Every week in this column we focus on the theme of IJmuiden based on an image and in response to current events, a special event, an event or simply one of the beautiful scenes that IJmuiden has to offer. In this episode pay attention to the castle near IJmuiden.
By Eric Baalbergen
Last Sunday, during the general monthly Sunday, I made another visit to Fort Island. It’s always the experience to visit Alcatraz of IJmuiden with its almost magical 19th century armored castle with the IJmuiden Queen Emma tour boat!
line of defense
The fort was built in the 1880s at the mouth of the North Sea Canal as part of Amsterdam’s defense line. This 135 km defensive line was built between 1880 and 1914 and consisted of forts, batteries, dams and locks in a ring around our capital. In the event of an attack on our country, the King, the government and the army can withdraw from inside the ring.
Then water flooded the ground around the line of defense. The water is too deep for soldiers on horseback and too shallow for warships, so the enemy will never be able to reach Amsterdam. A genius idea, but useless with the arrival of aircraft a few years before World War I. During the two world wars, forts became defensive, but there was no real fighting.
Castle in IJmuiden
Almost all of Amsterdam’s defense line castles are located on a circle around Amsterdam. The fort at IJmuiden is an exception to this and is located a few kilometers west of this circuit. This is due to the North Sea Channel. Even during the construction of the North Sea Canal (1865-1876), senior military personnel were concerned about the safety of Amsterdam. Enemy ships can sail directly from the sea to our capital. It was decided to build a fortress on the north bank of the mouth of the North Sea Channel. It was built in the years 1881-1888. The fort will be equipped with cast iron armor and heavy cannons. In August 1888 the fort was used.
Shooting exercise should also be performed with large guns. For example, during target practice in July 1895, the residents of IJmuiden were warned in advance and advised to open the windows. The Simson paddle steamboat tows a target back and forth in front of the IJmuiden berths. After a few blunders, it’s over. Unfortunately, the target was not hit but Samson. Fortunately, the crew was unhurt, but the locomotive is damaged. Simson immediately separates the clouds and lays the course for the port. Submitting the law to the military authorities…
With the construction of the Noorderbuitenkanaal for Noordersluis, which opened in 1930, the fort would be located on an island in the mouth of the channel. Between 1927 and 1938, the fort was uninhabited and only guarded by a fortress guard. In 1938 the fort was rebuilt again as part of the mobilization. During World War II, Fort Island formed an important support point in the Atlantic Wall and the Germans built bunkers on the island. The castle itself is used as a crew room. After liberation, the castle is deserted.
Fort Island is still a military district. In order to prevent unwanted visits to the island of Fort, the Department of Defense appoints a fortress guard. The first is Gerlof van der Zee, who lived on the island with his family until 1954. He was succeeded by Jan Zwetmann. He lived on the island with his family until 1964.
From that year onwards, the eastern part of the island will be drilled to increase the maneuverability of the ore and coal ships off the Hugovens. Many German bunkers are cleared here. During the subsequent expansion of Noorderbuitenkanaal, an 80-meter-wide strip will be taken from the northern part of the island.
The neglected castle remains. The island, actually only a small part of the original Fort Island, is still off-limits. However, many IJmuide residents, swimming from samaphors and “taking into account the tidal currents”, visit the island and the fort.
open the castle
In 1993, the Amsterdam Defense Line was awarded the status of a regional monument. In 1994 IMTIN started training activities in Fort Island. IMTIN and the municipality of Velsen have started a joint project to make the fort accessible to a wider audience. This resulted in the castle being cleaned and renovated for several years from 1996, in collaboration with less than 300 community service members. Since 1996, Amsterdam’s defense line, with the armored fortress of IJmuiden as part, has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Since 2008, PBN Sport & Adventure has been operating Forteiland, including courses and corporate events.
A few days a year we have the opportunity to explore the island and the fort with a “Friends of Fort Island” guide or on our own during public days. These occur on the first Sundays of the months around summer. See https://kustfort.nl for more information.
The island has always been a source of rumors and frightening experiences. Is there really a ghost dog or the ghost of a canal digger roaming the island? Are there invisible fortress guards whispering stories behind visitors’ backs? Have the pleasure ladies left an invisible cry for help in the string room? Is the island connected to Semaphore via an underground passage? I will definitely come back to this!
View of the armored fortress on the sea-facing side with five inlays. Photo: Eric Baalbergen