earlier forts and redoubts during the Dutch war of independence against Spanish forces. This concrete coastal battery was constructed to prevent an enemy naval force sailing up the river Scheldt.
Construction & Armament – This coastal battery comprised several earth works, four gun platforms and a concrete main building. The southern flank remained open but the surrounding area could be inundated when necessary.
4x 120mm Coastal Gun (M1913)
Current condition – In 1914 Blauwgaren Battery didn’t participate in any operation but the Belgian Army command of Antwerp ordered the garrison to destroy the guns and the main building on the 8th of October. German forces occupied the site and built five bunkers during the Great War to close the Scheldt access. Remains of the battery and the German bunkers were displaced during the 1953 flood. In order to close breached dykes sand and dirt was retrieved from the earth works. Remains of the battery were burried and levelled when the port of Antwerp expanded in following years. The presence of munition could not be confirmed nor denied.
Description – The defensive dyke connects the fort of Zwijndrecht to the south with fort Fort Saint Mary to the north. It was built to allow the left bank of the river Scheldt to be secured by an inundated area. It is considered to be part of the military road connecting the forts and redoubts of the veiligheidstelling. It features two strong points: the lunet of Halve Maan and the redan of “Put van Fien” and measures approximately 2600m in total length.
Construction & Armament – Construction of the dyke commenced in 1871 together with the military road encircling Antwerp. East of the dyke the area could be flooded when a siege would take place. West the Borgerweertpolder area allowed a defending army to take refuge. It did not see any action in 1914 since the Siege of Antwerp was centered on the right bank of the Scheldt river.
Armament – Based on “Halve Maan” and “Put van Fien”
Commander 1914 – ?
Current condition – The defensive dyke did not see any action during the Great War. Since no forts north of Fort Haasdonk were built it was argued that the defense of the left bank would be centered on the defensive dyke and nearby forts. When it lost its military role it was kept as a safety barrier in case of floods. In 1953 a flood damaged part of the dyke. In order to close breached dykes near Kallo much of the earth works of Halve Maan were removed. Today it still marks the administrative border between the provinces of Antwerp and Eastern-Flanders.
Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Van Meirvenne, R.
Description – Fort De Perel was located near the river Scheldt at Kallo, now located in the port of Antwerp. It was named after an earlier fort built by Spanish forces and subsequent Austrian military commands at rougly the same location. It was built to secure the access to the river together with fort Saint Mary and fort Saint Philip. It was considered to be a coastal fort or battery.
Construction – This fort was designed for coastal defense and has the same basic design as fort Saint Pilip. It features a dry moat, a central reduit with three armoured coupolas which were powered by steam kettles. Because of unstable soil the fort was built using long wooden piles/beams. A gunpowder magazine was located at the landside entrance and deviates lightly from the Saint Philip design.
3 Coupolas (never installed)
4x 240mm coastal heavy artillery (never installed)
2x 280mm coastal heavy artillery (never installed)
Current condition – Fort De Perel was probably left undamaged in 1914. In 1944’s it was used as a storage facility by the German army for sea mines. When they were forced to retreat they detonated the remaining mines causing damage. The fort was demolished in 1958 when the port of Antwerp expanded to the left bank of the Scheldt river.
Description – Fort I was located in Wijnegem close to Antwerp. It was built to secure the access to the city guarding the main road to Turnhout and the Campine Canal.
Construction & Armament – This fort was a premier example of a Brialmont brick fort. It features a moat with water and a central reduit.
Commander 1914 – Capt. Raulier
Current condition – During the initial phase of the Great War and the siege of Antwerp in 1914 a part of the garrison left the fort. The fort commander and 70 other men remained so Fort II Wommelgem had to intervene. 100 additional soldier were dispatched. It was demolished in 1959 by the Pauwels construction firm.
Description – Fort II is located in Wommelgem. It was part of the veiligheidstelling and sometimes erronously identified as Fort Borsbeek.
Construction & Armament – This fort was constructed between 1859 and 1864 as Brialmont brick fort. It features a moat with water and a central reduit. It was based on an altered design of Fort III since it featured an armoured coupola at the central reduit (never built).
Commander 1914 – Capt. Baudelet
Current condition – In 1914 the fort had to send reinforcements to Fort I Wijnegem since part of the garrison had deserted. To the south it commanded the Redoubts I and II. When these were abandoned the guns were disabled and the fort was evacuated on October 9th. Part of the garrison reached the Netherlands. Fort II has largely been preserved but some parts have been demolished. The Belgian Army left the site in 1975. Later the community of Wommelgem was able to buy the terrains and the fort. The reduit is in good condition and can be visited since it houses several recreational clubs. A sports field was constructed filling part of the moat.
Description – Fort III is located near Borsbeek and close to the airport of Antwerp (Deurne).
Construction & Armament – Despite its name it was the first Brialmont fort to be built. Hence it has several features that are not found at other forts. It features a moat with water, a central reduit but the caponnières located at the flanks are unique. It was reenforced with concrete.
Current condition – The fort is in bad condition since the Belgian Army abandoned the site in 1975 but some parts can be visited freely. The central reduit is badly damaged and the moat has been filled. Luckily the unique flanking caponnières are still present. Some construction works by the German forces during WO II are present. Since the fort is located close to the commercial airport of Antwerp, an expansion would require parts of the fort to be demolished.
Description – Fort IV is located near Mortsel and next to an important railroad that connects Antwerp with Brussels, Mechelen and the Campine region.
Construction & Armament – Fort Mortsel is considered to be a typical brick work Brialmont defensive structure. It is also known as fort Cpt. Wagner, and fort Oude God (Vieux Dieu). The fort features a wet moat, a central reduit, artillery entrance. It is the only fort that is equipped with rear defensive brickwork structures. Just before the great war it was reenforced with (unarmed) concrete.
Current condition – The fort itself is in good condition due the fact that the Belgian Army (ABL) continued to occupy the fort after the Second World War until 1980; it was nominated as a site of heritage and some parts have been restored. You can visit the fort free of charge during office hours but the central reduit is not always accessible.
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.
?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.
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).
?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.
Description – The fort of Oorderen is a concrete fort built on a dyke near the village of Oorderen. It was part of the veiligheidstelling and is located in the northern sector of the Antwerp defensive positions. Also referred to as the redoubt of Oorderen it is considered to be a coastal defense site of Antwerp. Nearby areas could be flooded if under threat by an advancing army. Just before the outbreak of the Great War nearby defensive lines were being constructed. Because of its isolated position it was not very popular amongst Belgian soldiers.
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 Berendrecht and the designs 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 inundated areas. Some redoubts of the veiligheidstelling were located more to the east.
Armament – Dyke Fort
?x 150mm fortress gun
?x 120mm fortress gun
Commander 1914 – ?
Current condition – The Fort of Oorderen 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. During the expansion of the port of Antwerp during the 1960’s the fort was demolished and its remains are covered by earth. No traces of the fort are visible today but some remnants can be found to the east (Gate of Kraag/Kraagsepoort).