Jon Describes this as “Just a cheerful ditty really, although actually the story’s not that cheerful since it presumably ends in shame and destitution for the girl. Cheerful tune though.”
It fair romps along this one. I don’t know whether this is the same tune as is noted in this Mudcat thread, where you’ll also see the two common title variants, The Sentry Box and Soldier’s Cloak. You’ll find A.L. Lloyd’s Martin Carthy’s and Steeleye’s versions at Mainly Norfolk although some may well know this by The Pogues. I note Martin’s reference to chauvinism, picking up on the John Blunt theme. I must confess, my curiosity was taken by the almost throwaway line that “two wives are allowed in the Army, but one’s more than enough for me.” That got me wondering and I’m clearly not alone in that respect, with various forum discussions, although nothing definitive on the subject. The suggestions range from the colourful of the ‘camp followers’ to the more prosaic of the repair kit (needle and thread, etc) issued to conscripts that was nicknamed ‘the soldiers wife.’ There is also the possibility that as a soldier you are simply ‘married’ to the army. If anyone knows more I’m intrigued. On the subject of chauvinism, I read somewhere that Pete Seeger had culled songs on those grounds, with the suggestion that it had a rather drastic affect on his repertoire!! Apocryphal it must be, as surely the last things you turn to folk for are political correctness and as suggested previously, historical accuracy.