When Napoleon’s high-handed actions in Spain and Portugal sparked a general war in the Iberian Peninsula, Britain saw an opportunity to field troops against her longstanding foe rather than just dominating the seas, funding resistance in Europe and attacking remote colonies. Troops began landing in Portugal in August 1808, and for the next six years they and their local allies fought a series of engagements, with widely varying degrees of success, until they eventually entered France itself and, combined with French disasters in Russia and pressure from much of Germany, they saw what they thought was the final collapse of Napoleon and his empire.
Although many sets of Napoleonic British infantry have been made over the years, most have concentrated on the relatively brief period at the very end of the wars - including of course Waterloo - despite Britain’s commitment to Spain and Portugal lasting very much longer. The major difference between the 1815 uniform and that of the Peninsular War was the shako, which from 1800 (with a slight modification in 1806) was the 'stovepipe' that all these men wear. All have the small plume at the front and the large plate which, amazingly, actually has a very decent engraving of a typical design, though you will need some good eyes and excellent magnifier to see it. All also have the leather neck protector at the back, which is hooked up as was common. Although the 'Belgic' shako of Waterloo fame was introduced in 1812, many men still wore the stovepipe right up to the end of the Peninsular War. The short-tailed coat with lacing on the chest is well done, as are all the other elements. The coats all have tufts on the shoulder straps, marking these men as belonging to a centre or battalion company, much the most common type of company in a regiment. The men all wear loose trousers, which were officially more widespread later in the war but were widely worn on a semi-official basis virtually from the start of the campaign.
Variations in uniform are to be found on the officers and speciality troops. Both officers wear breeches and boots, and long-tailed coats with lapels partly buttoned back to reveal the facing colour. Both have the usual sash round the waist tied correctly on the left side, and the bicorn hat which remained a favourite even when they were ordered to wear a shako late in the war. The foot officer has a sword hung from a baldric while his mounted companion has his from a waist belt - both exactly as per regulation. The sergeant with his spontoon correctly wears a similar uniform to the men but with the addition of a waist sash tied to the right, and the drummer has the traditional swallows nest wings on his jacket, but no apparent chevron lacing on the sleeves - a common but by no means universal drummer distinction.
The men carry the usual musket of course, and the officers both have swords, as do the sergeant and drummer. All the men are wearing their packs, which since they are quite square and regular look to be the relatively new 'Trotter' type being introduced at this time. On these figures the pack is slung fairly low on the back, presumably to make life easier for the sculptor by allowing room for the rolled blanket everyone has without restricting access to the back of the neck. All the soldiers have a full complement of cartridge pouch, bayonet, haversack and canteen, but the drummer has just the latter two and the sergeant just the haversack - for some reason he lacks a canteen. Finally the dismounted officer has a small spyglass in a case, but as with the uniform, all the kit here is correctly done and properly placed.
On the whole the poses are conventional but all very well done and very useable by modellers or gamers. The nice marching figure is much the most numerous, which is always good, but there is a good selection of firing, advancing and fighting poses too. The man using the ramrod comes with a separate right arm to avoid extra plastic, but otherwise there is no human assembly, yet the poses do not feel in the least bit flat or restricted. Kneeling firing is a popular subject for Napoleonic figure sets even though it was mainly a stance used by light infantry, but as ordinary fusiliers could on occasion serve as lights this is still a useful pose. We thought that the sergeant was a bit boring as a pose - something more active would have been nice - but the foot officer is the pick of the crop, being extremely active and a very refreshing change from the normal rather staid officer pose. A word is also required about the horse, which as you see is standing. The gait is perfect, which is only achieved by having the animal in two halves. This is a very simple bit of putting together, and the resulting pose is well worth it.
Emhar figures are always lovely and slender - it is easy to forget when looking at the chunky offerings from some companies that natural human proportions are actually like these figures. The detail everywhere is simply perfect and beautifully done, although as usual this is not deeply engraved so some care is needed to avoid swamping it when painting. The separate arm of the man and the horse halves all go together effortlessly, and the plastic makes a strong bond using just ordinary cement, so this is an easy set to assemble and make ready, especially as there is no excess plastic and virtually no flash. The one fly in the ointment is the mounted man, who seems to sit well on the saddle but actually hovers slightly above it - hard to see when put together but worth remembering if the intention is to glue man to horse.
While always nice to see a Napoleonic set with a mounted officer, we would have preferred a base for the horse, although it stands perfectly well without one. However we make no secret of being fans of the realistic style of sculpting to be found on Emhar, IMEX and Pegasus figures, and those here are every bit as good as any that have gone before - simply beautiful. With no accuracy problems and a good range of poses, this is a set we really enjoyed reviewing.