When Napoleon became emperor, the Republic of Italy was reshaped into the Kingdom of Italy. Troops were reorganized according to the new French structure and this is the time period chosen by First Legion to produce the Italian 3rd Line Infantry collection, also known as the 3º reggimento fanteria leggera. With it came one sapper with a slightly familiar look. Let’s look at the NAP0669 - Italian 3rd Line Infantry Sapper.

Sappers, or pioneers as they are also called, are a type of soldier engineer created by Marshall Vauban during the late 17th century. Their main function was to destroy enemy fortifications using mines and trenches filled with explosives. Breaching a fortification wall that way usually had a big psychological impact on the defenders. After such an explosion, they were often keen to surrender. As Vauban himself once said: “'More powder, less blood.”

Many will know the Marquis for his defensive star-shaped fortification,
but he also was a master of offensive tactics.

It did not take long for the sappers to add more creative tricks to their arsenal and become key units in warfare in many countries. By the time of the Napoleonic Wars, they were used to level any problem that an advancing unit could have encountered. This often meant to tear away defensive elements with their iconic axe while being shot at. To protect themselves from the splinters and debris, they were wearing a pair of gloves and an apperon. Obviously, it was quite a risky job and their life expectancy was shorter than the average soldier. Therefore they were given the right to wear a beard and they were doing this proudly. Their beards were a symbol of their courage.

The figure from First Legion respects every element of the sapper tradition. However, the axe is not in hands but tied on his knapsack. He instead plans to fight with his sword today. This sapper is also using two pistols for personal defense. Having two shots ready was quite a luxe and could help them to extend a bit their lifespan in combat situations. He is aiming at a target on his left side. This contrasts with the usual “firing forward” pose of the troops and this is fitting as sappers were often acting on their own on the battlefield. One other beautiful detail is the choice of more fashionable striped pants. The rest of the uniform is very similar to a French uniform from the same time, except that the colors are different.

Talking of the uniform, some of you might recognize the top part of that figure. When First Legion started the Napoleonic collection, one of the first pieces released was the NAP0048 - French Line Infantry Sapper in Close Quarters. They share the same mould for the upper part of the figure. This is not a problem as they were sharing the same cut for their uniform, plus the NAP0048 was a good looking Sapper. So it’s good to see it available again in a way. However, it’s the first time this torso is used with such pants.

Oh! NAP0048! It seems like such a long time ago!

To summarize, we have an authentic fearless Italian sapper, with all the required parts: An apron, a pair of gloves, a full privileged beard and an axe. It might reuse the same part as an old figure, but it was a good one. The only missing thing for him is a challenge on a new battlefield.