Category Archives: 1906

Constructed in the wake of the Belgian Law of 1906

Fort Koningshooikt

Description – The fort of Koningshooikt is a concrete (armored) fort of the first order with merged caponnieres. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the western sector of the Antwerp defensive positions.

Construction & Armament – The fort was made out of unarmed concrete and construction commenced in 1909. Completion followed in 1912. Its design is similar to Fort Oelegem and is considered to be the strongest type of fort available to the fortress of Antwerp. It features a two merged caponnieres, two side cupolas and back/rear caponniere to defend the intervals between forts and redoubts. It features a wet moat. To the northeast one finds the redoubt of Tallaart (Tallaert) and the redoubt of Bosbeek to the southwest.

Armament – Fort First Order

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • 2x 120mm fortress gun
  • 4x 75mm
  • 16x 57mm

Commander 1914 – Major Sapin

Current condition – The Fort of Koninghooikt was one of the major scenes of battle during the siege of Antwerp in 1914. The shelling of the fort started on 30st of August. One month later German and Austrian forces employed 305mm and 420mm siege guns that forced the garrisson to evacuate the fort on October 2nd. One day later German units occupied the fort. Battles ensued since the Belgian Army retreated to the Nete defense lines. After the Great War the fort was refitted. It became widely known since it was the most northern strong point of the so called “KW defensive line” (Koningshooikt-Waver-linie). The fort did not see any action during WW II and German forces used it as a storage facility. After the war it became private property. It housed a pub (dancing club) and today it is home to an airsoft and paintball venture (Fort Knox). The fort sustained considerable damage that can be seen to this day. The site can be visited and on the whole it is in average condition. It is an official heritage site.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort ‘s Gravenwezel

Description – The fort of ‘s Gravenwezel is a concrete (armored) fort of the second order with detached caponnieres. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the upper north of the Antwerp defensive positions. This fort guarded the main road to Turnhout together with the redoubt of Schilde.

Construction & Armament – The fort was made out of unarmed concrete and construction commenced in 1902. In 1907 it was considered to be completed. Its design is similar to Fort Sint-Katelijne-Waver and Fort Stabroek and features a full range of of artillery cupolas. It features a detached reverse caponniere, two side caponnieres and back/rear caponniere to defend the intervals between forts and redoubts. It features a wet moat.

Armament – Fort Second Order

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • 2x 120mm fortress gun
  • 4x 75mm
  • 2(?)x 57mm

Commander 1914 – ?

Current condition – The Fort of ‘s Gravenwezel did not see action during the Great War. Some damage to the fort was inflicted by the retreating garrison. Later it became part of a German defensive position from 1917 onwards (Hollandstellung Nord) and a garrison continued to occupy the fort until the armistice of 1918. In 1939 an anti tank ditch was built connecting the fort with the Redoubt Schilde to the south and Redoubt Audaan to the north. The fort became private property after the Second World War. Today it is a trailer residence site. Some parts of the fort are still visible but a general visit to the fort is not possible. The fort is considered to be in bad condition as much of the original layout was altered.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Brasschaat

Description – The fort of Brasschaat is a concrete (armored) fort of the second order with attached reverse caponnieres. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the eastern corner of the Antwerp defensive positions. The fort has the same design as Fort Kessel. To the east one finds the Fort of Kapelles and the redoubt of Dryhoek to the southwest.

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 Kessel and differences are only found in details. Being a fort of the Hoofdweerstandstelling it features a smaller number of artillery cupolas than first order designs. It has an attached reverse caponnieres and a back/rear caponniere to defend the intervals between forts. It is surrounded by a wet moat, later an anti-tank ditch was constructed. To the northeast one finds the Brasschaat Polygon military site and base.

Armament – Fort Second Order

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • 6x 120mm fortress gun
  • 8x 75mm
  • 18x 57mm

Commander 1914 – ?

Current condition – The Fort of Brasschaat did not see any action during the siege of 1914. The garrisson evacuated the fort and retreated to The Netherlands. In 1917 it became part of the German Hollandstellung (nord). It was refitted during the interbellum and a anti-tank ditch was constructed, some locks are located nearby. After the Second World War the fort was decomissioned although it remaind a military site. The Belgian Army conducted explosives practice on the fort; the left wing of the fort has been partly destroyed. The fort is in average condition but is off limits to visitors.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Kessel

Description – The fort of Kessel is a concrete (armored) fort of the second order with attached reverse caponnieres. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the eastern corner of the Antwerp defensive positions.  To the north one finds the Fort of Broechem (across the Kleine Nete river) and the Fort of Lier to the south (across the Grote Nete river).

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 Brasschaat. Being a fort of the Hoofdweerstandstelling it features a smaller number of artillery cupolas than first order designs. It has an attached reverse caponnieres and a back/rear caponniere to defend the intervals between forts. It is surrounded by a wet moat and is part of the Hoofdweerstandstelling. It guards an isolated position in between two rivers.

Armament – Fort Second Order

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • 6x 120mm fortress gun
  • 8x 75mm
  • 18x 57mm

Commander 1914 – Captain Piraux

Current condition – The Fort of Kessel sustained considerable damage during the Great War together with Fort Lier, Fort Broechem and Fort Koningshooikt. It was shelled by heavy siege artillery in 1914. The right wing of the main building has partially collapsed and breaches are found throughout the fort. Fort Kessel is involved in operations starting September 29th. On the 4th of October the fort was rendered disabled by continued shelling by both 305mm and 420mm siege artillery.  During the interbellum it was refitted. Because of its isolated position it was not included in the pillbox defense line which runs from Fort Broechem to the left bank of the Kleine Nete river at Lier. The fort has sustained major damage but can be visited. A dedicated heritage assocation has restored part of the fort and offeres guided tours upon request. The fort is in good condition and the sites of artillery impacts are very impressive. These elemets warrant a visit.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Broechem

Description – The fort of Broechem is a concrete (armored) fort of the second order with merged caponnieres. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the eastern corner of the Antwerp defensive positions.  To the north one finds the redoubt of Massenhoven and the fort of Kessel to the south.

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 Ertbrand and Fort Liezele. Being a fort of the Hoofdweerstandstelling it features a smaller number of artillery cupolas than first order designs. It has two merged caponnieres and a back/rear caponniere to defend the intervals between forts and redoubts. It is surrounded by a wet moat and is part of the Hoofdweerstandstelling.

Armament – Fort Second Order

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • 6x 120mm fortress gun
  • 8x 75mm
  • 18x 57mm

Commander 1914 – Captain Van der Eycken

Current condition – The Fort of Broechem sustained considerable damage during the Great War. It was shelled by heavy siege artillery in 1914; the traditoire battery was hit as was the main building. On the 7th of October the defenders left the fort and regrouped near Zwijndrecht. During the interbellum it was refitted and pillboxes between the fort, Fort Kessel and the redoubt of Massenhoven were built. They are still present in the landscape. The fort can no longer be accessed using the main entrance, part of the moat has been filled with dirt. After WW II British forces occupied the base. Fort Broechem is still an army base and the Province of Antwerp owns the nearby terrain.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Ertbrand

Description – The fort of Ertbrand is a concrete (armored) fort of the second order with merged caponnieres. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the northern corner of the Antwerp defensive positions. This fort guarded the frontier with The Netherlands and secured a strategic road to Bergen-Op-Zoom. To the east one finds the fort of Kapellen and the redoubt of Smoutakker 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 Liezele. Being a fort of the Hoofdweerstandstelling it features a smaller number of artillery cupolas than first order designs. It has two merged caponnieres and a back/rear caponniere to defend the intervals between forts and redoubts. It is surrounded by a wet moat.

Armament – Fort Second Order

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • 6x 120mm fortress gun
  • 8x 75mm
  • 18x 57mm

Commander 1914 – ?

Current condition – The Fort of Ertbrand did not participate in combat during the siege of Antwerp in 1914. It did suffer from damage done by the garrisson when the fort was evacuated. In 1917 it became part of the German Hollandstellung (north). During the interbellum the fort was refitted and the wet moat became part of the anti-tank canal (1939). During the Second World War it briefly became the theater of skirmishes between Canadian and German forces when the latter retreated to Rosendaal (1944). The fort is in reasonable condition. Since it is private property it cannot be visited. It features original writings on the wall of the hallways by German and Belgian soldiers who occupied the fort. To the east one can still find almost intact trenches and earth work defenses in a nearby forest (Mastenbos).

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 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 Landmolen

Description – The redoubt of Landmolen 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. 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. To the north Fort Haasdonk is located while Redoubt Lauwershoek guards the southern flank.

Construction & Armament – This concrete redoubt was constructed between 1909 and 1912. Its design is based on the standard configuration featuring several artillery pieces. The redoubt featured a wet moat and during war time the garrison entailed units from Fort Haasdonk located to the north. One cupola was built in front of the redoubt: it had one 75mm gun planned. 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 south one finds Fort Steendorp.

Armament – Hoofdweerstandstelling Redoubt

  • 4x 120mm fortress gun (only 1 piece installed in 1914)
  • 5x 75mm fortress gun

Commander 1914 – Lieutenant Pierard

Current condition – The redoubt of Landmolen did not participate in fighting during the siege of Antwerp in 1914. When the fortress of Antwerp had to be evacuated by the Belgian Field Army the garrison tried flee to the Netherlands (Hulst) were they were disarmed and put in custody. Others tried to keep up retreating to the defense line of the canal Ghent-Terneuzen. The redoubt was disabled by the garrison when evacuated. It was occupied by German forces shortly thereafter and refitted because an allied breakthrough at the western front seemed imminent (October 1918). The redoubt is located in a small forest which makes it almost invisible to identify from a distance during spring and summer. Some parts were converted to living quarters and most of the redoubt housed a mushroom growing facility. The redoubt is in relatively good condition and most features are still intact and the 75mm gun placement is still there. The wet moat has been filled with earth. Near the redoubt One can still find prints of sand bags (filled with oplaster/concrete) probably dating back to either 1914 or 1918. Local farmers remove these prints and collect them near the roads since they damage farming machines. Several bunkers were built in the vicinity but were tipped over by local farmers. There is some evidence that a (small) railway existed near the redoubt. The site is private property and is considered off limits to visitors.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R. local residents; 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;