Thursday, 4 April 2013

Sapeurs d'Infanterie - Part 2

Part 2: Equipment

 Apron (Tablier)

The Journal Militiare for 1813 states that the Tablier du Sapeur was:

'Made from white thin buffalo leather [En buffle blanc legere],  with a loop of the same piece as the apron, is fastened around the neck of the garment by means of a belt and rolls of a button, to the right, and around the waist over the undergarment by means of two large thongs.'

The Tablier was 1m 150 overall and was to reach to 330mm from the ground. The loop which went around the neck and fastened with a leather button was 210mm long and the two lanieres were each 950mm in length. It was 550mm wide at the mid point and 850 at the bottom edge.


Conversely the Memorial de l'Officer d'Infanterie 1813 pp.  719-720 (quoting the 'Decision du 4 Brumaire AnX) describes the Tablier as being made from sheepskin:

'In strong Chamois Leather, with its  flower [?], edged with the same; two buff leather straps, 18 pouces [long], one with a button hole in the end and the other a rolled leather button. At the two extremities of the Tablier on one an iron hook and the other an iron eyelet;  length of the Tablier, from one end to the other, four feet; width in the middle 25 pouces; width at the lowest edge 30 pouces'

In the same year, the Tablier was quoted by the Manuel General du Service des Etat Majors as being made from chamois leather and costing 7F 60.

The wear-out period for the Tablier was listed according to the Ministerial Circular of 19 December 1811 as being 20 years and the Tablier was to cost 7F 60 (Memorial de l'Officier d'Infanterie, p. 721).  From 28 November 1811 the cost of equipping the sapeurs was to be borne by the Regiment.

In 1815 the Tablier cost 7F 60 (Tarif general des effets a la charge des masses a habillement, p. 2)

Axe case (Porte-Hache)

 The Memorial de l'Officier describes the Porte-Hache as being made from blackened buff leather, with a wear-out period of 20 years (p. 719). It was to measure:

'13 pouces by 9 pouces, the same size as the head of the axe; and on one face a pouch measuring 4 pouces wide and two and a half pouces high; A flap 9 pouces long and two pouces 9 lines deep; two straps 6 pouces long with two pronged copper buckles with passants in buff; a  belt in buff leather 3 pouces wide and 5 pouces [sic, Pied] long, with a loop in the middle to support the handle of the axe, 16 lines wide.'

 Neither the Porte-Harche nor its belt were to have any decoration.

In 1815 the axe case and belt were to cost 12F 50 (the axe itself cost 35F). The axe case and belt were devoid of any decoration.

 Axe case belt (Banderole Porte-Hache)

 Officially devoid of any ornamentation, the belts of the Imperial Guard, however, were lavishly decorated!

The Chasseurs a Pied of the Guard in 1815 purchased 75 brass Tete de Meduse devices for their cross belts: one on the axe case belt, the other on the sabre belt.

Three banderoles are known to exist attributable to the Guard and all three are virtually identical:

Musee de l'Armee axe  case and belt. The belt is decorated with a Tete de Meduse, Grande and Cross Axes.
Axe, case and banderole in the musee de l'Armee. The cartridge box is decorated with a miniature version of the brass emblems as for a Grenadier's cartridge pouch. A second example has the four corner grenades but brass crossed-axes in the centre.

An identical version appeared recently at acution:


 A manaquin at Salon de Provence of a Line infantry sapeur wearing a Banderole Porte-Hache with the stitched edges of the Guard; the ornaments consist of a Tete de Meduse, axes and grenade. The sabre belt is also decorated.

Sapeur's equipment from the Restoration period Gardes Nationale. The banderole has a Tete de Medue, crossed azes and grande devices and the tab is decorated with a lion's paw (as seen on the example at Salon de Provence). The axe case  has four grenades and crossed axes. It is worth bearingin mind that when the Royal Guard was disbanded in 1830 its leather equipment was passed over to the newly formed Gardes Nationale. Given the official "wear out" period for this equipment was 20 years it is likely that this equipment here is, in fact, First Empire, handed down from the Imperial to the Royal Guard.

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