dutch garrison

The Monster Mortar,

In August of 1830 the lower provinces of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands rebelled, breaking away and forming the independent Kingdom of Belgium. On the 2nd of August, 1831 Dutch King William I ordered an invasion of Belgium to reconquer the territory.  While the Dutch had the upper hand from the beginning, the invasion failed when the French Army intervened, and the campaign only last ten days. While the Dutch were forced to withdraw, a garrison of Dutch troops remained in Antwerp. On the 15th of November, 1832 Belgian troops laid siege to Antwerp to forced the last Dutch soldiers out.

Once again, France intervened, donating a number of artillery pieces to help bombard the city. In addition, Belgian Minister of War Baron Empain ordered the construction of a massive siege mortar.  Nicknamed “The Monster Mortar”, it was designed by French Artillery officer Henry-Joseph Paixhans and produced by the foundries of Liege.  A truly massive mortar weighing 7,750 kg (17,090 lb) it fired a 24 inch explosive shell using a 14kg (31lb) gunpowder charge.  

The Monster Mortar was the third largest mortar in history. It only saw two days of combat, on December 21st and 22nd during the Siege of Antwerp.  The next day, Belgian and French forces forced the Dutch to surrender.  After the battle, the Monster Mortar was abandoned, being easier to just leave in place rather than cart away.  A year later, the mortar exploded when the Belgian Army test fired it.  After the destruction of the Monster Mortar, a second identical mortar was produced.