A Bridge of Boats Across the River


Belgian military engineers constructed two pontoon bridges across the broad river Scheldt. Previously the nearest bridge had been downstream at Tamise (Temse), some 20 kms distant. Cross river traffic in Antwerp was serviced by a number of ferry boats. Needless to say, the few boats were woefully inadequate to handle the enormous number of refugees. Two pontoon bridges were constructed : one not far from the cathedral and City Hall in the center of town and the second bridge several kms downstream near Burcht, closer to the military ring road that connected the ring of inner forts encircling the city.





Those who could boarded boats, barges and anything that could float and headed downstream into neutral Dutch territory.


Refugees throng the quays, attempting to cross the river away from the advancing German army.
Most fled to neutral Holland and returned after several weeks.


German troops arrive after the bridge is blown.


The retreating Belgians blew up the bridge of boats behind them too soon, stranding some of their own and some British units on the wrong side of the river. Not only was the pontoon bridge prematurely destroyed, it was also lightly damaged. Persuing German units, after fighting a short artillery duel with British and Belgian troops across the river, managed to repair the pontoon bridge in about 30 minutes time. Later it was given a more thorough treatment and entirely repaired and reconstructed.