Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire

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"Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire"
Written World War I
Language English
Form march
Recorded by Chumbawamba

"Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire" (Roud 9618) is a war song of World War I. The song sarcastically recounts the location of various army members, not to be found in the combat zone, and concludes by describing the location of the old battalion: "hanging on the old barbed wire". This troop song was not popular with the officer class, who thought it bad for morale, though attempts to suppress it were unsuccessful.[1]

Lyrics[edit]

There are several different versions of this song, though all share the chilling final two lines. One version:

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 lying on the canteen floor.
I've seen him, I've seen him, lying on the canteen floor,
I've seen him, 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, 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 and miles behind the line.
I've seen him, I've seen him, miles and miles and miles behind the line.
If you want the Sergeant-major,
I know where he is, I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want the Sergeant-major, I know where he is.
He's tossing off the privates' rum.
I've seen him, I've seen him, tossing off the privates' rum.
I've seen him, I've seen him, tossing off the privates' rum.
If you want the C.O.,
I know where he is, I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want the C.O., I know where he is
He is down in a deep dug-out,
I've seen him, I've seen him, down in a deep dug-out,
I've seen him, I've seen him, down in a deep dug-out.
If you want to find the old battalion,
I know where they are, 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, I've seen 'em, hanging on the old barbed wire.[1]

A variant last line is "if you want to find the privates".[2] The melody was an adapted from "The British Grenadiers", a traditional marching song for units of the British and Commonwealth armies whose badge of identification carries the grenade.

Covers[edit]

The song was included on the 1988 album English Rebel Songs 1381–1984 by the English anarchist punk band Chumbawamba, as well as on their 2003 re-recording of the same album.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Max Arthur (2001) When This Bloody War is Over: 68
  2. ^ Neil Philip (21 September 1998). War and the Pity of War. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 42–. ISBN 978-0-395-84982-8. Retrieved 13 October 2012.