During the latter part of the 19th century, in the reign of Queen Victoria, a number of forts were built at strategic points of Malta to reinforce the island's defences. The fortifications built at great expense by the Knights in previous centuries, were no longer effective against bombardments from the sea. Strong fortresses, equipped with heavy guns, became essential to meet the challenge of powerful warships.
Fort Rinella, one of the larger strongholds of this kind, was built between 1876 and 1884. It is in the shape of a large pentagon, and is situated on the north east shoreline, near the entrance to the Grand Harbour. It was intended to guard the harbour approaches from various sides. In 1876, four heavy guns were commissioned for Rinella, but only two arrived, of which one was installed here, and the other in Fort Tigne on the opposite side of the Harbour.
This big gun can still be seen in its place at Rinella. It is 10 metres long, weighs 100 tons and has a calibre of 45cm (17.72 inches). It stands in an open barbette emplacement surrounded by a ditch. Near the emplacement there is an underground system of ammunition stores. One can also see the loading rams, which served for the operation of the gun. The shell fired by this gun weighed 900 kgs. It had a range of 6km at a velocity of 470m per second. The big gun is one of two still in existence - the other one is in Gibraltar.
Fort Rinella was equipped with several other guns of smaller calibre. Moreover, a series of loopholes were provided on the top of a parapet for rifles and for other small-arms fire. The fort has a large courtyard with the accommodation quarters for the garrison. The main gate is in the rear facade of the building.
Rinella Fort, one of the forts built during the reign of Queen Victoria is now being cared for by a trust "Wirt Artna: Moviment tal-Harsien ta' I-Ambjent storiku," and is open to the public.
Text courtesy of the National Tourism Organisation - Malta.