For centuries the cuirassiers had been the heaviest of cavalry, the sledgehammer that would hopefully scatter the enemy and bring about the victory. By 1914 the distinctions between the various types of cavalry were extinct, at least in terms of tactical usage, but while the German cuirassiers no longer wore the cuirass they were still proud of their heritage.
As with their role so also with their uniform the cuirassiers, when on the field of battle, were increasingly hard to distinguish. Unlike the lancers and hussars they wore a quite basic uniform, with a tunic much like that of the infantry apart from a standing collar. Their helmet with spike and cloth cover was also almost the same as that of the infantry, except that it came down further towards the neck at the rear, and their webbing only differed in having slightly smaller ammunition pouches. All these features of the 1914 trooper are correctly represented here apart from the fact that none of them have any ammunition pouches on their left side. While in most cases this is largely hidden by the rider’s left arm its omission is still puzzling. The tunic seems to be the M1908 type, which was replaced later in the war although a few examples survived until the peace. More obvious dating evidence is to be found with the helmet, which dates these figures to the first two years of the war. The spike was often removed in the field, so this can easily be snipped off if desired here. Apart from the missing pouches the uniform is fine.
Much to its disappointment the cavalry found relatively few opportunities to practice its traditional skills, and many regiments were eventually dismounted while others spent much time well behind the lines guarding communications etc. On the Eastern front cavalry did play a larger mounted role, and the poses in this set are a fair reflection of that. Some are certainly involved in some sort of charge, but others are using or at least handling their carbine rifles from the saddle. Two of the figures (third figure in row two and second figure in row three) have ring hands, and two lances and a sword have been provided, which basically means the figure in the middle row could handle either weapon. We thought the selection of poses was pretty good, given that they are all mounted, although the trooper firing his weapon is not looking where he is pointing it!
The horses are the same as those used in several other Strelets sets of World War I German cavalry, so naturally our previous comments on those apply equally here. Most seem to be at the charge or something quite close to it, although the inclusion of a few walking and standing poses is very welcome. Some of the horse poses are fine, others are most definitely not, but the overall proportions are OK. All have the sabre on the left of the saddle when this should be on the right (although some photos seem to contradict this 'rule') – the left often held the rifle, which on these figures is slung across the back.
The sculpting is the usual Strelets quality, being fairly chunky and not particularly attractive but workmanlike. We found that the two ring hands needed a little enlargement to take the separate weapons, but the lances, though rather short, are nice and straight. Detail is variable but OK, and a nice touch is the monocle worn by the officer. Some poses fit some horses better than others, so be prepared to take time finding the best match between rider and animal.
While the First World War is not usually remembered for its cavalry Strelets have made a great effort to provide many such cavalry sets. With their earlier sets of Hussars and Uhlans this one largely completes the major German cavalry types of the early war as the dragoons were dressed in the same manner as these cuirassiers. This is another interesting and unusual subject for a conflict that has recently experienced enormous growth in the range of figures available.