Fort Walem lies next to the village of the same name, in the province of Antwerp in the Flemish region in Belgium.
After Belgium gained its independance in 1830, the fear of a European conflict or invasion remained, primarily from the Netherlands or France. Because Belgium had no noteworthy natural defense, it was opted not to defend the whole country, but to opt for a ‘National Redoubt’. For strategic, political and economic reasons the city of Antwerp was choosen to become that National Redoubt.
In 1859 the Belgian government decided to defend Antwerp by building a new rampart around the city, called the ‘Big Rampart’, after a plan of the military engineer Capt. Henri Alexis Brialmont. It consisted of 15 km long earthen rampart with 19 gates around the city with an advanced ring of 8 forts, called the Brialmont Forts.
Although building the rampart and forts was a massive and very expensive undertaking, it was finished in 1864. But due to the expansion of the city and the advances in artillery these fortifications were not enough only a couple of decades later. So, at the end of the 19th century a new line of defence was made by building 6 new forts, amongst them were Fort Steendorp and Fort Walem.
Fort Walem was built between 1878 and 1883 to protect the old main road between Antwerp and Mechelen. It was built out of brick but between 1891 and 1900 strengthened with concrete and made into an armored fortress.
During the invasion of the German army in 1914, the Belgian army inside the fort resisted the German attacks for 5 days. The fort was badly damaged during the fighting.
Between 1960 and 1992 Fort Walem was used by the Belgian Civil Protection. They left hundreds of metal containers containing gas masks which can still be found in some parts of the fort. After that it was shortly used as an emergency location to house asylum seekers before being abandoned. Since 2009 it is owned by a environmental organisation and used as a bat habitat.
The fort has a trapezoidal ground plan and lacks a central reduit. It is circled by a wide moat.
At present Fort Walem is very ruinous and can therefore not freely be visited but only during guided walks on special days. A very nice fort.