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141 Days: The Battle of the Somme

Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire

Entanglements of barbed wire were erected in front of the trenches by both sides. Men were frequently caught in these at night, and during day-time attacks, when they became easy targets for machine guns. The dead bodies could not fall to the ground, but hung sagging in limp and often grotesque attitudes among the wilderness of wire. It became a common, euphemism for death, to say that a man was ďhanging on the old barbed wire.Ē This was an ironic reply often given by survivors at roll-call after an attack, when the name of a man who had been killed was called.

From ďSongs and Slang of the British Soldier 1914-1918Ē Edited by John Brophy and Eric Partridge

The Old Barbed Wire

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,
Heís lying on the canteen floor.
Iíve seen him, Iíve seen him,
Lying on the canteen floor,
Iíve seen him,
Lying on the canteen floor.

If you want to fine 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,
Heís miles and miles behind the line.
Iíve seen him, Iíve seen him,
Miles and miles behind the line,
Iíve 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,
Heís boozing up the privatesí rum.
Iíve seen him, Iíve seen him,
Boozing up the privatesí rum,
Iíve seen him,
Boozing up the privatesí 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,
Heís down in the deep dug-outs.
Iíve seen him, Iíve seen him,
Down in the deep dug-outs,
Iíve 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,
Theyíre hanging on the old barbed wire.
Iíve seen íem, Iíve seen íem,
Hanging on the old barbed wire,
Iíve seen íem,
Hanging on the old barbed wire.

 

Next: Away From the Front

Supported by the Sir John Fisher Foundation and the Army Museums Ogilby Trust

© Images are copyright, Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum.
 You must seek permission prior to publication of any of our images.

Only a proportion of our collections are on display at anyone time.  Certain items are on loan for display in other institutions.  An appointment is required to consult any of our collections which are held in store.

© 2016 Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum