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Origins: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire

DigiTrad:
HANGING FROM THE OLD BARBED WIRE
I'LL TELL YOU WHERE THEY ARE


Related threads:
If You Want to find the Banker... (3)
Lyr Req: If you want to see the general (3) (closed)
Tune Req: Hanging on the old barbed wire- tune req (4) (closed)
if you want to know where the generals a (2) (closed)
Lyr Add: If You Want to Find the Warlock (1)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
I'll Tell You Where They Were (from Sound Off: Soldier Songs)


Holly Tannen 05 Apr 97 - 11:56 PM
dick greenhaus 07 Apr 97 - 11:12 AM
operag@bridge.anglia.ac.uk (AndyG) 09 Apr 97 - 08:50 AM
Bo Vandenberg 09 Apr 97 - 10:16 AM
Matt Robson 20 Apr 97 - 12:01 PM
AndyG 22 Apr 97 - 02:51 PM
Holly 07 May 97 - 01:36 AM
Brakn 14 Feb 03 - 05:09 AM
Keith A of Hertford 14 Feb 03 - 07:48 AM
jeffp 14 Feb 03 - 08:06 AM
masato sakurai 14 Feb 03 - 08:38 AM
masato sakurai 14 Feb 03 - 08:43 AM
Brakn 20 Feb 03 - 09:04 AM
Leadfingers 20 Feb 03 - 08:18 PM
Dave the Gnome 21 Feb 03 - 05:47 AM
GUEST,Shaina 21 Feb 03 - 08:26 PM
GUEST,Shaina 21 Feb 03 - 08:46 PM
Allan Dennehy 23 Feb 03 - 02:58 AM
The Walrus 23 Feb 03 - 08:13 AM
anais 23 Feb 03 - 08:00 PM
Troll 23 Feb 03 - 10:50 PM
Wilfried Schaum 24 Feb 03 - 04:29 AM
Wilfried Schaum 24 Apr 03 - 09:19 AM
GUEST,Lighter 24 Apr 03 - 03:38 PM
cobber 24 Apr 03 - 07:11 PM
Joe Offer 24 Apr 03 - 10:56 PM
masato sakurai 10 Oct 05 - 09:43 PM
GUEST,Charmion sans cookie 11 Oct 05 - 10:46 AM
GUEST,Andy 15 Jul 08 - 01:44 PM
GUEST,Paul 18 Apr 10 - 03:27 PM
GUEST,ruddy1 07 Feb 11 - 06:18 AM
Charley Noble 07 Feb 11 - 08:08 AM
Charmion 07 Feb 11 - 08:09 AM
GUEST 07 Feb 11 - 01:19 PM
mayomick 07 Feb 11 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,gecko 19 Aug 12 - 03:04 AM
CET 19 Aug 12 - 07:32 AM
GUEST,Charles Macfarlane 19 Aug 12 - 07:46 AM
GUEST,999 19 Aug 12 - 01:24 PM
GUEST,fossil 19 Feb 14 - 06:30 AM
Dave Hanson 19 Feb 14 - 10:36 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Feb 14 - 01:34 PM
GUEST 19 Feb 14 - 09:11 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 20 Feb 14 - 01:11 PM
Joe Offer 15 Mar 17 - 03:06 PM
Joe Offer 15 Mar 17 - 03:37 PM
Joe Offer 15 Mar 17 - 03:53 PM
Mr Red 16 Mar 17 - 05:16 AM
Charley Noble 16 Mar 17 - 08:03 AM
Mr Red 16 Mar 17 - 08:39 AM
FreddyHeadey 16 Mar 17 - 09:30 AM
GUEST, Paul Slade 16 Mar 17 - 01:06 PM
Sandra in Sydney 20 Mar 17 - 11:17 PM
Teribus 21 Mar 17 - 05:11 AM
Dave Hanson 21 Mar 17 - 11:04 AM
Mr Red 22 Mar 17 - 03:49 AM
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Subject: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Holly Tannen
Date: 05 Apr 97 - 11:56 PM

Hi gang!

I've decided I want to start singing HANGING ON THE OLD BARBED WIRE, a World War One song, again, but I'm having trouble remembering the sequence ( never having been in the army). If you're looking for the general...major... captain...sergeant, etc Anyone got a version of the whole thing? Thanks - Holly


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 07 Apr 97 - 11:12 AM

Hi Holly- Interesting song. Lomax (American Ballads and Folk Songs) lists it, but without the barbed wire verse (his privates were up to something or other in mud. I first heard the barbed wire verse in the the early 60's.

That said, I'll go searching to see if I can answer your question. I like this forum--sort of an instant Song Finder.


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Subject: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire^^
From: operag@bridge.anglia.ac.uk (AndyG)
Date: 09 Apr 97 - 08:50 AM

Hi here's the verses I remember at the moment, I think the text's in Brophy & Partridge, so I'll check tonight and see if I can get more verses.

I believe this is an HTML text thingy so I hope the following tagged stuff reads properly.

If you want to find the Sergeant,
I know where he is,
I know where he is,
I know where he is.
If you want to find the Sergeant,
I know where he is,
He's drunk on the dug-out floor.

Ch.

I saw him,
I saw him,
Drunk on the Dug-out floor,
I saw him,
Drunk on the dug-out floor.

If you want to find the Captain
He's off on a seven-day leave

If you want to find the Colonel
He's pinning another medal on his chest

If you want the old battalion,
we know where they are,
we know where they are,
we know where they are.
If you want the old battalion,
we know where they are,
They're hangin' on the old barbed wire.

We've seen them,
We've seen them,
Hangin' on the old barbed wire,
We've seen them,
hangin' on the old barbed wire.

AndyG ^^ (Oct 98)


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Bo Vandenberg
Date: 09 Apr 97 - 10:16 AM

I've alwasy sung:

General: Folli Ber Gere Colonel: Knocking up the adjutants wife Sargent: Diddling the Company Rum Private: hanging on the old barbed wire

I usually used it to progress from the ridiculous the the very real.


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Subject: ADD: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire^^
From: Matt Robson
Date: 20 Apr 97 - 12:01 PM

Try:

If you want to see the (a) I know where he is, I know where he is, I know where he is If you want to see the (a) I know where he is, he's (b) I saw him, I saw him (b), I saw him (b)

(a) General (b) Sitting in the Follies Bergere

(a) Colonel (b) Pinning another medal on his chest

(a) Captain (b) Home again on seven days leave

(a) Quartermaster (b) Pinching all the company's rum

(a) Sergeant (b) Drunk upon the dugout floor

(a) Private (b) Hangin' on the old barbed wire ^^


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: AndyG
Date: 22 Apr 97 - 02:51 PM

I've finally got round to sorting this out, I've put the words on my web site.
Point your browser to:

http://www/anglia.ac.uk/~operag/music/songs.html

then select "WWI Medley 3"
I've put the words for "If the Sergeant Steals Your Rum" on the same page, it's a song in a very similar vein.

All text taken from The Long Trail, John Brophy & Eric Partridge (Sphere Books 1969) no ISBN I'm afraid. The words are certainly not definitive but have the advantage of being collected/remembered by active participants in WWI. The first publication (censored) being in 1931.


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Holly
Date: 07 May 97 - 01:36 AM

Thank you all for all the words! Now I can reconstruct the song. And special thanks to Dick G for the image of Lomax up to his privates in mud....

- The Songflounder


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Brakn
Date: 14 Feb 03 - 05:09 AM

I heard this once many years ago and cannot remember the tune. There is a snippet on this site but it's not the full verse. Help.


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 14 Feb 03 - 07:48 AM

A Timewatch programme on BBC last week explained that barbed wire was invented just in time for WW1.


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: jeffp
Date: 14 Feb 03 - 08:06 AM

According to the (US) National Archives and Records Administration, the first patent for "Improvements to Wire Fencing" was issued in 1868. British military use dates to 1888 and U.S. troops used it to protect positions in the Spanish-American War. British troops used it to protect blockhouses against Boer commandos.

From this site here.


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Subject: ADD Version:The Old Barbed Wire (Brophy/Partridge)
From: masato sakurai
Date: 14 Feb 03 - 08:38 AM

The version quoted at the site Brakn linked to is the same as the one in John Brophy and Eric Partridge, eds., Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918, 2nd ed. (Eric Partridge Ltd. At the Scholartis Press, 1930, pp. 72-73):

THE OLD BARBED WIRE
   Air: ?

If you want to find the sergeant,
I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want to find the sergeant,
I know where he is,
He's lying on the canteen floor.
I've seen him, I've seen him,
Lying on the canteen floor,
I've seen him,
Lying on the canteen floor.

If you want to find the quarter-bloke,
I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want to find the quarter-bloke,
I know where he is,
He's miles and miles behind the line.
I've seen him, I've seen him,
Miles and miles behind the line,
I've seen him,
Miles and miles and miles behind the line.

If you want to find the sergeant-major
I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want to find the sergeant-major,
I know where he is,
He's boozing up the privates' rum.
I've seen him, I've seen him,
Boozing up the privates' rum,
I've seen him,
Boozing up the privates' rum.

If you want to find the C.O.,
I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want to find the C.O.,
I know where he is,
He's down in the deep dug-outs.
I've seen him, I've seen him,
Down in the deep dug-outs
I've seen him,
Down in the deep dug-outs.

If you want to find the old battalion,
I know where they are, I know where they are.
If you want to find the old battalion,
I know where they are,
They're hanging on the old barbed wire.
I've seen 'em, I've seen 'em,
Hanging on the old barbed wire,
I've seen 'em,
Hanging on the old barbed wire.


Note: A significant variant in the last stanza was your sweetheart for the old battalion, with the corresponding grammatical changes.

The "snippet" also at the site is what is on The Great War CD: "If You Want to Find the Sergeant Major... (trad.) -- The Roosters Concert Party (Rec. 1929. Mat. WA 9050 (part); Regal G 9369)," with this note:

Sung here in the style of "Seaside Follies", this sounds a cheery, jokey refrain. Other versions, which range from the C.O. down through the ranks, end with the haunting verse, "If you want to find the Private, I know where he is, he's hanging on the old barbed wire". Some variants place "the old battalion" itself in the fearful situation, but every version expresses the private soldier's belief that ultimately he is the one that will pay the price that war demands.

~Masato


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* or canteen. ** or quarter master.



http://www.musicanet.org/robokopp/english/hanging.htm

Subject: ADD Version: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: masato sakurai
Date: 14 Feb 03 - 08:43 AM

There's another version HERE.
Copy-pasted by Joe Offer from Masato's link:

If you want to find the lance-jack / Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire / The Old Barbed Wire

WWI Trench song

If you want to find the lance-jack,
|: I know where he is. :|
If you want to find the lance-jack, I know where he is
He's scrounging round the cookhouse door.
|: I've seen him, :|
Scrounging round the cookhouse door, I've seen him,
Scrounging round the cookhouse door.

2. If you want to find the sergeant,
|: I know where he is. :|
If you want to find the sergeant, I know where he is,
He's lying on the latrine* floor,
|: I've seen him, :|
Lying on the latrine floor, I've seen him,
Lying on the latrine floor.

3. If you want to find the quarter-bloke**,
|: I know where he is. :|
If you want to find the quarter-bloke, I know where he is,
He's miles and miles behind the line,
|: I've seen him, :|
Miles and miles behind the line, I've seen him,
Miles and miles and miles behind the line.

4. If you want to find the sergeant-major,
|: I know where he is. :|
If you want to find the sergeant-major, I know where he is,
He's boozing up the private's rum.
|: I've seen him, :|
Boozing up the private's rum. I've seen him,
Boozing up the private's rum.

5. If you want to find the buckshee private,
|: I know where he is. :|
If you want to find the buckshee private, I know where he is,
He's buried in a deep shell hole.
|: I've seen him, :|
Buried in a deep shell hole, I've seen him,
Buried in a deep shell hole.

6. If you want to find the CO,
|: I know where he is. :|
If you want to find the CO, I know where he is,
He's down in the deep dug-out.
|: I've seen him, :|
Down in the deep dug-out, I've seen him,
Down in the deep dug-out.

7. If you want to find the brasshats,
|: I know where they are. :|
If you want to find the brasshats, I know where they are.
They're drinking claret at Brigade HQ.
|: I've seen 'em, :|
Drinking claret at Brigade HQ, I've seen 'em,
Drinking claret at Brigade HQ.

8. If you want to find the politicians,
|: I know where they are. :|
If you want to find the politicians, I know where they are.
They're drinking brandy at the House of Commons bar.
|: I've seen 'em, :|
Drinking brandy at the House of Commons bar, I've seen 'em,
Drinking brandy at the House of Commons bar.

9. If you want to find the whole battalion,
|: I know where they are. :|
If you want to find the whole battalion, I know where they are,
They're hanging on the old barbed wire.
|: I've seen 'em, :|
Hanging on the old barbed wire, I've seen 'em,
Hanging on the old barbed wire.


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Brakn
Date: 20 Feb 03 - 09:04 AM

Still after the air.....


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Leadfingers
Date: 20 Feb 03 - 08:18 PM

Maidenhead Folk club song competion was wone in 2001 by Malcolm Austin
and Moira Craig with a song entitled 'The Devils Rope',all about the
developement and use of barbed wire up to the first World war.I will ask them if it can be put in to Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 21 Feb 03 - 05:47 AM

If truth be known all the 'soldiers' had equal chance of ending up on the old barbed wire. It was the politicians (be they uniformed or not) who missed out on that treat. I roll out the song every now and then but a sadly departed friend once pointed out it was very unfair to assume only the lower ranks died. The facts show a different story.

Still. It is a good song...

Cheers

Dave the Gnome


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Subject: Lyr Add: Hangin on the Old Barbed Wire...
From: GUEST,Shaina
Date: 21 Feb 03 - 08:26 PM

Y'all know the song, or do yeh, lovely version sung by John Roberts and Tony Barrand...
    If you want to find the General, I know where he is,
    I know where he is, I know where he is,
    he's in Paris at the Folies Bergeres
    I saw him, I saw him, in Paris at the Folies Bergeres, I saw him
    in Paris at the Folies Bergeres

    If you want to find the Colonel, I know where he is,
    He's pinning another medal on his chest...

    If you want find the Major, I know where he is,...
    he's drinkin up the company rum...

    If you want to find the Sergeant, I know where he is...
    he's brewing up up another pot of tea...

    If you want to find the privates, I know where the are...
    they're hanging on the old barbed wire

I'd say this one is due for a revival as well as some new verses, eh?
    If you want to find George Dubya, I know where he is...
Cheers,
Shaina
Messages from multiple threads combined. This message and the ones below are from a new thread.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Hangin on the Old Barbed Wire...
From: GUEST,Shaina
Date: 21 Feb 03 - 08:46 PM

i'm so sorry. i wasn't up-to date. i am a guest. o dear. well, i'll miss you guys.
ta ta,
shaina
You're welcome here, Shaina. You use a name, and you're civil. That's all we ask.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Allan Dennehy
Date: 23 Feb 03 - 02:58 AM

Last verse, as sung by my friend Tam Lawrence:
    Ya wanna know where the enemy is
    .................
    He's sitting in the House of Lords


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: The Walrus
Date: 23 Feb 03 - 08:13 AM

Allan,

The enemy is (and since the mid 19th Century, has been) more likely to be in the House of Commons.

I tend to agree with the novelist Len Deighton - The one good thing about strategic bombing was that it put the politicians back in the front line.

Bitterly

Walrus


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: anais
Date: 23 Feb 03 - 08:00 PM

hey guys, how bout those new verses?


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Troll
Date: 23 Feb 03 - 10:50 PM

Some very good poems about barbed wire in war and WWI in general may be found in the works of Robert W. Service in his book "Rhymes of a Red Cross Man". He was a litter bearer and ambulance driver in France.
I believe that his works can be found at Project Geutenburg. Do a Google and you'll find the site.

troll


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 24 Feb 03 - 04:29 AM

Andy G - bad link. I substituted the slash after www by a dot and got to APU, but ~operag could not be found.
Please correct.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 24 Apr 03 - 09:19 AM

The air: look at my post in this thread.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 24 Apr 03 - 03:38 PM

The theme music of the CBS-TV series "Hogan's Heroes" was based on this tune.


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Subject: RE: Lyrics req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: cobber
Date: 24 Apr 03 - 07:11 PM

My version of this song comes from a WWi book of songs distributed to medical staff in Australia and it's slightly different it has this sequence
    General - Meeting with the general staff
    Officers - Hanging round the Folies Bergere
    Sergeant - Drinking all the company's rum
    Private - Hanging on the old barbed wire.
I really like the enemy verse. I think I'll add that in next time I sing this.


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Subject: ADD Version: I'll Tell You Where They Were^^
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Apr 03 - 10:56 PM

Here's yet another version, different from what I've been able to find here at Mudcat. I sure wish the Digital Tradition didn't spell the NCO "sargeant."
-Joe Offer-


I'LL TELL YOU WHERE THEY WERE

If you want to know where the generals were,
I'll tell you where they were,
Yes?I'll tell you where they were,
Oh?I'll tell you where they were.
If you want to know where the generals were,
I'll tell you where they were? Back in gay Paree!
Spoken: How do you know?
I saw them! I saw them!
Back in gay Paree I saw them,
Back in gay Paree.

If you want to know where the colonels were,
I'll tell you where they were,
Yes?I'll tell you where they were,
Oh?I'll tell you where they were.
If you want to know where the colonels were,
I'll tell you where they were? Way behind the lines!
Spoken: How do you know?
I saw them! I saw them!
Way behind the lines I saw them,
Way behind the lines.

If you want to know where the majors were,
Etc., etc.
Playing with the mademoiselles,
Etc., etc.

If you want to know where the captains were,
Etc., etc.
Down in the deep dugout.
Etc., etc.

If you want to know where the sergeants were,
Etc., etc.
Drinking up the privates' rum,
Etc., etc.

If you want to know where the privates were,
Etc., etc.
Up to their necks in mud!
Etc., etc.^^

Source: "Sound Off": Soldier Songs (Edward Arthur Dolph, 1929, 1942)

Click to play


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: If you want to see the general
From: masato sakurai
Date: 10 Oct 05 - 09:43 PM

See Susanne's My Songbook.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: If you want to see the general
From: GUEST,Charmion sans cookie
Date: 11 Oct 05 - 10:46 AM

The Canadian variant of this song is "Has anyone seen the colonel?", the marchpast of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. It was made popular in this country by the Canadian Corps concert party The Dumb-Bells, which toured to great acclaim after the Armistice.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: If you want to see the general
From: GUEST,Andy
Date: 15 Jul 08 - 01:44 PM

I heard a version in Scotland some years ago that has the
General 'drinking in the Folies Bergere'


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: If you want to see the general
From: GUEST,Paul
Date: 18 Apr 10 - 03:27 PM

1917 Sung by David Olney

If you want to find the general
I know where 'e is
I know where 'e is
I know where 'e is
If you want to find the general
I know where 'e is
Paris at the Folies Bergere
I sawr em
I sawr em
Paris at the Folies Bergere
I sawr em
Paris at the Folies Bergere

Colonel
He's pinning on a medal on his chest
Pining on a medal on his chest

Sergeant
He's drinking up the company's rum
Drinking up the company's rum

Adjutant
He's rogering the colonel's wife
Rogering the colonel's wife

Private
Hanging on the old barbed wire


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: GUEST,ruddy1
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 06:18 AM

Think update to last verse should be:
    If you want to find the privates,
    I know where they are, I know where they are.
    If you want to find the privates,
    I know where they are,
    They're standing on a I.E.D.
    I've seen 'em, I've seen 'em,
    Standing on a I.E.D.
    I've seen 'em, standing on a I.E.D.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Charley Noble
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 08:08 AM

If you have a strong stomach you might try this link to a Robert Service poem from oldpoetry.com titled "On the Wire" composed while Service was a Red Cross volunteer during World War 1: click for poem and photo

The gallows humor of the soldier songs has its inspiration, shall we say.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: Charmion
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 08:09 AM

Perhaps stepping ...

No one gets to "stand" on an IED.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 01:19 PM

I sing the last verse as

"If you're looking for your sweetheart, I know where he is... etc.

Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Hangin' on Old Barbed Wire
From: mayomick
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 07:35 PM

"Where's your sweetheart" is the way I remember hearing Robert Graves sing the last verse . He also sang "we know where he is" , not "I know where he is" , "we saw him" rather than "I saw him" ,and hanging on the front line wire , not the old barbed wire.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: If you want to see the general
From: GUEST,gecko
Date: 19 Aug 12 - 03:04 AM

Back in the early 1960s in London I went to a song recital/reading on themes of war and (I think) love, and was privileged to hear Robert Graves, poet and novelist (I, Claudius), sing this song. He fought in WWI (in the trenches, I believe) and sang with passion and bitterness. The lyrics I remember, though I can't be sure now which rank was attached to which conduct, are more or less:
    If you want to see the general, I know where he is,
    Pinning another medal on his chest.
    If you want to see the colonel, I know where he is,
    Dancing at the regimental ball.
    If you want to see the captain, I know where he is,
    Gone on another seven days leave.
    If you want to see the private, I know where he is,
    Hanging on the old barbed wire.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: If you want to see the general
From: CET
Date: 19 Aug 12 - 07:32 AM

The version that is still sung in the Canadian Army has a few variants:
    General - not always mentioned but if he is he's in Paris at the Folies Bergeres

    Colonel - dining with the Brigadier

    Major - down in the deep dug-out

    Captain - off on six weeks leave

    Subaltern (or Louie) - out on a night patrol

    Warrant - drinking up the company's rum

    Sergeant - either drunk on the canteen floor or occasionally hanging on the old barbed wire

    Private - holding up the whole damn line (rarely if ever hanging on the old barbed wire, as he is in most other versions)
I've always liked this version because it shows the subaltern and the private, the bottom of their respective military food chains, doing the actual work.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: If you want to see the general
From: GUEST,Charles Macfarlane
Date: 19 Aug 12 - 07:46 AM

I learnt this via intermediaries from, I believe, originally Bob Davenport:

These are the lyrics that I used to sing;
    If you want to find the Colonel
    I know where he is!
    I know where he is!
    I know where he is!
    If you want to find the Colonel
    I know where he is!
    He's pinning another medal on his chest (big chest)!
    I saw him!
    I saw him!
    Pinning another medal on his chest!
    I saw him!
    Pinning another medal on his chest!

    Captain
    In Paree (Paris) on seven day's leave!

    Quartermaster
    Drinkin' all the company's rum!

    Sergeant
    Drunk upon the dugout floor!

    Coporal
    Up to his neck in clods!

    Private
    Hanging on the old barbed wire!
Brilliantly sarcastic and subversive song which is guaranteed to get any half-decent singing crowd belting it out in full voice!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: If you want to see the general
From: GUEST,999
Date: 19 Aug 12 - 01:24 PM

http://www.informatik.uni-hamburg.de/~zierke/june.tabor/songs/hangingontheoldbarbedwire.html

Some history on it, too.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: GUEST,fossil
Date: 19 Feb 14 - 06:30 AM

there must be regional variation the old sweats from my battalion had substitued I've seen him etc as a chorus with we've seen um we've seen um and the final verse if your looking for your company ?this is also the way i know the song from my father whose father was with the BEF and also served with the Royal Engineers after being gassed whilst serving with the Royal Berkshire Regiment .


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 19 Feb 14 - 10:36 AM

The first time I heard this it had the last verse as,

If you want to find your husband,
I know where he is,
he's hanging on the old barbed wire.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Feb 14 - 01:34 PM

There are many variations.
The verses given above by Masato (14 Feb 03) from Brophy and Partridge are repeated in Julian Symons, 1942, "An Anthology of War Poetry," Pelican Books.
Printed in England during WW2, the acid-rich paper used is deteriorating rapidly.

I cannot find that the book was reprinted later on good paper.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Feb 14 - 09:11 PM

The major source text from which the songs of Oh! What A Lovely War are drawn is Tommy's Tunes (1917).


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Feb 14 - 01:11 PM

I am glad that "Tommy's Tunes" is now on the net; my copy is worn from use.

The song concerned in this thread in not in "Tommy's Tunes."


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Subject: Origins: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Mar 17 - 03:06 PM

Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song:

Old Barbed Wire, The (I Know Where They Are)

DESCRIPTION: "If you want to find the privates, I know where they are (x3) -- They're up to their knees in mud (or: "Hanging on the old barbed wire"). I saw them...." Meanwhile, the captains, colonels, and generals enjoy themselves and stay away from the fighting
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (Sandburg)
KEYWORDS: soldier war
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Sandburg, pp. 442-443, "Where They Were" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. "If You Want to Know Where the Privates Are" (1 text, 1 tune)
Niles/Moore, pp. 59-62, "If You Want to Know Where the Privates Are (1 text, 1 tune)
DT, BARBWIRE

Roud #9618
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Grouse, Grouse, Grouse" (theme of generals being safe while soldiers fight)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
If You Want to See the Captain
I'll Tell You Where They Were
NOTES: Internal evidence clearly dates this to the First World War, with its trenches and barbed wire and mud that threatened to swallow the Allied armies whole. Jerry Silverman includes it in his book Ballads & Songs of WWI, without indication of source. What's more, until WWI, officers -- including brigade and sometimes even divisional officers -- were expected to lead their men from the front. Only in the twentieth century did officers become so valuable that they were allowed to "lead" from the rear. But I know of no actual testimony to the song from soldiers of that war. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.3
File: San442

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.



We have two versions in the Digital Tradition. Here's the first one:

I'LL TELL YOU WHERE THEY ARE

If you want to know where the generals were,
I'll tell you where they were,
Yes, I'll tell you where they were,
Oh, I'll tell you where they were,
If you want to know where the generals were,
I'll tell you where they were,
Back in gay Paree!
(Spoken) How do you know?
I saw them! I saw them!
Back in gay Paree!
I saw them,
Back in gay Paree!

If you want to know where the colonels were,
Way behind the lines.

...the majors
Playing with the mademoiselles.

...the captains
Down in the deep dugout.

...the sergeants
Drinking up the privates' rum.

...the privates
Up to their necks in mud!

(From Dolph, "Sound Off")

It appears that the song was sung in the trenches early in World War I.
Perhaps with reference to the Battle of the Somme, a new verse was added
for British versions:

If you want to find the regiment
(If you want the old battalion)
...
I saw them, dangling on the old barbed wire.

Later still, this was combined with the previous verse and became:
If you want to see the Privates, I know where they are,
...
They're dangling on the old barbed wire.
(They are hanging on the front line wire)


There are many American and British versions. Some of the variations:
I know where they are (or were)
I know where he is

Our Seargent -
He is lying on the canteen floor
Clipping the old barbed wire.

Our Quartermaster - boozing on the Private's rum

Our General - miles and miles behind the Line

The Lieutenants - riding the Sergeant's ass.

The Privates may be "Up to (various body parts) in mud"

Sometimes: If you want the bloody general - etc

---
Endless take-offs are possible:
If you want to find your husband . . .

---
Some Books it's in:
Brophy and Partridge: _Songs and Slang of the British Soldier_, 1930
Lomax, Amer Ballads & Folk Songs, 1934
Carl Sandburg, American Songbag, 1927
JJ Niles and Douglas Moore, Illustrated by A.A.Walgren, Songs My Mother
Never Taught Me, 1929
EA Dolph, Sound Off, 1929
Roy Palmer, What a Lovely War - British Soldiers Songs from the Boer War
to the Present Day, 1990

J B Priestly, From Margin Released, 1962, observed that 'In the
trenches the troops would sing a wide range of songs, including the
marching songs, nonsense songs and other popular songs of the time. The
patriotic songs seem to be unknown.'

On record:
"If You Want to Find the Colonel", on Bob Davenport's "Postcards Home"
(Topic, c. 1977).
---
Some other titles:
"I'll Tell You Where They Were."
"If You Want to Know Where the Privates Are"
---
Contributors:
Eric Berge, J.J.Farrell, George Hawes, Sam Hinton, Tom Morgan, John
Moulden, Chris Ryall, Abby Sale, Paul J. Stamler

@Army @soldier @WWI
filename[ BARBWIRE
AJS
oct97


And the second:

HANGING FROM THE OLD BARBED WIRE

If you want to find the Sargeant,
I know where he is,
I know where he is,
I know where he is.
If you want to find the Sargeant,
I know where he is,
He's drunk on the dug-out floor.

cho: I saw him,
I saw him,
Drunk on the dug-out floor,
I saw him,
Drunk on the dug-out floor.

If you want to find the Captain
He's off on a seven-day leave

If you want to find the Colonel
He's pinning another medal on his chest

If you want the old battalion,
We know where they are,
We know where they are,
We know where they are.
If you want the old battalion,
We know where they are,
They're hangin' on the old barbed wire.

We've seen them,
We've seen them,
Hangin' on the old barbed wire,
We've seen them,
Hangin' on the old barbed wire.


@Army @WWI
filename[ OLDBARB
AG
OCT98

I wish the DT could come up with a consistently correct spelling of "Sergeant."


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Subject: ADD Version: Where They Were (per Sandburg)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Mar 17 - 03:37 PM

WHERE THEY WERE

1 If you want to know where the privates were,
I'll tell you where they were,
I'll tell you where they were,
Yes, I'll tell you where they were;
Oh, if you want to know where the privates were,
I'll tell you where they were:
Up to their necks in mud,
I saw them, I saw them,
Up to their necks in mud, I saw them
Up to their necks in mud.

2 If you want to know where the sergeants were,
I'll tell you where they were,
I'll tell you where they were,
Yes, I'll tell you where they were;
Oh, if you want to know where the sergeants were,
I'll tell you where they were:
Clipping the old barbed-wire,
I saw them, I saw them,
Clipping the old barbed-wire,
I saw them Clipping the old barbed-wire.

3. If you want to know where the captains were,
I'll tell you where they were,
I'll tell you where they were,
Yes, I'll tell you where they were;
Oh, if you want to know where the captains were,
I'll tell you where they were:
Drinking the privates' rum,
I saw them, I saw them,
Drinking the privates' rum, I saw them
Drinking the privates' rum.

4. If you want to know where the officers were,
I'll tell you where they were,
I'll tell you where they were,
Yes, I'll tell you where they were;
Oh, if you want to know where the officers were,
I'll tell you where they were:
Down in their deep dugout,
I saw them, I saw them,
Down in their deep dugout, I saw them
Down in their deep dugout.

5. And if you want to know where the generals were,
I'll tell you where they were,
I'll tell you where they were,
Yes, I'll tell you where they were;
Oh, if you want to know where the generals were,
I'll tell you where they were:
Back in gay Paree,
I saw them, I saw them,
Back in gay Paree, I saw them
Back in gay Paree.

Source: American Songbag (Carl Sandburg, 1927, pages 442-443

Sandburg's notes: This is a little tough on the Brass Hats but they are used to it...The text is from Harold and Verner Johnson of New York City


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Subject: ADD Version:Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire (Lomax)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Mar 17 - 03:53 PM

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHERE THE PRIVATES ARE

If you want to know where the privates are,
I'll tell you where they are,
I'll tell you where they are,
Yes, I'll tell you where they are.
If you want to know where the privates are?
I'll tell you where they are,
Up to their ears in mud.
I saw them, I saw them? Up to their ears in mud and slime.
If you want to know where the privates are,
I'll tell where they are?
Up to their ears in mud.

If you want to know where the sergeants are,
Etc., etc.,
Clipping the old barbed wire.

If you want to know where the captains are,
Etc., etc.,
Drinking the privates' rum.

If you want to know where the officers are,
Etc., etc.,
Down in their deep dug-out.

If you want to know where the generals are,
Etc., etc.,
Back in gay Paree.


from John A. Lomax & Alan Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs (1934), pages 554-556

reprinted from Songs My Mother Never Taught Me (by Niles, Moore, and Wallgren, 1929)

Here's the Traditional Ballad Index information about Niles/Moore: Niles/Moore -- John J. "Jack" Niles and Douglas S. "Doug" Moore (with cartoons by A. A. "Wally" Wallgren), Songs My Mother Never Taught Me (1929).

So....Sandburg, Lomax, and Niles/Moore are all more-or-less the same.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: Mr Red
Date: 16 Mar 17 - 05:16 AM

Roy Palmer "What a Lovey War" P118, ISBN 0-7181-3357-9.
Suggests American soldiers learned it from the British during WW1. And his text posits the use of "Old" is particularly English. Canadian soldiers WW2 were documented singing the progression of seniority in reverse.

I gave Roy a VHS of a BBC documentary of Robert Graves (post his book). In it Graves recalled the words "Do you want to find the ......" and more telling "Do you want to find your sweetheart..... Hanging on the front line wire" - longer text of my research - see #48 - the PDF groups other "collected" songs.

I sing "Dead drunk on the dugout floor" - can't remember where I heard it, but it does have rather effective alliteration.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: Charley Noble
Date: 16 Mar 17 - 08:03 AM

Thanks, Mr. Red, for the links.

Charlie Ipcar


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Subject: RE: Origins: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: Mr Red
Date: 16 Mar 17 - 08:39 AM

I wrote a version that moved the story on 2 generations. #20 - "the Why Memorial".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 16 Mar 17 - 09:30 AM

[ Is there a poem or song which goes through "week before" "day before" "hour before" "moment before" , ending with the death of the soldier ? ]


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Subject: RE: Origins: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: GUEST, Paul Slade
Date: 16 Mar 17 - 01:06 PM

I had a go at writing some updated civilian lyrics for this a few year ago. Here's what I came up with.


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Subject: LYR ADD - Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire (Aus)
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 20 Mar 17 - 11:17 PM

version sung by Chloe & Jason Roweth from the liner notes to The Riderless Horse An Australian Impression of the First World War. Over 30 songs and poems from the trenches and the home front 1914-1918.
The riderless horse was led through the streets of Australian towns to the beat of a military drum... "The Empire needs you! Who will fill the saddle?
This unique combination of over 30 songs and poems from the time, arranged and performed by Chloe & Jason, provides a rare insight into a young nation's experience of the First World War, both in the trenches and on the home front. After all, no-one knows better than those who were there.


'Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire'

   If you want to find the lance-jack, I know where he is
    I know where he is, I know where he is
    If you want to find the lance-jack, I know where he is
    He's scrounging round the cookhouse door.
    I've seen him, I've seen him
    Scrounging round the cookhouse door, I've seen him,
         Scrounging round the cookhouse door.

 

    The company sergeant...He's laying on the latrine floor

    The quarter master...Miles and miles behind the lines.

         The sergeant-major...Thieving all the squaddies' rum.

         The buckshee private...Buried in a deep shell hole.

         The C.O....Down in a deep dugout.

         The brasshats...Drinking claret at Brigade HQ.

         The politicians....Drinking brandy at the House of Commons bar.

         The whole battalion...Hanging on the old barbed wire.

A song sung on the march, where the repetitions kept the rhythm and helped to take the soldiers' minds off the distances they had to travel. The lyrics give a fairly typical view of the war as it is presented today: highlighting the incompetence of the commanding officers, and emphasizing the cannon-fodder attitude to the troops.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: Teribus
Date: 21 Mar 17 - 05:11 AM

"A song sung on the march, where the repetitions kept the rhythm and helped to take the soldiers' minds off the distances they had to travel. The lyrics give a fairly typical view of the war as it is presented today: highlighting the incompetence of the commanding officers, and emphasizing the cannon-fodder attitude to the troops.

Complete and utter nonsense!

Subject: RE: Soldiers songs calling officers
From: Will Fly - PM
Date: 06 Oct 16 - 11:53 AM

I dislike the religiously serious singing of "Hanging On The Old Barbed Wire" in places like folk clubs because - as Teribus rightly says - it's essentially a cynical, take-the-piss-out-of-everybody song to be sung in situ, i.e. mainly on the march.

If you've ever done a 20-mile route march, perhaps carrying a .303 or a Bren gun, or an FN, at the trail, then you'll know that one of the ways to relieve the boredom and the tiredness is to sing - preferably bawdy, sarcastic songs that give a verbal kick up the bum to those around you and mainly superior to you. But these songs weren't sung in the hushed, "isn't it awful?" tones that you hear in folk clubs - they were belted out, tongue in cheek, to keep spirits up.

Cynical, sarcastic, and piss-taking though they may have been, they were sung with comradeship and affection - everyone was in it together. To present it as a serious "us-against-them", anti-other ranks song, is a serious misapprehension of the context of the song.

Just my two pennyworth, as someone who's been on many of these marches many years ago.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 21 Mar 17 - 11:04 AM

Spot on Teribus. You had to serve to understand the mens contempt for the NCOs and officers actions in times of war.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Origins: Hangin' on the Old Barbed Wire
From: Mr Red
Date: 22 Mar 17 - 03:49 AM

the song, and the jokes were the way of distracting themselves from the futility of war.

You can analyse all you want and massage your own egos by discrediting this hypothosis or that. But it was written and became widespread because it gave an outlet that in other circumstances would have been insubordination.

And it is well documented that it irritated the higher echelons to the point of being more than frowned upon, and even banned.

And it chimes today in the myriad versions, plus modernising parodies.
That is powerful Folk!


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