Category Archives: 1883-1893

Constructed between 1883 and 1893

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.

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 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 Schoten

Description – Fort Schoten is an unique hybrid Brialmont fort built between 1885 and 1893. Located close to Schoten and the Canal Dessel-Schoten, its main function were to secure access to the canal and to safeguard a beachhead north-east of Antwerp (Brechtsebaan). Some sources refer to it as Fort Elshout. It features both a wet and a dry moat, brick walls and concrete vaults . It did not see action in either world war. It is still used by the Belgian Army and since 1998 it became a protected heritage site.

Construction & Armament – Construction started in 1885 and ended in 1893 rougly at par with Fort Steendorp. It is a true hybrid fort since the supporting walls are built using brick but the vaults are made out of unarmed concrete. It features a unique central reduit which might be partly inspired by Steendorp. A wet moat encircles most of the fort but the dry moat features a front using bastions. It has only one entrance which is protected by a redan. Two half caponnieres guard the flanks of the fort, a caponniere secures the front end.

Armament –

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • 2x 210mm
  • 4x 57mm

Current condition – The fort of Schoten did not participate in any siege or conflict. Most parts have been overgrown but the fort is in good condition. It is still occupied by the Belgian Army.

WARNING: This site is off limits to visitors. Is it still considered an Belgian Army base and it guarded by regular patrols with dogs. 

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 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.

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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;