When the Boxer Rebellion flared up in China the USA was in an interesting transitional period. Having recently successfully concluded a war with Spain her newly won foreign possessions made her an imperial power, and at the time large numbers of American troops were attempting to subdue their Philippine possession. Initially the US government tried to avoid getting involved in China but quickly realised that military force was necessary and shipped many troops from the Philippines. This set contains regular infantry, of which there were none present during the siege of the Legations in Peking nor in Seymour’s relief force. However many took part in Gaselee’s relief force and in subsequent operations against the Boxers.
As for many nations this was a period when coloured uniforms were giving way to drab ones. The figures in this set all wear the M1898 khaki blouse, which is correctly done with the four pockets. Trousers are covered below the knee with leggings, and on the head is the comfortable campaign hat, again correctly moulded. All this is correct, but we were surprised to see that the men were not in shirt-sleeved order. Much of the campaign took place in the very hot and dry Chinese summer, and photos suggest shirt-sleeved order was, quite naturally, the norm. These figures do not even have a top button open, which is smart but not a great choice in our view.
Most figures have a waist belt (on which they would carry their ammunition) and a few have a canteen on a strap across the chest. All these items are correct, but the wonder is these men are so lightly equipped. Many have no canteen, one has no belt and none have a knapsack, rolled blanket, haversack or other impedimenta. A grand total of three of the poses have a scabbard for their bayonet – an item which should have been the norm. Such light order would have been possible but probably the exception rather than the rule, so we would have liked to have seen a more usual level of kit. One item some figures do have is a small pouch attached to the belt. We cannot explain this item except to say that it looks like the old percussion cap pouch, a completely obsolete item by 1900.
The poses are an unremarkable but perfectly serviceable bunch. Hand-to-hand fighting with Boxers or Imperial Chinese troops was very rare so the best pose – the man thrusting with his bayonet – is less appealing than it first seems, but the good number of firing poses is highly appropriate. On the whole these are not quite as flat as earlier RedBox output so will do well enough here.
Although the detail is not bad it is very shallow and sometimes hard to make out. For example the waist belts should have either single or double rows of cartridges, yet these are without detail here. Also straps tend to be rather random. Two figures (the first one in the first two rows) have a strap over the left shoulder but nothing at the hip, making it look like some reversed Sam Browne belt. Occasionally things get really ugly – just looking at the head of the crawling figure sends a shiver down the spine. Lastly the running figure in the last row has a large lump on his left arm/chest which defies any explanation. Flash levels are quite variable but there is certainly some trimming required here.
In summary then the choice of blouses for all these men and the unimpressive sculpting leaves much room for improvement. An average set at best.