The "Belgian Gates"
by Erwin Bovyn     Mail: Erwin


If you have ever read an article on the beach defences erected on the French, Belgian and Dutch coast lines and especially on the Normandy beaches you will have encountered strange and odd names like “Rommel’s Asparagus”, “steel porcupines” and “Belgian gates”. 

Where did those “Belgian Gates” come from?
The original name of the “Belgian Gates” was “Barrière Cointet” or “Cointet Barrier”.
Locals also called it “De ijzeren muur” – “The Iron Wall” 

Cointet was a French Colonel that invented these anti-tank barriers in the late thirties.

Belgium had not forgotten the bad things that happened to the country during WW1 and so, the Belgian politicians opted for total neutrality with respect to the events of the late 30’s. 

They finally realised in 1939 (at last!!!) that war was immanent and they wanted to erect fortifications as soon as possible. One of the fastest (and cheapest) solutions was the Cointet Barrier. 

This barrier was intended to give way to tanks and so doing entrap them. This way it would be easy for the infantry to keep the crew in the tanks whilst the artillery could destroy them by gun fire. 

As mentioned before, they were not extensively used and were only successful in halting the German infantries advance for a short while.
Cointet Barriers were painted green in the factory and were very rarely painted in a camouflage Scheme. 

They consist of a steel construction in the form of an iron gate placed on 3 steel rollers allowing it to be towed by a horse or soldiers.

Cointet barriers could be joined together by steel pins and anchored by cables? The rollers could provide limited mobility when used as a road block.

A total of 75,000 barriers were constructed for the Belgian and French army’s. Barbed wire was also attached to them on numerous occasions. 

They formed part of Belgium’s inner defences in the 1940’s and were mainly used between Koningshooikt and Wavre. This line was called the K-W line, using the initials of the two places. 

Events made this line impossible to hold, the Germans passed around it and the gates were abandoned, no time was left to draw them back. This way, the Germans could collect them without much damage and re-use them as beach obstacles and even in airfield defences.

The weight of these gates caused them to sink into the beach sand, so they were very hard to remove or move. Their goal was to prevent landing craft from moving onto the beach and to rip open the hulls of any boats that came into contact with them. 

I know of 3 gates that have survived, but I guess there will be others stacked away somewhere in some depot. One is in the Brussels War Museum, (who, no doubt, will have some other examples) and another can be seen in the Atlantic Wall Museum in Raversijde (near Ostend), Belgium. 

The 3rd one was found last year at the Omaha Beach museum in St.-Laurent-sur-Mer, Normandy where it was put on a concrete floor outside the museum. It is in a rather good condition considering its age and the fact that it remained on the beach for several years subjected to the elements. 

For modellers:

The first kit of these gates in injection moulded plastic was released last year by a Belgian manufacturer, CRP Modelling. They are intended to be used with an Eduard barbed wire PE set. They intend to release them in 1/72 scale but it would be an all photo-etched kit because of its delicate structure in this scale.

If you do construct them and you do place them on a beach, please put them up the right way: gate facing the sea where the attack has to come from. Their base must point inland. 

Below are some pictures of a “Belgian Gate” taken at the museum in St.-Laurent-sur-Mer in June 2005.



Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.








  Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.