Category Archives: Fort

A fort is a prolonged occupied fortified location built to guard a strategic position and should be able to withstand a siege. It features a garrison and defensive capabilities but has no civilian occupants.

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 1 Merksem

Description – The small fort (1) of Merksem was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later fort of Merksem located more northeast. It was built on a strategic location to guard the main road to Breda (Bredabaan) but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (palisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort. This raised tensions with the city of Antwerp who feared possible bombardments. Fort 1 Merksem had a four pointed star shape with bastions. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  Fort 1 of Merksem was demolished to allow the town of Merksem to expand. It’s shape can roughly be identified if one looks at aerial photographs. No part of this fort is still visible on site. Parts have become a housing area. Note: other sources locate this fort near the later Turnhout Gate.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Cannaerts, J.

Fort 2 Deurne

Description – The fort of Deurne was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later forts located more to the east and to the south. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (pallisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort. This raised tensions with the city of Antwerp who feared possible bombardments. Fort 2 Deurne had a five pointed star shape. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  Parts of the fort (2) of Deurne still exist today. It is the only remnant of the first generation of forts and has been converted to a sports center (Arena hal Deurne).

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort 3 Berchem

Description – The fort of Berchem was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later forts located more to the east and to the south. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (palisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort. This raised tensions with the city of Antwerp who feared possible bombardments. Fort 3 Berchem had a four pointed star shape with bastions. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  Presumably the fort was completely demolished since it does not show on maps since 1859. No known remains of Fort 3 still exist today.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Remes, K.

Fort 4 Berchem

Description – The small fort 4 of Berchem was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later forts located more to the east and to the south. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (pallisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort but this raised tensions with the city of Antwerp. Fort 4 Berchem had a four pointed star shape with bastions. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  In the case of Fort 4 of Berchem it was decided to build an arsenal on the eastern part of the site in 1898. The arsenal entered use in 1907). Later the western part became the military hospital of Antwerp (construction started in 1899 and was completed by 1911). When the hospital was disbanded it served as a housing project (Groen Kwartier) and during these works parts of the former fort 4 were uncovered. Remants are no longer visible.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.

Fort 5 Berchem

Description – Fort 5 of Berchem was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later forts located more to the east and to the south. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (palisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort. This raised tensions with the city of Antwerp who feared possible bombardments. Fort 5 Berchem had a five pointed star shape with bastions; the design is the same as Fort 2 Deurne. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  Fort 5 was included in the Grote Omwalling and the main building served as a redoubt. Construction of the R1 ringroad erased most trances. Today part of the moat is still accessible in Park Brilschans, named for the former redoubt or fort.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Remes, K.; Cannaerts, J.

Fort 6 Wilrijk

Description – Fort 6 of Wilrijk (Wilryck) was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later forts located more to the east and to the south. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (palisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort. This raised tensions with the city of Antwerp who feared possible bombardments. Fort 6 Wilrijk had a four pointed star shape with bastions; the design is the same as nearby Fort 7 and Fort 4. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  Fort 6 was included in the Grote Omwalling. Construction of the R1 ringroad erased most trances.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Remes, K.; Cannaerts, J.

Fort 7 Hoboken

Description – Fort 7 of Hoboken was part of the first line of forts protecting the city of Antwerp designed by Brialmont. It is a so called Keller fort but should not be confused with the later forts located more to the east and to the south. It was built on a strategic location but was not part of a genuine defensive circle.

Construction & Armament – The fort was built in 1851 featuring earth works (palisades). Later a brick main building was added roughly the shape of a horse shoe. Initially these forts did not have a saillant towards the city. When later upgrades were added it became a genuine fort. This raised tensions with the city of Antwerp who feared possible bombardments. Fort 7 Hoboken had a four pointed star shape with bastions; the design is the same as nearby Fort 6. It featured a wet moat.

Armament –

  • ?x Cannon

Current condition – In 1858 these small forts were completed but by that time it became clear that they could not defend the city of Antwerp. Their location made it impossible to include them in future defensive positions so they were declassified or absorbed in the Grote Omwalling.  Fort 7 was included in the Grote Omwalling and served as an additional redoubt. Construction of the R1 ringroad erased most trances.

Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.; Remes, K.; Cannaerts, J.

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.