Although it might seem difficult to accept for the victorious allies in the Second World War, the germans were far ahead of them in terms of industrial design and warfare technology. We could talk for hours about the superiority of the Panther Tank, or the evil futuristic destruction power of the un-piloted V1 & latter V2, an early pulse-jet-powered predecessor of the cruise missile. But its not about these complex wonders that we want to talk about today, but rather of an utter simpler design we all own, or at least have operated in our lives. This is the Wehrmachtkanister or Jerrycan, as it is now known today, “Jerry” being Allied the slang for German.
Armies need fuel almost more than water, so in Nov. 1936 the German Army launched an invitation to tender for a new model of container to replace the old cans and equip all their motorized units. The firm Müller of Schwelm under the direction of the chief engineer Vinzenz Grünvogel developed a revolutionary new design that is still as good today as it was almost one century ago. A modern design masterpiece which we are very proud to use as only fuel reservoir in our rebellious Ducati Petardo, an adventure that made us need to know more about the cool Jerrycan.
With rectangular form and curved edges, it was constructed from two pressed steel plates, needing to be assembled by just one single weld in the central gutter, or “Equator”, and an X-shaped indentation on each side which ensured its shock protection, never leaked, and had a capacity of twenty liters with a weight of only four kilos. Maybe the most interesting part is the handle with three bars. And you may think why three?
In contrast the Allies were carrying fuel in the so called “Flimsy”, which was a flat sided, unergonomic, pressed steel container, in which all flat sides needed to be individually welded together at the edges. You needed a wrench to attach and remove the cap, a funnel to fill the container and a spout to empty it. The containers held four Imperial gallons… and tended to leak at the corners, where the welds would fail, and there why the containers became colloquially known as “flimsies.”