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

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User Reviews

I. Ilic (8 months ago)
Really nice experience with a lovely and very enthusiastic guide. Even fired an historical gun! Thanks for the very interesting afternoon.
Kevin Saggers (9 months ago)
Spent a really interesting couple of hours here, and being fortunate enough to have Ayrton as my guide. He really knows the workings of the fort and its 100-ton Armstrong gun inside out, and his knowledge and enthusiasm was clear to see. This really is one of the many gems that this lovely country has tucked away, and I recommend anyone who enjoys history - or engineering, military or otherwise - or who just likes seeing the rare or unusual, to include Fort Rinella in their itinerary.
Anca Popescu (9 months ago)
Great experience. Really informative. Our guide, David was a delight. Out of the 3 forts we visited (Rinella, St Elmo and St Angelo), Fort Rinella was the best. Dont miss it, it is totally worth it
Lie Depestele (10 months ago)
We got an interesting and funny tour by Ayrton. Cool to see how the canon operated! The tour concludes with a great view and a hint of the film studio pool.
Leo (11 months ago)
The staff are legends and the exhibits are very good, and the biggest surviving black powder gun speaks for itself. Incredible work by the volunteers who maintain the place.
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