Antwerp replicates famous pontoon bridge for war centenary weekend
The City of Antwerp is commemorating an important episode in the First World War with a historical recreation and a Pontoon Bridge Weekend of celebrations
Looking back and ahead
The pontoon bridge built by Belgian army engineers across the Scheldt in the early days of the First World War was (literally) a lifeline. Stretching from Antwerp’s Steenplein on the right bank of the Scheldt to the Boeienweide on the left, the construction allowed the city to be supplied from the west as the Kaiser’s army laid siege from the east.
It was a crucial mission since Antwerp had become the country’s provisional capital, the fortified redoubt of Belgium’s government and royal family. Within months, in early October 1914, the Germans smashed through, and the bridge became an evacuation route, allowing the army and tens of thousands of civilians to escape.
Then it was no more; the Belgians detonated the bridge so it couldn’t serve the occupier.
Now, in the context of the First World War centenary, Antwerp commemorates the episode with a historical recreation and a weekend of celebration, not only for the past but the future as well. The Peace Bridge, an ambitious, contemporary re-imagining of the original pontoon span, has been constructed by Belgian and Dutch army specialists in collaboration with the Antwerp Port Authority.
The afternoon inauguration ceremony this Friday entails a Peace Parade, after which the bridge will be open to the public throughout the weekend. Cultural activities are ongoing on both banks, including multimedia installations, concerts, re-enactments, demonstrations and a pop-up bookstore organised by MAS Shop. Nor are the young ones neglected. Children will have access to a playground in the Field of Buoys and a family-friendly entertainment programme in the Frederik van Eedenplein.
3-5 October at Steenplein, Antwerp
Photo: Antwerp’s original river-spanning bridge, first used for supply, then to flee
First World War
lives lost in West Flanders
annual visitors to the Westhoek
First Battle of Ypres