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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Kerosene cans [not petrol] for carrying water


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Mea culpa - Please excuse my carelessness, but I've have mislaid the original the reference for this

However, I clearly remember a Gallipoli MO, or more probably one of the Naval surgeons with the RND, explaining that Kerosene cans, and not Petrol cans, must be used for carrying water.

The reason he gave for this was that he had seen too many hand wounds resulting from men carrying the petrol cans.

Can anyone explain to me the difference between to these two types of cans? Or better yet, can anyone come up with an illustration of the difference?


Thanks in advance.


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I know that the petrol cans of that era had a flat metal handle which is really uncomfortable to carry a full can for any distance as they cut in and stop the blood flow to your fingers.  The oil cans of the time, however had a round wire and wood handle similar to a bucket handle and much more user friendly.  I can only assume that the Kerosene can was of the same manufacture.


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Depends on what was meant by petrol and kerosene cans.

IWM photos show different types of petrol can:

Small (maybe 1 gallon?) https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205247233

and large (maybe between 2 and 5 gallons?) https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205236607

'Kerosene tin' : https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205183512

Edited by Dai Bach y Sowldiwr
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Standard 2 gallon petrol can dated 1917

1917 petrol can.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Pompey & Dai,

Thank you both for your interest and help here. Thank you also for mentioning the size; another oversight for which I apologise.


The transport from the beach, or the Supply Depot, was by mule,

and each mule carried four, 4-gallon Kerosene Cans (or tins in some accounts).

The problem with hand wounds must have occurred either when loading, or more likely,

at the unloading and distribution stage. This latter would have been by the battalion concerned,

and hence the involvement of the battalion MO/Surgeon to attend to the resulting hand wounds if Petrol Cans had been used instead of Kerosene ones.


An alternative scenario is the collection of water from a well. In which case the man-handling and carry would have very probably been further and the strain/stress on the men's hands greater, resulting in the more likelihood of wounds if the wrong cans had been used.




Edited by michaeldr
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