Fort 8 lies in the town of Hoboken, 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.
It also had an advanced ring of 8, almost identical, brick forts. These forts, given the unimaginative names Fort 1 up until Fort 8, were built almost 2.5 km outside the city, at 2 km from each other. They had to protect the city from enemy fire. Every fort was about 30 hectares and consisted of a central reduit, caponiers, platforms and earthen walls for artillery, all surrounded by a wide moat.
Although building the rampart and forts was a massive and very expensive undertaking, it was finished in 1864. In 1907 the rampart and forts were modernized. The rampart was demolished in 1960. The forts are now more commonly known as the Brialmont Forts. All the forts, with the exception of Fort 1, are still in existence.
During the modernisations of 1907, Fort 8 was the only one of the forts that was left untouched. It is the most westerly fort and near the Scheldt river. Fort 8, like Fort 5, was also equipped with a battery aimed at the city, called a traditor battery, in case the fort was passed by the enemy. And its earthen walls, like that of Fort 7, are higher than at the other forts. Probably the groundwater level here is higher, which caused the moat had to be dug out to a deeper level producing more earth to build the walls.
At present Fort 8 is said to be one of the best remaining Brialmont Forts, although its entry bridge has gone and some parts of its earthen walls have been excavated. The buildings inside the fort now house a number of different associations; sports, fishing and petanque, amongst others.
Fort 8 is freely accessible and there is a walking path around the moat. A nice fort although it does look a bit unorganized with all the different uses of its original buildings and some recent structures. The central reduit of the fort can only be visited on special days with a guide. I hope I’ll be able to visit soon.