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.
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
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.
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.
?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.
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.
?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.
Description – Fort VIII is located near the community of Hoboken and close to the river Scheldt. It was built to protect the city of Antwerp from bombardement guarding the Saint Bernard main road and rail connection. It also served as a fort closing the southern part of the river Scheldt defenses.
Construction & Armament – Fort VIII is the only fort left without concrete upgrade. It is therefore a prime example of an unaltered Brialmont fort. It differs from its counterparts only in details. The fort features a wet moat (partly filled up and occupied by a sports terrain), a caponnière, two halve caponnière galleries and a central reduit. Adjacent to the fort several redoubts and the sourthern Scheldt battery were constructed. It does not feature an officers’ building. Because of the terrain the wet moat is less wide and the ramparts are a bit more steep.
Current condition – The Belgian Army abandoned the site in 1975.The fort is good condition when referring to the reduit and the main building. This is largely due to efforts by a local guided tour association. The artillery entrance has been converted to a pub and the left caponniere is used as festivities hall. The reduit is in very good condition since some of the trees and vegetation has been removed. It is a fort were one can find original wooden servitude housing (a former officers’ quarter).
Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Caremans, V; Oliviers, T.; De Wit, G.
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.
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.
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.
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 damage. The fort was demolished in 1958 when the port of Antwerp expanded to the left bank of the Scheldt river.
Description – Fort Saint Filip is located close to the Scheldt river at the port of Antwerp. It was named for after an earlier fort built by Spanish forces and subsequent Austrian military commands. It was built to secure the access to the river together with fort Saint Mary and fort De Perel and is considered to be a coastal fort or battery.
Construction – This fort was designed for coastal defense and has the same basic design of fort De Perel. It features a dry moat, a central reduit with three armoured coupolas which were powered by steam kettles. Because of unstable soil the fort is built using long wooden piles/beams. A gunpowder magazine is located at the landside entrance.
4x 240mm coastal heavy artillery
2x 280mm coastal heavy artillery
Current condition – Fort Saint Philip was damaged in 1914 by its retreating garisson rendering the coupolas useless. During the 1960’s it was used to burn off waste oil of the nearby refineries. Hence it is in pretty bad condition, but remains are still visible. CAUTION: visiting the site is prohibited and considered to be very dangerous due to (chemical) waste on site and in the lower parts of the fort itself.