The Belgian Vauban

Fort de Hollogne - Puits de la coupole du saillant
General Brialmont is considered one of the geniuses of his time in the field of fortification and military architecture.
Le Général Henri Brialmont
Général Brialmont

General Brialmont was the architect of all the forts of the Fortified Position of Liège in 1914. From Fort Hollogne to Fort Flémalle, he was also the designer of the fortifications of Antwerp and Namur. Brialmont is nicknamed the “Belgian Vauban” in reference to the famous French military architect, Sébastien Vauban. However, unlike the man whose nickname he inherited, he was constantly forced to reimagine his designs to keep up with the rapid progress of heavy artillery.

Brialmont remained on the lookout throughout his career. Indeed, he insisted on the need to regularly expand and modernize the armament of the forts, to avoid being overtaken by the progress of artillery. The Belgian government’s inaction in this regard caused the fall of the fortified position around Liège in 1914. At the end of the 19th century, the power of a cannon could not exceed 210 mm, and the resistance capacity of the concrete had been calculated accordingly. This is why the use of Big Bertha by the Germans surprised the Belgian forces: it was capable of propelling 420mm shells. Thus, in spite of the resistance efforts welcomed by the German army itself, Brialmont’s fears were realized. However, he died in 1908 and did not witness the fall of his work.

Consulted by Japan, Romania, Bulgaria, and even the Sultan of Constatinople, he is considered one of the geniuses of his time in the field of fortification and military architecture. A great polemicist and a visionary, he was involved in politics at an early age and never stopped defending universal suffrage and compulsory military service.

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