Fort Rinella

Kalkara, Malta

Fort Rinella is one of a series of four coastal batteries built by the British in Malta and in Gibraltar between the years 1878 and 1886. The purpose for building these forts was for each of them to house an Armstrong 100-ton gun. The building of these forts was necessitated by Britain’s fear of losing her naval superiority in the Mediterranean to Italy, who was at the time rebuilding her navy to an unprecedented strength.

In Malta two sites, at the mouth of the Grand Harbour, were identified to mount the 100-ton guns. Two batteries of a standard pattern were built. One of the batteries was built at Sliema and the other was built at Rinella. The overall design of each battery was that of an irregular pentagon surrounded by a deep ditch, which was enfiladed by three caponiers and a counter-scarp gallery. The forts were built on two levels – underground were the magazine and two loading-chambers; at ground level were the accommodation area and machinery chambers.

The 100-ton gun presently at Fort Rinella arrived in Malta from Woolwich in 1882. After some months the gun was ferried from the Dockyard to Rinella Bay from where it was transported to Fort Rinella. The gun had to be manhandled all the way to the fort. The operation, which involved about 100 men from the 1st Brigade Scottish R.A. Division, lasted three months. Finally in January 1884 the gun was brought into position and was ready for use. The gun was mounted en barbette on a wrought-iron sliding carriage. In this position the gun fired over the top of the parapet of the emplacement without the need of exposing the gun-crew to enemy fire. Given its massive proportions the gun could not be worked manually, therefore an ingenious hydraulic system was used to traverse it and to load it. This makes Fort Rinella the first battery to have had a gun worked by mechanical means.

After the fort was completed in 1886, War Department inspectors visited the fort and found that the design needed alteration in order to render it more effective against bombardment. Consequently most of the masonry riveting within the emplacement was removed and two musketry positions on the roof were completely filled in with earth. Modifications were also carried out to the gun’s machinery so as to render it more efficient.

In 1906, after just twenty years in service, the 100-ton guns in British service were declared obsolete. As a consequence of the 100-ton gun being phased out, Fort Rinella was stripped of all its machinery and abandoned. The 100- ton guns had never fired a shot in anger.

Up till the mid-1930s Fort Rinella served as a Position Finding Station for nearby Fort Ricasoli. Thereafter the fort was handed over to the Admiralty who surrendered the property to the Government of Malta in 1965.



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Founded: 1878-1886
Category: Castles and fortifications in Malta


4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Rachel Rowden (10 months ago)
David gave a fantastic tour of the Fort and ability to tour the underground gun Chambers. A fantastic audio visual simulation explaining the complexities of loading the 100+ ton gun. Great shoot a rifle experience for my son, all in English!
신민규 (11 months ago)
The best Historical Re-enactments are in here. I thought that it is a best place to see the British presence in Malta as well as biggest cannon in europe. they demonstrate musketeer and opportunity of henry martini rifle shooting. From the fort's defenses to the loading of cannons, there is a detailed and kind explanation by the guide. I think it's more meaningful than St. John's because there's a tremendous effort here to preserve and realize history. If you visit Fort St. Elmo, make sure to stop by and find traces of British troops.
James Clayton (12 months ago)
Absolutely stunning fort with amazing history. The guided tour was amazing and the 100 Ton gun is fascinating. Highly recommended. Only open Saturdays currently
Elias “Juri” Fuhrer (13 months ago)
So, overall it was a great experience, the guide named David explained everything very detailed and it’s definitely a worth to stop by, from Valetta you can take the bus and be there in under 40minutes, however, the guy at the reception was not very friendly and made us pay the full adult price, even tho there was a sign showing discount to students :/ Nether the less, David should get an raise.
Gareth Willis (14 months ago)
We thoroughly enjoyed the fort rinella tour. Jake, David and Ayrton were fantastic knowledgeable and good humoured guides. You could see they were also enthusiastic and took interest in their work. Jake did the tour around the fort and had a good knowledge of how the impressive 100ton gun worked and was able to set the picture out of how things were during that time. Ayrton did a fantastic demonstration and condensed talk on the guns. Ranging from musket to infamous rifle. He delivered this with good humour and was very knowledgeable about the guns. Ayrton also managed the shooting of the rifles (thoroughly recommend it). More to come in the future and I am sure we will visit again. Hint I Recommend the wirt artna membership! Lots you can do in a week!
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