Category Archives: Scheldt-Coastal

These defensive structures were built to guard the waterway entrances of Antwerp. In most cases they feature long range artillery and defensive features that could withstand a naval bombardement or assault.

Blauwgaren Battery

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.

Armament –

  • 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.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R; Oliviers, T.; Documentatiecentrum Antwerpse Noorderpolders

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Citadel of Antwerp

Description – The citadel of Antwerp was built in the wake of religious wars in the Neterlands. It was commissioned by the Duke of Alva sent by Philip II of Spain to quell any resistance in Antwerp. It served both as a defensive structure as well as a base of operations for Spanish, Austrian, French, Dutch and Belgian forces. It became notorious for the Spanish Fury in 1576 where the city was plundered and many citizens lost their lives. The city hall of Antwerp still commemorates this war crime. In 1832 it became the theater of Dutch resistance during the Belgian war of independence  as a French army besieged this fortress under the command of Marshal Gérard. The people of Antwerp had always resented the presence of the citadel and in 1870 King Leopold II of Belgium agreed that it would be sold and leveled. A new district, Antwerp-South (‘t Zuid) was established and it served as the hallmark of the belle epoque era. It became home to the wealthy and influential elite of Antwerp until the Second World War.

Construction & Armament – The fort(ress) was built in 1567 featuring a five pointed star with bastions. It was constructed close to the Scheldt river. In 1572 the citadel was completed and a garrison moved in. In a response to the atrocities committed during the Spanish Fury notables of Antwerp ordered the wall facing the city to be demolished in 1577. But when hostilities continued it one again became a citadel and a distinctive feature of the city. The five bastions were named Toledo, Pacietto, Alva, Duc and Hernando. The citadel featured many buildings (powder magazines, a chapel,…) and was updated several times. The French refitted the citadel since Antwerp became the Arsenal Maritime in order to host an invasion force for England. The lunet of Kiel and Saint Laureis were added. During the Belgian occupation of the fort an extra battery on the terreplein was added.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The citadel of Antwerp retained its five pointed star design throughout history. Because of rapid advancements in artillery technology it was rendered obsolete. It could no longer fight off an enemy force attacking the city. People living in Antwerp did not like the presence of the citadel since it became a premier symbol of oppression by central authorities. Next to the 1576 Spanish Fury the city was again attacked by this fort this time on 27th of October 1830 by order of the Dutch general Chassé. Whatever lead to this course of action, Dutch sources claim Belgian rebels did not respect an agreed armistice, the disproportional use of force did and does not warrant these grave atrocities against the civilian population. In 1832 the French Armée du Nord rushed trough Flanders in order to force the remaining Dutch garrison to evacuate the citadel. A siege lasted from November 15th to December 23th and a French victory was the result when the citadel could no longer receive supplies by the river Scheldt. The Belgian Army occupied the site when the French left and ordered repairs. In 1870, after several petitions to the Belgian King by the counsel and citizens of Antwerp, the citadel was sold and leveled. A French monument commemorating the victory in 1832 was refused by the city so it was placed in Tournai (Doornik). Today no traces of the citadel are visible. Recent archeological research has shown there are still remains present.

Sources – Own elaboration; Lombaerde, P.

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 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.

Fort Bornem

Description – The fort of Bornem is a concrete (armored) fort with an unique design. It is part of the hoofdweerstandstelling and is located in the south-east corner of the Antwerp defensive positions. This fort guarded the bridgehead of Wintham and the river Scheldt. To the east one finds the Redoubt of Puurs and Fort Steendorp to the north. Guarding the strategic bridge (crossing) of Temse and railroad to Antwerp proved to be invaluable to the Belgian Army in 1914.

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 unique as it features a hybrid setup. Merging elements from the dyke forts and classic concrete forts it is referred to as a concrete fort with cupolas on the flanks/site. It features a wet moat and the unique design might be attributed to the fact that it’s location is quite isolated and due to its mixed role. Some might consider it to be a dyke fort on steroids.

Armament – Fort with Cupola’s on the flanks

  • 2x 150mm fortress gun
  • ?x 120mm fortress gun
  • ?x 75mm
  • ?x 57mm

Commander 1914 – Capt. Rasquin / Capt. Jallay

Current condition – The Fort of Bornem did not participate in major fighting in 1914. It stopped the advance of the German Army (4th Erzats Division) and proved crucial since it was able to keep the the strategic railroad Antwerp-Boom-Temse open. The Belgian Army was able to evacuate the fortress of Antwerp using this railway and the bridge over the river Scheldt at Temse. This allowed for a retreat to positions defending the Canal Ghent-Terneuzen. On October 10th the fort surrendered after an appeal from the Antwerp civil authorities and after rendering useless most of the fort. Today the fort houses recreational associations and clubs (fishing). Part of the fort is being restored while others are a protected habitat for bats. Considered to be in more than reasonable condition its unique design warrants a visit.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort Burcht (I)

Description – The fort of Burcht (I) was located on the left bank of the river Scheldt. It was named for the village of Burcht. This particular fort was constructed in 1576 by the Dutch Republic. Fort Vlaams Hoofd (I) was located northeast of this fort.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built using timber and earth works. It closely resembled a triangular schape.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – The Fort Burcht was dismantled in 1577.

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

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.

Fort Jean Bart

Description – The fort of Jean Bart was located northwest of Antwerp on western side of the Borgerweertpolder and the main dyke of the river Scheldt. It was named for the French national hero and corsair from Dunkirk Jean Bart (Jan Baert). The fort never came close to completion. More to the south the fort of Stengel was also under construction.

Construction & Armament – Construction of the fort commenced in 1811. The fort was planned to have a five point star shape but when the project was halted only the outer ramparts were finished. The Scheldt dyke was connected to the outer defensive rampart of this fort.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – When Dutch rule was installed the fort of Jean Bart was far from completed and in 1814 works were halted together with Fort Stengel. It was argued that these positions, when taken and occupied by enemy forces, could serve as a base of operations to lay siege to Antwerp and block the river Scheldt access. Fort Ferdinand, located on the right bank closer to Antwerp (near Oosterweel), was deemed more suitable for the task at hand.

Sources – Own elaboration; Lombaerde, P.;

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 Laar

Description – The fort of Laar (Laer) was built on the left bank of the river Scheldt. It was located next to the Borgerweertpolder and the village of Zwijndrecht. It secured the strategic Verbrandendijk road to the west.

Construction & Armament – Construction started in 1638 by Spanish forces aiming to secure the left bank.The fort features a square shape and features earth works. It was surrounded by a wet moat.

Armament – ?

  • ?x Cannon

Commander – ?

Current condition – The fort of Laer fell in disrepair during Austrian rule. On the Ferraris map of 1778 the fort is marked but seems to be in bad condition. In 1811 French forces constructed Fort Stengel a bit more to the east in order to secure the Borgerweertpolder and the Verbrandendijk road.

Sources – Own elaboration;