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.
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.
Description – Fort Merksem is located near the community of Merksem (Antwerp). It is a trapezoid schaped brick fort which loosely resembles a six pointed star. The design of the fort is unique since it features a wet moat encircling the central reduit. It was built in order to protect the city of Antwerp from bombardement. The site was one of the strategic positions where allied could attack the city in 1841. Its main function was to prevent enemy advance by securing the Bredabaan main road and the Campine Canal. The surrounding area could be inundated.
Construction & Armament – Constructed started in 1871 and completed in 1882. Fort Merksem is unique because of the additional wet moat in the center of the fort. The central reduit had a roughly hammer shaped configuration. It features a wet moat, two half caponnieres and one caponniere. It was upgraded with concrete before the outbreak of the Great War since it was part of the veiligheidstelling (security defense line) but retained an isolated postion (1911-1912).
- ?x 120mm fortress gun
- ?x 150mm fortress gun
- ?x 210mm mortar (?)
Commander 1914 – Lieutenant Dethieux
Current condition – The fort is average condition: the central reduit was destroyed during the Great War by the fort’s garrison while retreating to the Netherlands in 1914. The commander and one soldier (Meeus) were killed when they detoneted the central reduit’s powder magazine on the 9th of October. A monument commemorating them was placed in 1919. German forces occupied the fort. When the war ended it became a storage facility for seized German artillery pieces. During the interbellum the fort was refitted with machine gun pillboxes. Parts of the main building are occupied by recreational assocations and sports clubs. Access to the caponniere is available upon request since it houses a sports club. Part of the moad was fulled up with earth and the central wet moat is no longer visible. The artillery entrance serves as the main point of access. It can be visited freely during the day. Some parts are a bit overgrown.
Sources – Own elaboration; Gils, R.