Rinella Battery and the hundred Ton Gun, Rinella Fort, Kalkara, Malta

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Rinella Battery & 100 Ton Gun

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This Fort Rinella Map shows the location of the 100 ton gun & the Rinella Battery. Click the name in the left column below to highlight the location on the map.

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Fort Rinella Map

Rinella Battery and the 100 Ton Gun

Also known as Fort Rinella

 

Fort Rinella introduction  Fort Rinella conducted tours  
 Firing a large Victorian Cannon demonstration   Bayonet Drill Demonstration at Fort Rinella
Signaling Demonstration at at Fort Rinella

 

Fort Rinella's Entrance Protection

Bent Road Design   Drawbridge   Sentry   Guards and Gate gun loopholes 
 Ditch, Counter-scarp gallery & Caponiers

 

Barracks  Central wide Passageway   Cookhouse   Guardroom 

 

 

 

The entrance to Fort Rinella, Malta

The entrance to Fort Rinella, Malta

 

 

Fort Rinella & the 100 Ton Gun Introduction

 

As fortifications on Malta go, Fort Rinella is a baby, being built between 1878 and 1886 by the British during the reign of Queen Victoria. Besides the name Fort Rinella it is also called the Rinella battery, because it was built around and to protect a monstrous 100 ton gun, the largest gun made at that time.

 

The fort was home to 30 gunners.

 

British manufactured by William George Armstrong of Newcastle upon Tyne. Besides manufacturing the worlds finest armaments Armstrong also built the famous Newcastle Swing Bridge.

Although there are informative signs around the fort giving information about the area you are in, I highly recommend that you join one of the 45 minute conducted tours of the fort. 

 

The gun actually weighed 156 tons, and had a rifled barrel just over 17 inches (45 cm) internal diameter. Because it was rifled the gun fired a shell, not a cannon ball weighing 1 ton. The range of the gun was 8 miles and the shell could penetrate 21 inches of armour.

 

Fort Rinella Conducted Tours

These tours are conducted by a group of volunteers from Malta Heritage Trust dressed in period soldiers uniforms . Not only do they give very informative talks about the workings and life of the fort but they perform various drills and demonstrations, some of which I have tried to capture in the photographs and descriptions below. Well worth the extra charge.

 

Firing a large Victorian Cannon demonstration

After paying for entrance around Lm3 for adults and paying an extra LM2 for the tour you are take to a field near the entrance to the site to see a large cannon being fired

 

Click on any thumbnail photograph for an enlargement

 

Preparing Victorian Cannon     Loading Victorian Cannon
Preparing the canon for firing

 

Your tour guide dressed in period army uniform explains what the gun crew are doing to prepare and fire the cannon.

 

The gun crew check the cannon to make sure that the cannon has not already been loaded. This is done by running the pole held by the gunner on the right, down the barrel. The screw end can be used for removing wadding or the black powder charge. Left photograph above

  • The black powder charge contained in a fine cloth material is loaded into the cannon and pushed down with the rammer pole which can be seen in the right photograph above. The cannon ball is then inserted and rammed home. A stiff pencil like fuse is pushed into the hole at the top rear end of the cannon, this stiff wick pierces the muslin bag containing the powder.
  • A slow slow burning match on the end of a stick is used to light the fuse. In the photo on the right a tourist has just lit the fuse and is retreating as the cannon fires
  • A wet mop is then pushed down the barrel to ensure that there are no burning embers that could ignite the following charge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fort Rinella's Entrance & Ditch Protection

 

The entrance to the fort is protected by several methods:

 

 

 

Bent Road Design & Parapet with Musket Loopholes

 

The design of the road and it's bend to the entrance is such that the Fort entrance gate is hidden from view by the recessing of the road & the grass ban, thus protecting the entrance gate at the fort rear from long distance canon fire.

 

Because the road sweeps round the rear of the fort it can be raked by canon fire from the ramparts, and also by musket fire from the loopholes through the rampart parapet..

 

The Drawbridge

Sentry

The entrance was guarded by a sentry and a drawbridge. The original draw bridge was not raised but pulled inside of the fort, through the gate on rollers.

 

Entrance Gate, Guards and Gate gun loopholes

The thick wood of the gate was reinforced with iron plate making it bullet proof. The gate also had closable loopholes through which the guards could fire at attackers

 

 

 

Guardroom & Barracks and there Loopholes

 

Guardroom

 

The barracks are located just inside the gate on the left, and this room had a windows with a metal shutter that had 2 musket loopholesso that fire could be directed

  • Into the far side of ditch especially at anybody trying to decend into the ditch
  • The bottom end of the approach road

 

Barracks

 

Opposite the guardroom are the barracks with a row of windows similar to the one in the guardroom with similar fire power. The 2 windows nearest the gate are located at a slightly higher level than the rest.

 

Barrack Room Windows & Loopholes

Barrack Room Window Barrack Room Windows

Metal Plate with Loopholes

Barrack Room Loopholes

Guardroom Window

 

Cookhouse

 

Further down the entrance passage on the left is the cookhouse.

 

Central Sunken Passageway

 

At theother end of the , entrance passage way at right angles is a wide passageway reccessed into the ground but without a roof. This is where the Bayonet Drill Demonstration took place.

 

Off this passage way are:

  • The entrances to the underground magazines,steam engine, hydrolich eqipment etc.
  • Ramp up to the 100 Ton Gun
  • Steps up to the rampart musket positions
  • Entrance to the tunnel to the Counter-scarp gallery

 

 

Ditch, Counter-scarp gallery & Caponiers


Counter-scarp gallery

 

The dry ditch completely surrounds the fort and was defended by:

 

  • One Counter-scarp gallery shown in the photograph above protects the entrance ditch. This gallery let defenders fire directly along the ditch, through the 4 musket loopholes seen in the central lower portion of the photograph..  The Counter-scarp is the outside wall of the ditch, the defenders reach the gallery from the fort by a tunnel under the ditch

  • Three Caponiers which are similar to the Counter-scarp gallery but are built out into the ditch from the fort. The Caponiers are located to protect the ditch at the front, seaward side, and the sides of the fort.

 

 

Bayonet Drill Demonstration at Fort Rinella

A demonstration of bayonet drill was provided showing different methods of holding the weapon for both low and high attacks.

 

 

The Hundred Ton Gun

100 Ton Gun

Gun Fireing

Gun Fireing

 

One of the rare occassions when the gun is fired

Shell weight 1 Ton

Underground casement with 2 shells on display and the rail tracks for shell & fireing charge trasportation from Magazine to lift under the loading turret

Shell Magazine

Shell Magazine

The shell are stored within a trench inside the magazine.

100 Ton Gun Loading Diagram

Gun Loading
showing Gun, Wash out apparatus, Loading Chamber / Turret, loading truck, lift & rammer

 

The massive size of the 100 ton gun at Rinella Fort can be gauged by the over 6 foot tall man stood next to it

.

Beneath the gun and on both sides were the magazines for the shells and a separate one for the gunpowder firing charge.

 

Each set of magazines had rail tracks for shell transportation, lifts, muzzle loading turrets and rammer. The two sets were used alternatively to increase the firing rate to 1, one ton shell ever 6 minutes. In the diagram abve the loading turret is called the loading chamber

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The Gun, lifts and rammer were operated by hydraulic power provided by a steam engine. A manual backup system was provided for the hydraulic power.

 

The 100 ton gun was fired twice a year for practice, and never fired in anger.

 

The gun was almost obsolete by the battery completion in 1886, and officially declared obsolete in 1906

 

This was due to rapid development in armaments:

 

  • Cordite was invented in the early 1800's, a superior propellant for guns
    • Cordite burnt at a slower speed than black powder (gunpowder).
    • Cordite required longer barrels on the guns, and that required breach loading
    • By 1886 breach loading guns started to appear on the weapons market.
    • By 1890 muzzle loading guns ceased to be made
  • This does not reduce the amazing and impressive site of the 100 ton gun

 

 

Signaling Demonstration at at Fort Rinella

Heliograph
Larger visual object method Semaphore flags

 

The signaling methods were all visual and used, mirrors i.e heliographs to reflect the sun, semaphore flags and a larger visual object method.