1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cantonment

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CANTONMENT (Fr. cantonnement, from cantonner, to quarter; Ger. Ortsunterkunft or Quartier). When troops are distributed in small parties amongst the houses of a town or village, they are said to be in cantonments, which are also called quarters or billets. Formerly this method of providing soldiers with shelter was rarely employed on active service, though the normal method in “winter quarters,” or at seasons when active military operations were not in progress. In the field, armies lived as a rule in camp (q.v.), and when the provision of canvas shelter was impossible in bivouac. At the present time, however, it is unusual, in Europe at any rate, for troops on active service to hamper themselves with the enormous trains of tent wagons that would be required, and cantonments or bivouacs, or a combination of the two have therefore taken the place, in modern warfare, of the old long rectilinear lines of tents that marked the resting-place and generally, too, the order of battle of an 18th-century army. The greater part of an army operating in Europe at the present day is accommodated in widespread cantonments, an army corps occupying the villages and farms found within an area of 4 m. by 5 or 6. This allowance of space has been ascertained by experience to be sufficient, not only for comfort, but also for subsistence for one day, provided that the density of the ordinary civil population is not less than 200 persons to the square mile. Under modern conditions there is little danger from such a dissemination of the forces, as each fraction of each army corps is within less than two hours’ march of its concentration post. If the troops halt for several days, of course they require either a more densely populated country from which to requisition supplies, or a wider area of cantonments. The difficulty of controlling the troops, when scattered in private houses in parties of six or seven, is the principal objection to this system of cantonments. But since Napoleon introduced the “war of masses” the only alternative to cantoning the troops is bivouacking, which if prolonged for several nights is more injurious to the well-being of the troops than the slight relaxation of discipline necessitated by the cantonment system, when the latter is well arranged and policed. The troops nearest the enemy, however, which have to be maintained in a state of constant readiness for battle, cannot as a rule afford the time either for dispersing into quarters or for rallying on an alarm, and in western Europe at any rate they are required to bivouac. In India, the term “cantonment” means more generally a military station or standing camp. The troops live, not in private houses, but in barracks, huts, forts or occasionally camps. The large cantonments are situated in the neighbourhood of the North-Western frontier, of the large cities and of the capitals of important native states. Under Lord Kitchener’s redistribution of the Indian army in 1903, the chief cantonments are Rawalpindi, Quetta, Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Nowshera, Sialkot, Mian Mir, Umballa, Muttra, Ferozepore, Meerut, Lucknow, Mhow, Jubbulpore, Bolarum, Poona, Secunderabad and Bangalore.