Category Archives: Left Bank

Structures located on the left bank of the river Scheldt. They feature defensive capabilities to withstand a siege by a field army.

Lunet Halve Maan

Lunet Halve Maan
Lunet Halve Maan

Description – Lunet Halve Maan is located on the defensive dyke that connects the fort of Zwijndrecht to the south with fort Fort Saint Mary to the north. It was built defend the dyke and guard access to the Borgerweertpolder to the west and to the village of Melsele to the east. Its name was given by the local population since its shape resembles more or less a half moon.

Construction & Armament – Construction the lunet and 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. The lunet is surrounded by a wet moat which runs up north to Fort Saint Mary.

Armament – Lunet “Halve Maan”

  • ?x 90mm

Commander 1914 – ?

Current condition – The defensive dyke did not see any action during the Great War. 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. Although the original buildings have been demolished the bridge access is still present. The shape of the lunet is still clearly visible in the landscape. Part of Halve Maan is private property and the moat is used for recreational fishing sports.

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

Defensive Dyke

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”

  • ?x 90mm

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.

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;

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 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 Kruibeke

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.

Armament –

  • ?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.

Fort Zwijndrecht

Description – Fort Zwijndrecht is located on the left bank of the river Scheldt near Zwijndrecht. It is officially referred to as Fort Colonel Brosius. It is a large 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). It is considered a unique fort since it does not feature a central reduit. Instead it commands a full fletched artillery battery. The surrounding area could be inundated, the fort of Kruibeke and the redoubt of Halve Maan (part of the defensive dyke) are located nearby.

Construction & Armament – Constructed started in 1870 and the fort was completed near 1880. It served as a base of operations for the entire left bank of the river Scheldt. Next it served as an arsenal for artillery pieces. Originally a brick fort it was upgraded with concrete by 1912. During the Great War it was not involved in any major operation.

Armament –

  • ?x 210mm fortress gun
  • ?x 120mm fortress gun
  • ?x 150mm fortress gun
  • ?x 90mm fortress gun
  • ?x 57mm fortress gun

Commander 1914 – Captain Verbiest / Lieutenant Vermeulen / Captain Olivier

Current condition – In 1914 the fort did not take part in direct hostilities although it seems a German spy named Paul-Auguste Ehrardt was apprehended and was put to death by a firing squad in the fort. He was interred in the Zwijndrecht church yard. German forces occupied the fort during the Great War and added a railway junction to the fort. From 1919 onwards the fort houses a munition production facility (Ateliers de Fabrication des Munitions). During the occupation of 1940-1944 a German factory (Whüle) takes over most of the activities. The fort is in mint condition and named after the Belgian commander Brosius during WW II. It still has all original structures and buildings within the fort. Some features are not found in any other fort. The site is still occupied and maintained by the Belgian Army and serves the role of ammunition dismantling facility. WARNING: This site cannot be visited. The Belgian Army employs regular armed patrols with dogs and access is restricted. The moat of Fort Zwijndrecht is filled with ammunition that contain warfare gasses (poison gas). This gasses are kept stable by the moat’s water level and constant temperature.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R. Van Meirvenne, R; Lataer, J.;

Fort De Perel

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.

Armament –

  • 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 damageThe fort was demolished in 1958 when the port of Antwerp expanded to the left bank of the Scheldt river.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R., Oliviers, T.