> June Tabor > Songs > Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire

Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire

[ Roud 9618 ; Ballad Index San442 ; trad.]

Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire is a song from World War I that describes the inequality, greed and corruption in the army ranks.

Chumbawamba sang Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire on their 1988 10"LP English Rebel Songs 1381-1914 and re-recorded 2003 CD English Rebel Songs 1381-1984. A 2006 live recording together with Coope Boyes & Simpson and John Jones is on their CD Get On With It—Live. The first album's sleeve notes commented:

Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire was written by soldiers in the trenches in the first world war. Designed to be sung whilst marching the song is one of many showing the dissent and disgust at the way war perpetuates the inequalities of rich and poor—those with the money give the orders, those without money face the guns.

I don't know of an official recording by June Tabor of this song but I do have a copy of a Radio Bremen broadcast of her concert at the Kreissparkasse Syke on September 11, 1998. (Meditation from the same concert was included in 2005 on her Topic anthology Always.)

Jon Boden learned If You Want to See the General at Forest School Camp, He sang it as the Remembrance Day (November 11, 2010) entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. This track was also included in 2014 on the album Songs for the Voiceless.

Lyrics

Chumbawamba sing Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire

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

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 sitting in comfort stuffing his bloody gut.
I saw him, I saw him, sitting in comfort stuffing his bloody gut,
I saw him, sitting in comfort stuffing his bloody gut.

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 drinking all the Company rum.
I saw him, I saw him, drinking all the Company rum,
I saw him, drinking all the Company rum.

If you want to find the Private, I know where he is,
I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want to find the Private, I know where he is,
He's hanging on the old barbed wire.
I saw him, I saw him, hanging on the old barbed wire,
I saw him, hanging on the old barbed wire.

June Tabor sings Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire

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.
I saw him, I saw him, pinning another medal on his chest,
I saw him, pinning another medal on his chest.

If you want to find the Major, I know where he is,
I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want to find the Major, I know where he is,
He's home again on seven days' leave.
I saw him, I saw him, home again on seven days' leave,
I saw him, home again on seven days' leave.

If you want to find the Captain, I know where he is,
I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want to find the Captain, I know where he is,
He's knocking off the Adjutant's wife.
I saw him, I saw him, knocking off the Adjutant's wife,
I saw him, knocking off the Adjutant's wife.

If you want to find the Quartermaster, I know where he is,
I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want to find the Quartermaster, I know where he is,
He's flogging off the Company stores.
I saw him, I saw him, flogging off the Company stores,
I saw him, flogging off the Company stores.

If you want to find the Sergeant Major, I know where he is,
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 cowering on the dug-out floor.
I saw him, I saw him, cowering on the dug-out floor,
I saw him, cowering on the dug-out floor.

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

Jon Boden sings If you want to see the General

If you want to see the General, I know where he is,
I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want to see the General, I know where he is,
He's pinning another medal on his chest.
I saw him, I saw him, pinning another medal on his chest,
I saw him, pinning another medal on his chest.

If you want to see the Colonel, I know where he is,
I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want to see the Colonel, I know where he is,
He's sitting in comfort stuffing his bloody face.
I saw him, I saw him, sitting in comfort stuffing his bloody face,
I saw him, sitting in comfort stuffing his bloody face.

If you want to see the Corporal, I know where he is,
I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want to see the Corporal, I know where he is,
He's drinking all the Company's rum.
I saw him, I saw him, drinking all the Company's rum,
I saw him, drinking all the Company's rum.

If you want to see the Private, I know where he is,
I know where he is, I know where he is.
If you want to see the Private, I know where he is,
He's hanging on the old barbed wire.
I saw him, I saw him, hanging on the old barbed wire,
I saw him, hanging on the old barbed wire.