The Jerry Can We Use in SAF Actually Has a Pretty Sad Origin

Image: Andrew Angelov /

You probably know what a jerry can look like if you’ve served in the army during NS. These 20 litres containers are used to transport clean water when you’re outfield, and you’re almost always glad to see them when you have to refill your water bottle.

Well, either that or hate them when you have to carry them into the 5 ton.

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Have you ever wondered why this container is called the Jerry can? Or did you, like us, just assume that’s its name and forgot all about it?

Well, you might be surprised to know but the name “Jerry Can” has exists for a pretty long time, since WWII, in fact.

The Jerry Can has existed since WWII, and it was the Germans who first came up with this design. Back then, while the rest of the world were using small, thin and almost unusable cans to transport their fuels, the Germans have their well-designed metal cans that allow them to store and transport fuel easily and conveniently.


The British named the containers Jerry Cans because these cans are from their enemies, German WWII soldiers whom they called Jerries.

There had been numerous attempts to redesign the German’s design, but the original design was proven better and the Allies decided to just use the German ones.

The X indention at the side isn’t placed there for aesthetic reasons, but to allow the liquid inside to have more surface area when it expands or contracts based on the temperature.

This resulted in less spillage and less leakage, something that plagued that Allies when they were using their old, flimsy containers to transport their fuel on military campaigns.

It was later that the Jerry Can was used to contain both water and fuel, and these containers are imprinted with signs telling users of the liquid contained within them so as to prevent a mix-up.

So, are you surprised to know that behind the plastic Jerry Cans we used often in NS, lies such a deep and meaningful story?