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The Siege Of Antwerp In 1914

Antwerp is a city and municipality in Belgium, on the banks of the River Scheldt. The city is linked to the North Sea by the Westerschelde estuary. Antwerp was a bustling port city in 1914 with grand architecture and wide cobblestone streets. When war between France and Germany was declared, Belgium found itself caught in the middle and Antwerp transformed into a city under siege. Tens of thousands of people fled the countryside seeking safety with the city's fortified walls.

Pen and ink map illustration of Antwerp in 1914
Antwerp 1914

As the First World War erupted in 1914, Europe witnessed a clash of empires on an unprecedented scale. Among the early battles of the war was the Siege Of Antwerp. The city was surrounded by a ring of Nineteenth Century forts, collectively known as the National Redoubt. They were meant to deter potential invaders and safeguard the Scheldt estuary, a crucial waterway for international trade.

With the German invasion of Belgium in August 1914, the strategic significance of Antwerp and its port became clear. The city served as a refuge for the Belgian Army and a potential staging ground for Allied forces in Western Europe. To secure their Northern flank the German army set out to capture the city.

The German army laid siege to the city on September 28th, 1914. The Belgian forces along with the British Royal Naval Division manned the city and surrounding forts. The Allies were initially successful in repulsing the German attacks. However, the Germans employed a new and devastating weapon, heavy siege artillery. These guns were capable of firing shells weighing over a tonne and inflicted significant damage on the National Redoubt.

By October 7th, 1914, with the forts and defenses compromised, the decision was made to evacuate Antwerp. The Belgian army withdrew westward towards Ostend whilst the British Royal Naval Division managed to escape by sea. The Germans entered the city on October 10th, 1914, marking the end of the siege.

The capture of Antwerp not only provided a strategic advantage to the Germans but also inflicted heavy casualties on both sides. The Allies lost around 30,000 soldiers most of whom were captured. The German casualty figures are unclear but it is estimated they lost around 66,000 troops.

Traditional pen and ink map illustration of the Siege of Antwerp in 1914. The map shows the Allied and German positions as well as the ring of forts protecting the city called the National Redoubt.
Siege Of Antwerp 1914


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