Category Archives: Hybrid

This structure features both brick and concrete since they were built in an era that witnessed both offensive and defensive innovation.

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 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 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 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;