"Am I good with explosives? If I was bad with high-impact explosives, I wouldn't be here to explain it to you!"
- — Trooper Bandro, 34th Elysian Drop Troops
A Breacher is a trooper of the Imperial Guard who specialise in the use of explosives for demolition operations and siege warfare. A Breacher possesses a particularly valuable (and volatile) set of skills ranging from using demolition charges to breach enemy fortifications to supervising the fortification of his unit's own positions. Such individuals are vital when a regiment fielding any vehicle heavier than a Sentinel armoured walker must pass through especially dense terrain where there are no roads, ranging ahead of the main force and demolishing any impediments to the unit's progress. They are also incredibly useful and effective when facing the enemy, though some troopers find the obvious enjoyment that many of these soldiers take from high-impact explosives off-putting at best and terrifying at worst.
These troopers are frequently to be found leading the charge against enemy positions, an explosive clutched in each hand and a terrifying grimace on their faces. Such soldiers often have a particular knack for locating and bypassing booby traps, cutting through razorwire, fording ditches, climbing over high obstacles and blowing holes in walls, doors, fortifications, and enemy soldiers unfortunate enough to be in their path. To this end, these troopers often carry a range of specialised equipment to assist with any such tasks they might be assigned. Depending on the equipment available, these can range from the most basic tools such as axes, wire cutters, and collapsible ladders to hand-held scanners, helmet-mounted hazard-sense prognosticators and Null-Vox jammers that disable command operated mines, point defences, and other security measures.
When their squad has need of their particular unique skills, such troopers are frequently called upon to lead the way in any assault upon fortified enemy positions, clearing any hazards they encounter. Such a duty carries with it a high mortality rate, for being the first trooper through any opening they can make in an enemy position is extraordinarily dangerous. A canny squad leader always ensures that the trooper filling this role holds back after having created such an opening, herding other, less vital members of the squad through first. Such is the brutal reality of life at the speartip of the wars of the Imperium.
Breachers are to be found at many different levels of the Imperial Guard's regimental structure, from line troopers who are particularly talented with the clever placement of grenades to elite scouts ranging behind a force to detonate bridges as a pursuing foe attempts to cross. Where the skills and equipment are to hand, most regiments ensure that there are enough troopers with the requisite skills to perform such tasks, and some even aim to have one such individual per squad. Some larger or more specialised regiments train all of the troopers in particular squads in these advanced demolitions tactics, so that they can make better strategic use of explosive surprises for their foes. Many Imperial Guard Breachers are first and foremost line troopers, albeit ones upon whom entire massed formations must rely when assaulting heavily fortified enemy positions.
The level of training a demolitions expert receives depends very much on the base technology level of his home culture. It is rare for troopers to receive hypno-indoctrination or any form of psycho or bionic conditioning on the use of high-explosive devices. Instead, training is often a selective, natural process. Most troopers either learn to avoid duties involving such dangerous devices, gain a level of competency in their use, or perish in a rain of fiery shrapnel. Breachers from less technologically inclined worlds are taught to detect enemy booby traps and concealed positions using their often superior native skills of perception and fieldcraft. In contrast, those from a higher technological base are sometimes instructed in the proper use of all manner of scanners, jammers, and equipment for efficiently defusing explosives to overcome the same challenges posed by traps, mine fields, and the other such hazards. Most troopers can be successfully instructed in the application of demolition charges, though much of the time only those from the more technological planetary backgrounds are generally equipped with the more complex forms of command detonation trigger. Those unused to such technology must rely on simple fuse wire and the blessings of the God-Emperor to detonate their explosives correctly.
Breachers are often held by their comrades to have a dangerous fascination with explosives in all their forms. Many love nothing more than demolishing large structures and many have earned themselves a deserved reputation as vandals and pyromaniacs. Of course, some troopers who work with high explosives are more responsible than others, but those who safely diffuse bombs every time are less memorable than those who tinker with bombs in their spare time as their squad mates watch with apprehension. Nonetheless, most demolitions experts are respected members of their unit, for they routinely place themselves in great danger, whether leading an assault against an enemy position or defusing a lethal booby trap.
Even the far less hazardous duties these soldiers must regularly undertake are usually arduous and unpleasant. When deploying into a new position, even if only for a single night, it often falls to the member of a squad most experienced at tearing down fortifications to direct the construction of makeshift defences, gun pits and shelters, a task that often involves lots of digging, cutting, felling of trees and shouting at comrades reluctantly assigned to carry out whatever order he gives. When the unit is on the march, the demolitions expert often has to travel at the head of the squad or platoon, maintaining a constant vigil for any impediments to progress, whether caused by difficult terrain or enemy action.
There are several specific types of operation where the skills of a squad's demolitions expert are most required, and where squads suffer the most for lacking one or more individuals who have firsthand experience in this kind of warfare. The most obvious is the deliberate assault on a fortified enemy position, one of the most perilous types of battle most Imperial Guardsmen ever undertake. Those with the experience to do so must lead their units through areas seeded with every type of mine, from tanglefoot to stasis bursts, as well as locations protected by las-trips, screamer nodes and all manner of disruptive field effects. They must evade, defeat or simply push through all manner of detection systems. Thanks to their experience with explosives, these individuals must also frequently blow their way through all manner of obstacles, including mile after mile of deadly razorwire, tank traps, and barricades -- though many seem to take to this destructive work with a concerning relish. Having survived the advance, they often place and operate whatever explosives are necessary to break into the enemy position, using anything from a bandolier of Frag Grenades to a heavy, industrial-grade Las Cutter.
There are generally two ways of spotting a foe with a knowledge of explosives and bringing down fortifications. The first is to observe how the unit manoeuvres and the jobs each trooper is performing within it. While soldiers with demolitions expertise do not always take the point position for the entire advance, they are likely to take the lead during specific phases. The other means of identifying a soldier dedicated to the art of explosives is by the wargear he carries and uses. Though most simply carry their standard kit, many have specialised tools to help arm and disarm explosives -- to say nothing of the explosive devices themselves. Of course, many of humanity's enemies are entirely incapable of distinguishing one human from another, regarding them all as equally faceless prey.
There are soldiers who could be considered demolitions experts in many regiments, and at the very least, there is almost always at least one trooper in a squad tasked with carrying a set of wire cutters and the duty to use them should the unit find itself crossing an area sown with razorwire or faced with a ticking explosive. At the other end are those regiments that train large numbers of their soldiers in at least basic demolitions technique, and arm them with appropriate weapons and tools to take advantage of these skills accordingly.
The Elysian Drop Troops regiments tend to have troopers trained extensively in demolitions. This is necessary because the Drop Troopers can carry very little in the way of heavy equipment. A Demolition Charge must be delivered from extreme short range, but is potentially more destructive than all but the heaviest ordnance shot. So long as the Breacher is skilled and can place it correctly, a Demolition Charge can cause incredible damage to even the most fortified of defences. This precision often allows the Elysians to execute the rapid strikes for which they are renowned, shattering bulwarks and descending upon their enemy before their hapless foe can even raise an alarm.
The Catachan Jungle Fighters make extensive use of troopers armed with Demolition Charges. In the dense jungle terrain in which the Catachans are so expert in fighting, battles are often fought at incredibly short range, making Demolition Charges far more usable than heavier weapons. Often, a man can be sent forward to hurl a charge at any enemy position before a heavier weapon can be set up and fired, making such devices hugely effective in the hands of the fearsome Catachans. Enemy commanders wise enough to observe their past mistakes quickly learn to be wary of these and other tactics used by the wily Catachan Jungle Fighters, but even the best preparations can rarely withstand a sufficient volume of carefully placed high explosive.
Death Korps Engineers are specialists in siege warfare techniques who serve in the Imperial Guard regiments of the Death Korps of Krieg that hail from the devastated, post-apocalyptic Death World of Krieg. Death Korps Engineers specialise in the techniques required to wage subterranean warfare, including digging shafts, tunnels and extensive trenchworks intended to undermine a heavily fortified enemy's strong points and to allow Krieg regiments to launch surprise raids behind enemy lines. Squads of Krieg Engineers often carry a lot of highly technical equipment into battle, such as geo-thermic Auspexes, surveyors, Breaching Torpedoes and Melta-charges, as well as equipment that can be used by hand to dig or extend subterranean fortifications. They also have access to heavier cutting equipment for boring deep tunnels and mines and even a Mole Launcher which is a special type of Missile Launcher that fires burrowing torpedoes that are capable of digging through enemy obstacles and detonating on the other side.
The Scintillan Fusiliers also make significant use of soldiers trained in demolitions techniques. Clever traps, such as buildings rigged to collapse upon entry and vast mine fields, suit the spire-born nobles. These deadly ruses allow them to watch their foolish and unworthy enemies burn from afar without even sullying their hands to fire a shot.
- Standard Imperial Guard Regimental Kit
- 1 Demolition Charge - A Demolition Charge is a simple explosive device, commonly used for blowing open doors, breaching bulkheads, and destroying infrastructure. A Demolition Charge represents 1 kilogram of explosives, though it is possible to rig charges together, thus increasing their destructive potential.
- 2 Frag Grenades - Frag Grenades use a combustible charge and special fillers of shrapnel fragments. Imperial frag grenades are roughly the size of a clenched fist and covered with a heavily notched shell, both to increase the shrapnel produced and provide a more secure grip for throwing.
- 2 Snare Mines
- Combi-Tool - Commonly found in the hands of members of the Adeptus Mechanicus, Combi-Tools are versatile, if somewhat bizarre, mechanical devices useful for a number of different mechanical operations.
- Respirator - A simple breathing mask that covers the nose and mouth or entire face, these offer much better protection than filtration plugs.
- Trooper Callie "Nucleonic" Nolan - To date, the most decorated demolitions specialist in active service on the Spinward Front in the Calixis Sector is Trooper Callie Nolan of the 221st Cadian Shock Troops. Trooper Nolan is regarded by many of her comrades as something of a maverick, and it is certainly true that she does not entirely fit the stereotype of Imperial Guardsmen from her homeworld. While her peers were learning to field strip a Lasgun blindfolded at the age of seven, Nolan was teaching herself the arts of demolition and developing a love for explosives of all kinds. Initially, Trooper Nolan's instructors sought to restrain her destructive urges, but one Drill Abbot, a veteran of many glorious campaigns, recognised her skills for what they were -- a genuinely Emperor-given weapon to be wielded like any other (provided that she could learn to direct the explosions towards the God-Emperor's enemies). After receiving proper training on the matter, Nolan became a true force to be reckoned with. Since the 221st was dispatched to the Spinward Front, Trooper Nolan has well and truly found her calling. She has participated in numerous assaults, many against the Severan Dominate but recently against the Orks of WAAAGH! Grimtoof as well. It is said of Trooper Nolan that the smell of fyceline hangs about her no matter how hard she scrubs her skin and that she is never to be found without at least a dozen different types of explosive about her person. She received notable accolades for her actions fighting against WAAAGH! Grimtoof, her most storied victory against the Greenskins involving a heroic leap onto the back of a massive Squiggoth while it passed a ruined hive spire, after which point she and her squad liberally applied demolition charges to the massive creature and escaped the exploding behemoth using grapnels. Of her many battle honours, however, Nolan's most recent and greatest accomplishment is the breaching of the wall of the Temple of Ebon, a Severan Dominate fortress that had, before Trooper Nolan’s attack, never been successfully assaulted. Having breached the outer walls of the fortress, Trooper Nolan's squad penetrated deep into the foundations and in doing so encountered the nucleonic core that powered the fort's Void Shield. Placing a demolition charge that blew out the reactor's cooling circuits, Nolan caused the largest explosion of her career to date, estimated to be analogous to a nucleonic detonation with a yield of approximately seven kilotons. Miraculously, most of Nolan's squad escaped the explosion that consumed the Temple of Ebon, though all sustained substantial radiation poisoning which was only cured thanks to the ministrations of the medicae staff attached to the 221st.
- Imperial Armour Volume Six - The Siege of Vraks - Part Two, pp. 64-65, 94-98, 109
- Only War: Hammer of the Emperor (RPG), pp. 58-61