Fort Rinella is a Victorian area fort on the island of Malta. Fort Rinella is sometimes referred to as Rinella Battery. The British Royal Navy built the fort; construction took place from 1878 to 1886. It guards the mouth of the Grand Harbor of Malta. The battery was constructed to hold a single RML 17.72 inch (450 mm) gun, also called the 100-ton gun. The fort was one of a pair; the second fort no longer exists.
The fort was built and the massive gun installed in response to the Italian Navy building the Battleships Duilio and Dandalo in 1873. These massive warships had 22 inches of steel armor and each was armed with 4 100-ton guns. Further, the British were seeking to secure the sea lanes through the newly opened Suez Canal to India.
The fort is small, designed to operate and protect the single large gun, its crew and magazine and the support machinery. The fort was designed to engage enemy ships at ranges up to 7,000 yards. The low profile of the fort and the deeply buried machinery rooms and magazines were intended to enable it to survive any returned fire.
Originally the inner faces of the emplacement were reinforced with masonry. Subsequently the masonry was replaced with more resilient plain earthworks. The 100-ton gun was in active service for only 20 years. The gun was retiring from service in 1906, without ever firing a shot in anger. Because a single shell cost was so expensive, the gun was only fired twice a year for practice.
After the gun was retired from service, Fort Rinella was used as an observation post for the guns from other forts. During the Second World War, the Royal Navy used the Fort to store supplies, and it received seven bomb hits. The fort was ideal because the air it blends into the fields, as the forst was by this time covered in moss and grass. The Royal Navy finally abandoned the site in 1956.
Since 1991, the Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna or the Malta Heritage Trust has been restoring the fort and has opened it to the public as a museum. Every year, on May 5, a crew of volunteers fires the gun, using black powder only to keep it active and also to attract more visitors. Throughout the year, at 2:30 PM local time, employees dressed as 19th Century British soldiers provide a tour of the fort that combines lectures, demonstrations and live re-enactments.
The Fort was also used as a location in the films; Zeppelin, Shout at the Devil, and Young Winston.