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

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