Fort Manoel Inauguration
Fort Manoel, built by the Knights of Malta between 1723 and 1755, under the patronage of Portuguese Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena is considered a marvel of 18th century military engineering. The original plans for the Fort are attributed to Louis d'Augbigne Tigné, and are said to have been modified by his friend and colleague Charles F. de Mondion, who is buried in a crypt beneath Fort Manoel. At one time, the Knights of Malta considered developing a walled city on Manoel Island, but instead they settled on a fort designed to house up to 500 soldiers. The Fort has a magnificent quadrangle, parade ground and arcade, and once housed a baroque chapel dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua.
During World War II, Manoel Island and its fort were used as a naval submarine base by the Royal Navy at which time it was referred to variously as "HMS Talbot" or "HMS Phnicia".
A battery of 3.7-inch heavy anti-aircraft guns was also deployed in and around the fort. The guns were mounted in concrete gun emplacements and deployed in a semi-circle around the fort. Due to the guns' presence, the fort suffered considerable damage by bombing to its ramparts and barracks.The Chapel of St. Anthony was virtually destroyed following a direct hit by Luftwaffe bombers in March 1942.
As of November 2006, the historic fort has undergone significant restoration and renovation works, mostly around the parade ground arcade. Malta Command was asked to make a presence on the parade ground for the first time the fort would be open to the public in an embellished state after so many years of neglect.
The event, which spanned over the weekend consisted of lectures given by prominent Maltese historians, guided tours around the fort, photographic exhibitions and of course historical re-enactments by our RMA unit. We all put in our utmost to make best use of the two rooms given to us to set up our static display, a good addition was the wartime music which was much enjoyed by the older visitors!
Throughout the day we also took over the parade ground demonstrating foot drill, rifle drill and also giving firing displays with the .38 revolver, .303 rifle, sten submachinegun and the Bren LMG. I must add that it was thrilling to hear the shots from our Bren echoing around the parade ground and Marsamxett Harbour!!
We also staged an anti-aircraft engagement which was very impressive since this time the setting was just right. In fact we placed our Bofors gun on the same rampart which was used from time to time during those dark months of 1942.