1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Billeting

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BILLETING, the providing of quarters (i.e. board and lodgings) for soldiers (see Billet, 1). Troops have at all times made use of the shelter and local resources afforded by the villages on or near their line of march. The historical interest of billeting in England begins with the repeated petitions against it in the reigns of Elizabeth, James I. and Charles I., which culminated in the Petition of Right. The billeting of troops was superintended by a civil magistrate of the district to which the troops were sent or through which they passed. The magistrate, who acted under an order from the king, too often spared his friends at the expense of his political or personal opponents. Owing to the abuses to which the system led, it was declared illegal by the Petition of Right 1628, and again by an act of 1679. During the reign of James II., however, orders were frequently issued for billeting, and one of the grievances in the Bill of Rights was the quartering of soldiers contrary to law. On the organization of a standing army after the revolution it was necessary to make legal provision for billeting owing to the deficiency of barrack accommodation, which sufficed only for 5000 men. Accordingly, the Mutiny Act 1689 authorized billeting among the various innkeepers and victuallers throughout the kingdom. This statute was renewed annually from 1689 to 1879, when the Army Discipline Act, consolidating the provisions of the Mutiny Act, was passed. This statute was replaced by the Army Act 1881 (renewed annually by a “commencement” act), which contains the provisions by which billeting is now regulated. But modern conditions have practically dispensed with the necessity for billeting; there is extensive barrack accommodation in most parts of the United Kingdom, and, moreover, troops are entrained or sent by sea when the distance to be covered is more than one day’s march. In Scotland the provisions as to billeting were assimilated to those in England in 1857, and in Ireland in 1879. The Army (Annual) Act 1909 provided for the billeting of the Territorial forces in case of national emergency, on occupiers of any kind of house at the discretion of the chief officer of police.