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-TheAmericanSongbag)
KEYWORDS: soldier war
FOUND IN: US Britain(England) Canada
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag, pp. 442-443, "Where They Were" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brophy/Partridge-TommiesSongsAndSlang, pp. 61-62, "The Old Barbed Wire" (1 text)
Dallas-TheCruelWars-100SoldiersSongs, pp. 236-237, "Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-AmericanBalladsAndFolkSongs, pp. "If You Want to Know Where the Privates Are" (1 text, 1 tune)
Niles/Moore-SongsMyMotherNeverTaughtMe, pp. 59-62, "If You Want to Know Where the Privates Are (1 text, 1 tune)
Shay-BarroomBallads/PiousFriendsDrunkenCompanions, p. 41, "I Know Where They Are" (1 short text)
Hopkins-SongsFromTheFrontAndRear, pp. 90-91, "Has Anyone Seen the Colonel" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #9618
cf. "Grouse, Grouse, Grouse" (theme of generals being safe while soldiers fight)
Deep in the Dark, Dark Woods (Zander/Klusmann-CampSongsNThings, p. 94; Zander/Klusmann-CampSongsPopularEdition, p. 48)
If You Want to See the Captain
I'll Tell You Where They Were
NOTES [103 words]: 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. Thus it can hardly be from before World War I, and the earliest collections show that it cannot be from after. - RBW
Last updated in version 6.3
File: San442

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