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Monster gun at Fort Rinella to fire on Sunday

Video: Paul Spiteri Lucas

Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna is holding its annual open day of Fort Rinella in Kalkara this Sunday. This special event will combine guide torus of the historic fort, film shows about its history and historical re-enactment displays will include demonstrations in Victorian horseback combat skills. The day will culminate with the firing of the Armstrong 100-ton gun - the world's largest cannon precisely at 4.00pm.

Fort Rinella is a late Victorian coastal battery built for the 100-ton gun in 1878 as part of a raid re-armament programme for Malta with heavy Rifled Muzzle Loading guns. In this new defence scheme, two such guns were installed in Malta positioned on either side of the main harbours at Tigne' Point and Rinella. Another two such guns were mounted at Gibraltar which like Malta was at the time one of the British Empire's most prized coaling stations along the strategic commercial route to India.

However, the 100-ton gun was originally designed and built for the Italian navy by Sir William George Armstrong, one of Britain's principal industrial scions and inventors of the time. These guns were developed and built to arm a new breed of powerful steam iron-clad battleships that Italy was in the process of launching then. In fact, it was only as a direct result of this situation that Britain hurried to build the 100-ton gun batteries in Malta and Gibraltar.

The 100-ton gun can fire a one ton shell for a distance of up to eight miles. For this purpose it would use a quarter of a ton of gunpowder, the cost of which equalled the daily salary of 2,700 soldiers for a day! The shells from this gun could perforate 21inches of iron armour making it the most deadly and powerful in its day. Given its size, an innovative steam-driven hydraulic setup was adopted fto traverse and load the gun, giving trained soldiers the ability to load one round every six minutes.

Fort Rinella has been held in trust by FWA since 1991 throughout which period it has gone extensive restoration. Entrance will be against payment of normal fees but children and FWA members will enter for free. For more information www.wirtartna.org.

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