‘Behind Closed Doors: Fort St Angelo and the Royal Navy 1906-1979’ was exhibited at Fort St Angelo in Birgu between the 23rd of March and the 8th of September 2019. The exhibition commemorated forty years since Freedom Day.
The exhibition revealed intriguing narratives that took place at this military site during its occupation by the Royal Navy. Aimed to forge an immersive experience, it gave the opportunity for visitors to ‘enroll’ with the Royal Navy by choosing one of four ranks available. The exhibition unfolded over five different areas inside Fort St Angelo where visitors could explore and discover the history and use of this military building, together with life at the fort during the Royal Navy’s occupation, particularly through re-created areas in the fort such as the dormitory, the bar, and different uniforms used during this period.
While the bigger picture of this exhibition presented the naval use of the fort and the architectural modifications which were done to it to address the necessities of the time, the core of this event focused on personal recollections. On 31March 1979, Fort St Angelo in Birgu was the last military site which saw the departure of the British military forces from the Maltese islands. For many centuries, this fort had always been administered by foreign authorities and, therefore, there was little access to it for Maltese people. With its access strictly prohibited to civilians and with clearly defined spaces where Maltese and British servicemen were allowed to enter according to their work and rank, only a few individuals had ever visited all the areas of the fort. Such experiences, together with a number of personal artefacts which were recently donated to Heritage Malta, shed light on what happened behind the closed doors of HMS St Angelo during its occupation by the Royal Navy.