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vrijdag 4 juli 2014

Bruges and the Navy


When I was reading a book on the military history of Bruges, I stumbled upon a fun fact. And since I served on board of naval ships, I found it interesting to figure out how close the city is connected to the start of the Belgian Navy !
In 1918, with the chaotic ending of the First World War, the Germans left some warships behind in their retreat. Twelve torpedo boats, some towing boats and fifteen fast motorboats for use against submarines. 
And there you have it, Belgium got –unwillingly- a fleet.
First, the fleet was transferred to Antwerp, but with a lack of the needed infrastructure there the fleet moved to the coast in 1920.
With owning ships, men needed to be trained to work on board. Captain Weverbergh, a Frenchman of Belgian origin, managed to get the French cruiser d’Entrecasteaux in loan. The ship came to … Bruges! A dock was used for the ship. It was the same dock used by the Germans in 1914-18 as a hiding place for their U-boats.
The training ship "d'Entrecasteaux"
The cruiser was build in 1894, a capacity of 8000 ton and heavy armoured hull. The crew held 22 officers and 480 NCO’s and sailors. The ship arrived in Bruges on May 27th 1923.
In that year a new unit was formed, the KTZ (Korps Torpedoboten en Zeelieden – Corps Torpedoboats and Sailors), which trained sailors, maintained the fleet and was the “police on the waters”.
Unfortunately, due to the lousy pay and the lacking of a decent status people soon quit the first chance they had. 
So, on March 31st 1927 (only a few years later) this was the end of the first Navy of Belgium.  The ship d’Entrecasteaux was towed to France, it served as training-ship for a while in Poland but in 1939 it was destroyed in a fire.
It was until 1949 the Navy again was formed in Ostend. And on September 10th 1952 the base in Sint-Kruis (Bruges) was opened as a training-base.
So, in history the very first Navy-unit was situated in Bruges. Not many people know this, but now you do !