At the close of the 19th century the new internal combustion engine was starting to revolutionise transport, but for most of that century society was heavily dependent of the horse, and nowhere more so than in the army. Armies required vast numbers of horses to pull wagons in addition to the obvious needs of the cavalry and artillery, and where there were horses there had to be smiths and forges. Add to that the need to repair equipment in the field and it is clear that the forge was an essential part of any campaign. While Europe had smithies in every town it was wise to take your forge with you, especially when campaigning in the thinly populated areas of Eastern Europe, which brings us to this model from HaT.
There was no one design of forge but this model represents a typical example. Towards the front there is the hearth where the fire was lit, and behind it of course are the bellows - in this case operated by a single handle. At the front and rear of the vehicle are chests for tools, and the whole is pulled by a standard Gribeauval limber with two horses. All aspects of the design are authentic but we were far from sure that two horses would have been considered adequate. Certainly many contemporary illustrations show a four horse team, so if extra horses are required these can be obtained from the HaT French Ammunition Caisson set.
The set is made from a fairly soft plastic, which in our view is not the ideal material for such kits, although at least it is not prone to breaking like hard plastic kits can, and it does take glue well. While all the parts fit together they are liable to bend - particularly the delicate thin parts - which makes construction less than easy. The result looks good however, if inevitably somewhat simplified as the real thing would have had chains and assorted other small parts.
When a kit such as this is made, it always gladdens the heart to see some figures and accessories included which bring the vehicle to life. In this case we find two smiths busy going about their work. One is hammering, presumably using the anvil that is also supplied, while the other carries a piece of work with his tongs. A bucket, perhaps used as an impromptu slack tub, completes the accessories. Finally we find the outrider, which is the same figure found in several other HaT Napoleonic wagon sets. The sculpting of these figures is no more than fair, and they do suffer from a small amount of flash, but they do add a good deal to the set as a whole and are very welcome.
In any army it is the front line troops that grab all the headlines, yet all require the support of services such as this forge - even those of Napoleon, which were famous for living off the lands they conquered. This is an attractive and interesting model which will immediately appeal to those looking for more unusual subjects for a Napoleonic diorama, so while not the easiest kit to assemble this should prove popular.