1902 Encyclopedia > Barracks


BARRACKS are groups of buildings constructed for the accommodation of soldiers. The word, which was formerly spelt "baracks " or "baraques," is derived from the Spanish " barracas," meaning the little huts or cabins used by the fishermen on the sea-shore, or for soldiers in the field. The French call them " casernes," meaning lodgings for soldiers. Barracks of a temporary character, commonly called " huts," have ordinarily been constructed by troops on a campaign as winter quarters, or when for any length of time in " standing camp,"—they being accommodated when in the field under other circumstances in tents, or else, if not provided with tents, bivouacing without cover.
In time of peace barracks were formerly only provided for troops in fortified places termed " garrisons," soldiers elsewhere being provided with quarters by being billeted on public-houses. The apprehension of disturbances, and risk of the troops being too much mixed up with the populations of the localities in which they might be stationed, mainly led to the construction of barracks in or near towns in England about the year 1792. In the first instance the Deputy-adjutant-general was charged with the building and fitting up of barracks. In 1793 the same officer was appointed " Superintendent-general of barracks," and subsequently " Barrack-master-general." In 1806 the barrack establishment was placed under the direction of a board of four commissioners, of whom one was generally a military man. About the year 1825 the duke of Wellington arranged for the construction and maintenance of barracks to be given over to the corps of Royal Engineers. The custody and equipment of barracks, with the supply of fuel and light to the troops quartered in them, were then made and remained, until recently, the duty of the " barrack department," which consisted of barrack-masters and barrack-sergeants.
The duties connected with barracks in the British ser-vice are now arranged as follows :—
Construction, maintenance, and )
supply of fixtures; also custody > Royal Engineer Department,
if dismantled )
Commissariat Department.
'Q. M. General's Department, under the orders at headquarters of the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, and in districts or at foreign stations of the Gen-(. eral Officer Commanding.
Equipment with supplies of all )
kinds, giving and taking over ; f
also custody when furnished but |

Distribution of troops to barracks

The duties connected with the construction of barracks are under the supervision of the Inspector-general of Fortifications, who is also Director of Works to the War Department. He is assisted in these duties by a Deputy and two Assistant-directors of Works, and a professional staff.
The arrangement and composition of barracks vary according to the arm of the service to be accommodated in them; thus for the cavalry, horse and field artillery, Koyal Engineer train, and transport branch of the army service corps, stables are required; and it is usual to provide for the unmarried non-commissioned officers and men over their horses, a troop of cavalry or a division of field artillery being placed in a separate block of two stories in height. Horse and field artillery also require gunsheds and work-shops for artificers, such as collarmakers, wheelers, &c. All mounted troops require forge and shoeing accommodation as well as saddlers' shops. Garrison artillery and com-panies of Royal Engineers can be accommodated in similar barracks to those for infantry, but the latter require an ample provision of workshops for artificers, with store accommodation for materials, &c.
Not fifty years since, in the West Indies, men slept in barracks in hammocks touching each other, only 23 inches of lateral space being allowed for each man. At the same time in England the men slept in wooden beds, with two tiers, like the berths of a ship, and not unfrequently each bed held four men. Now, each soldier has an iron bed-Btead which turns up in the middle, forming a seat for the day time, and only two rows of beds are allowed in barrack-rooms, and the principle of providing one window for every two beds is carried out in all new barracks.
The best size for a barrack-room is now considered to be 60 or 62 feet long, by 20 feet wide, and about 12 feethigh. The number of men each room is to contain is painted on the door; and in barracks of modern construction each barrack-room has attached to it—
(1.) A small (single) sergeant's room, with fire-place, cupboard, and small window looking into the men's room.
(2.) An ablution room, with basins, water-taps, and a fixed pan in which the feet can be washed.
(3.) A night urinal, with water for flushing laid on.
Barracks are washed once a week, and on intermediate days the rooms are dry-scrubbed. The walls and ceilings-are limewashed by the troops twice a year. The general periodical painting of all barrack buildings is performeo twice externally and once internally in every eight years Formerly, barrack buildings were placed on very limited areas, and even a whole regiment was lodged in one house built in the form of a square, with the quarters of the officers on one side for the better supervision of the men ; but the Barrack and Hospital Improvement Commission recommended that the men should be divided in numerous detached buildings, so placed as to impede as little as possible the movement of air and the action of the sun's rays.
For barracks, as a general rule, buildings of two stories in height are preferred to those of three stories, but three-story buildings may be adopted where space is limited and land very costly. Buildings of two stories are less expensive than those of only one story in height, and the general arrangement, when the former mode of construction is adopted, is more compact. The selection of a site for a barrack requires great care and circumspection. This duty is performed in the first instance by the Commanding Royal Engineer of the district, or an officer appointed by him; but the ground proposed is also reported on by an Army medical officer as well as subsequently by the General Officer commanding the district, the final approval resting with the Secretary of State for War.
The following important points have to be considered in the selection of a site, viz. :_—(1.) That the ground is suitably situated ; (2.) That it is sufficient for the number and nature of troops to be placed in the barracks; (3.) That it is not commanded by higher ground within range of rifle fire; (4.) That the subsoil is good and healthy ; (5.) That water can be easily obtained for drinking, washing, and cooking; (6.) That drainage and sewerage can be carried out; (7.) That gas can be laid on.
A barrack should not as a rule be placed in the midst of a populous town, nor should it be too far distant from one. If in the midst of a town it would not be likely to be healthy or well placed in respect to keeping up discipline; if too far off the men quartered in it may become dissatisfied with the service. A barrack should be surrounded with a defensible wall; there should be as few entrances as possible, and these should be provided with strong, well-barred gates.
In the new barracks now under construction for brigade dep6ts, the armouries are generally placed in defensible " keeps," the outer or boundary walls being flanked by caponnieres. In arranging the position of buildings on a design for a barrack, the axis of each of those intended for occupation by troops should be north and south, so as to allow the sun's rays to fall on both sides. One building should in no case obstruct the light from another. The distance of buildings should not be less than their own height from each other. The position selected for any new building or buildings in an existing or a proposed barrack is reported on by a board of officers, consisting of the head of the department, officer commanding a regiment, or other responsible officer who is to occupy the building when erected, an officer not under the rank of captain, and the commanding Royal Engineer or other engineer officer, a medical officer attending to advise the board. On the completion of a new building or barrack, it is also reported on by a board of officers before being taken over for occu-pation.
In 1854-55 public attention was called to the necessity for sanitary improvement in the barracks belonging to Great Britain, and an inquiry was instituted by the Barrack and Hospital Improvement Commission, which was succeeded by the Army Sanitary Committee. The result of the inquiries so made has been a great improvement of the quarters of the troops, which has tended largely to decrease the sickness previously prevalent among them.
The principal improvements have been as follows, viz. :—At least 600 cubic feet, and from 56 to 60 superficial feet, are now allotted to every single non-commissioned officer and man in permanent bar-racks, it being considered as important that a soldier should have his full ration of air as of food. In wooden huts 400 cubic feet are reckoned sufficient. At least 1000 cubic feet are allotted to every single non-commissioned officer and man in hot climates. About 1600 cubic feet are allotted to every horse, and since the introduction of ventilation, as well as proper sanitary arrangements in stables, glanders have almost entirely disappeared from the army. Married non-commissioned officers and men have special accommodation, with one or two rooms eacn, according to the size of the rooms or rank of the occupant. In the latest buildings small washing-rooms have been provided, in addition to two rooms for each family. A laundry and infant school are provided for every compound of married soldiers' quarters. The principal medical officer is now charged with seeing that the regulations for protecting the health of troops in barracks are carried out. Each regimental medical officer has also to see to this matter, as well as that every soldier has a separate bed ; that the beds are placed at a proper distance from the wall, and are well aired; and that the windows are opened every morn-ing. Barrack-rooms are warmed in two ways, viz., by radiant heat from an open fire, and by warm air obtained from an air chamber behind, and heated by the fire. Much attention has been paid of late years to the improvement of the means of cooking the meals of soldiers. Either steel boilers and Deane's ovens or " Warren's " apparatus are now ordinarily provided for this purpose. Every headquarter barrack now has a gymnasium and also a chapel school, as well as a sergeants' mess establishment. Besides a canteen with a leparate bar for the sale of groceries, one room is provided for recreation, with a coffee bar attachea, and another room for reading, with a small book-room attached to it, where the library is stored, and from which books are issued. Where there are several barracks at the same station, the sick are usually treated in a garrison hos-pital ; but where there is only one barrack, a regimental hospital forms a part of it. 1200 cubic feet are allowed at home for each patient treated in military hospitals, and about 1800 cubic feet in those constructed in hot climates. The proportion of hospital ac-commodation now allowed at home stations is 6 per cent, on the accommodation of the barrack or barracks to which such hospital is attached. A surgery, store accommodation, a separate infection ward, hospital sergeant's quarters, sick-orderly's rooms, and a mortuary, are provided as part of an hospital establishment. There is also, whenever practicable, a garden, where the convalescents can oit out, or take exercise in fine weather. At the main entrance to every barrack a regimental guard-room is placed, which, besides a good room for the guard, provided with a wooden bed on an iron frame, contains a prisoners room, and also a few separate cells for the detention of such prisoners as require to be kept apart. A proportion of " provost cells " are also constructed in large barracks, where soldiers are confined when ordered or sentenced to imprison-ment for short periods. In headquarter cavalry barracks a riding school, ordinarily 150 feet long and 50 feet wide, is provided ; also one or more maneges for out-door training. In smaller barracks, for mounted troops only, maneges are provided for equitation exer-cise. Rifle ranges are now considered to be necessary adjuncts to all except small barracks, but sometimes the troops have to be moved to a distance for this purpose, owing to local difficulties pre-venting practice being carried on. In barracks of modern construc-tion, a separate house or quarter containing about six rooms ia provided for a commanding officer, and two rooms with a kitchen (or servant's room) for each field officer, or officer holding relative rank as such, and for each quarter-master. Other officers have one room each, with a compartment screened or curtained off for sleeping and dressing, a servant's room for brushing and cleaning being provided for every two or three officers. A mess establishment is attached to every officers' barrack, which is constructed in proportion to the numbers to be quartered in the barracks. Where the headquarters of a regiment are stationed, a billiard-room is usually allowed as part of the mess establishment. A good supply of water is one of the first requisites in a barrack, and it is preferable to obtain it, if possible, from the water-works of the locality, rather than from wells, which are liable to become polluted from soakage, leakage of drains, or other causes. Barracks should have high-level tanks, to contain one or two days' supply of water, as a reserve, or in case of fire, and fire-cocks should be fixed in suitable places. Fire-engines, with an ample supply of hose and also ladders, are always supplied for use in barracks. The sewers or drains of a barrack should, if possible, discharge into the main or branch sewers of the locality, but if none such exist, irrigation of land may be resorted to, or earth closets -can be adopted, and the liquid drainage only be disposed of by irrigation, or such other means as may be practicable. All drains should be properly trapped and ventilated. Soil-pipes of water-closets should also be ventilated by means of small pipes carried up above the roof of the main building; pipes of the size of ordinary gas-pipes will suffice for this purpose, allowing the escape of foul gas into the outer air. Overflow or other water-pipes should on no account be connected directly with a drain, but should discharge into an open or surface channel, or over a trap or grating. Gas is ordinarily laid on to barracks both externally and internally, the quantity con-sumed being checked by a meter or meters. It is usually obtained by agreement from any public gas-works in the locality, but at cer-tain large stations the War Department have their own gas-works. At certain large stations where large bodies of troops are quartered, churches are provided in addition to or in place of chapel schools. The latter are used for the services of the men of different persua-sions in succession ; the former are sometimes similarly used, but are more generally restricted to the Church of England or other specific religious persuasion. Sometimes military cemeteries are provided, but more generally the soldiers are buried in those of the localities where they may be quartered. Wherever there is sufficient ground about or near a barrack, as at Eastney, near Portsmouth, soldiers may have portions for gardening allotted them.
The funds for the construction and maintenance of barracks are included in Vote 13 of the army estimates, and the average amounts so provided for them during the past three years have been as follows :—
Part 1, Works over £1000 £102,198
Part 2, New works and alterations under £1000 68,040
Part 3, Ordinary and current repairs 210,455
The funds for the equipment of barracks are provided
in Vote 12, for the departmental staff in Vote 9, and for
supplies of fuel and light in Vote 10 of the army esti-
mates, (o. B. K.)

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