The history of the Naval Barracks of Ostend goes back to a vast military domain established during the Dutch rule (1815-1830). This domain was situated next to Ostend’s southern fortifications built by the Austrians in the late 18th century. It was then known as the “Hazegraskazerne” referring to its location in the Hazegras quarter. The domain extended from the port in the east all the way to the railroad (est. 1838) in the west.
The military domain was radically reduced in size due to the modernization of the port in the early 20th century and the residential development of the Hazegras quarter. It was at that time that the now listed Officer’s Mess was built as a new front for the smaller barracks by nationally renown architect Louis Delacenserie (Central Railway Station of Antwerp, Decanal Church of Ostend, 19th century renovation of the historic city center of Bruges, …).
From 1886 until the Second World War, the barracks were the home of the 3rd Regiment of the Line of the Belgian Army. This regiment was later known for its heroic actions during the First World War and in 1932 the barracks were renamed to “Kazerne Generaal Mahieu” after one of its former commanders who distinguished himself during the battles of Wavre and Houthulst. In 1946 the barracks were appointed to the newly created Belgian Navy. The barracks were renamed once more in 1972 to “Kazerne Bootsman Jonsen” after boatsman Charles Jonsen who died during a mine clearance operation on the river Scheldt in 1944.
In June 1956 the first stone of the Naval Mine Warfare School was laid during a ceremony in the presence of His Royal Highness Prince Albert of Belgium and the Belgian Minister of Defence Mr Spinoy. In 1958 the first course was organized and in June 1960, the school was officially inaugurated, in the presence of His Royal Highness Prince Albert and his spouse, Her Royal Highness Princess Paola, the Minister of Defence Mr Gilson and US Navy Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Burke. Admiral Burke had saluted the Belgian Navy on the commissioning of the Belgian Mine Warfare School two years earlier (see commemorative plaque in the school’s hall).
Since 1965 the school organizes mine warfare courses for both Belgian and Dutch Navies. In 1975 it formally became an integrated binational Belgian-Dutch organization and started organizing courses for NATO partners.
In 2006 the Belgian-Netherlands Naval Mine Warfare School (EGUERMIN) was accredited by the North Atlantic Council as NATO Naval Mine Warfare Centre of Excellence.Photo source: city archives Ostend and Belgian Navy Archives