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Construction & Armament – Construction started in 1878 but by the time it was completed it was considered outdated.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.
- 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;