Category Archives: 1877-1883

Constructed in the 1877-1883 time span

Fort Oorderen

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
  • ?x 75mm
  • ?6x 57mm

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).

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.

Saint Michiel Gate

Description – The Saint Michiel gate (Saint Michael’s Gate) was named after the quarters of Saint Michiel located close to the former Antwerp citadel. It was part of the Grote Omwalling (city defensive wall) to the southeast. The gate was part of the front 11-12. The Scheldt river is found east and the gate of Saint Bernard is located to the west. Close to this gate remnats of an earlier fort were incorporated into the Grote Omwalling.

Construction & Armament – This monumental gate was built using bricks and earth works. The Grote Omwalling entails two defensive moats and intervals called saillants.

Current condition – All remnants of the Spoorweg gate have been demolished in 1931 (?). Later the construction of the Antwerp ring road erased most traces as the southern ringway/motorway junction was built on this site. It is not established if this gate was used during peace time.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R. ;

Saint Bernard Gate

Description – The gate of Saint Bernard was named for the Saint Bernard road that connected Antwerp with Hemiksem. It was part of the Grote Omwalling (city defensive wall) to the southeast. The gate was part of the front 11-12. To the east one finds the Saint Michiels Gate and the Spoorweg gate to the west.

Construction & Armament – This monumental gate was built using bricks and earth works. The Grote Omwalling entails two defensive moats and intervals called saillants.

Current condition – All remnants of the Saint Bernard gate have been demolished in 1931 (?). Later the construction of the Antwerp ring road erased most traces as the southern ringway/motorway junction was built on this site.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R. ;

Spoorweg Gate

Description – The Spoorweg gate was named after the nearby railway connection between Brussels and the Antwerp South trainstation. It was part of the Grote Omwalling (city defensive wall) to the southeast. The gate was part of the front 10-11. It should not be confused with the Spoorbaan gate of Berchem.

Construction & Armament – This monumental gate was built using bricks and earth works. The Grote Omwalling entails two defensive moats and intervals called saillants.

Current condition – All remnants of the Spoorweg gate have been demolished in 1931 (?). Later the construction of the Antwerp ring road erased most traces as the southern ringway/motorway junction was built on this site.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R. ;

Boom Gate

Description – The gate of Boom was part of the Grote Omwalling (city defensive wall) to the south and was a monumental gate that offered acces to Antwerp and Kiel. It was named for the main road to Boom. The gate was part of the front 11-12 built after the citadel of Antwerp was decommissioned. The Kiel gate is located more to the east while the Spoorweg gate is located west.

Construction & Armament – This monumental gate was built using bricks and earth works. The Grote Omwalling entails two defensive moats and intervals called saillants.

Current condition – All remnants of the Boom gate have been demolished in 1931 (?). Later the construction of the Antwerp ring road erased most traces as the southern highway junction was built.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R. ;

Fort Vlaams Hoofd (III)

Description – Fort Vlaams Hoofd was a brick fort built on the left bank of the river Scheldt protecting the city of Antwerp. Close to the fort the village of Saint Anne was located. A ferry service connected the city of Antwerp with the left bank hence the local population referred to it as “Fort ‘t Veer” (Tête de Flandre). A railway line between Antwerp and Ghent was built next to the southern flank of the fort. Next to guarding the Scheldt access to Antwerp it protected the Borgerweertpolder area and secured the strategic Verbrande Dijk road to the east towards Fort Stengel (until 1865). It was the third fort with this namesake as earlier fortifications had existed on this location.

Construction & Armament – The fort features a five point star shape and features earth works and brick. It was surrounded by a wet moat. Construction commenced in 1852. When it was finished it was rendered partly obsolete since new forts were heralded in 1859 in order to protect the city of Antwerp from bombardment. It featured several buildings including main infantry barracks, several artillery sheds, two powder magazines, two guard stations and a pavilion. Between the fort and the Scheldt river additional army logistics barracks were present (1840).

Armament – Fort Vlaams Hoofd

  • ?x 150mm fortress gun

Commander 1914 – ?

Current condition – The Fort Vlaams Hoofd did not take part in the siege of Antwerp in 1914 and was not damaged. The defending garrison fled east on October 9th when German troops tried to cross the river. The fort was demolished in 1930 and the moat was filled with dirt in 1932. A very small part of the fort is still visible close to the river. The Antwerp pedestrian tunnel crossing entrance is standing roughly in the middle of the former fort.

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

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 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;

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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;