All the major European powers were concerned about the effectiveness of their artillery when facing each other, but this was less true of their colonial adventures. Often facing difficult terrain, smaller pieces - in fact mountain guns - were the preferred form of artillery in many cases, particularly since the native opposition usually had no artillery of their own. Such guns could be loaded onto pack animals and transported quite easily, being reassembled ready for firing when needed, but the artillery actually used for any particular campaign depended on the local circumstances as well as availability and other factors.
The mid 19th century saw considerable improvements in artillery, with the widespread introduction of rifling and breech-loading, making guns quicker to use and more accurate over longer distances. However not all were convinced of the virtues of breech-loading, and it did present problems of its own, so in the mid 1860s the British decided to revert to muzzle-loading guns, partly for reasons of simplicity and cost. By the end of that decade the usual gun for colonial warfare was the 7-pdr, a muzzle-loading mountain gun on a small carriage that was easier to handle in difficult terrain. However where the terrain was more open the standard British artillery piece of the day, the 9-pounder RML gun was found to be better suited, and it is a 9-pdr that is modelled in this set.
At least two types of the 9-pdr were produced. The first, with a weight of 8 cwt, was the standard weapon issued to the foot artillery, but a lighter 6 cwt version was given to the horse artillery, and later the lighter version replaced the heavier in both arms of the service. With a barrel length of 20mm this model is too short to be the 8 cwt version, so must be the lighter version. Equally the carriage is considerably smaller so again is the 6 cwt version. The general design of the gun and carriage is fine, although it does lack the seats that were placed either side of the barrel (an extremely fiddly detail whose absence is easily understandable).
The figures all wear the foreign service helmet introduced around the early 1870s and seem to have the undress frock which was the favoured dress of the Royal Artillery when on active duty. This relatively straightforward uniform is correctly done here, and all the figures also carry a canteen and haversack. The final figure pictured above has a revolver holster, but if he were an officer then he would normally have had a braided jacket and perhaps even a sword, so this man must be an NCO (who also sometimes sported revolvers).
All the poses are in fairly classic artillery poses, which is perfectly fine. The man carrying the ammunition box is a bit unusual, and we can imagine the first figure in the second row pulling a lanyard to fire the weapon. What exactly the NCO is doing is hard to guess, yet the pose is still perfectly reasonable.
Made in the usual soft HaT plastic, the gun model goes together very well and the sculpting of the figures is pretty good. The faces are OK and a fair attempt has been made at the Austrian knots on the cuffs of the men’s tunics, which are considerably raised, which will aid painting. With no flash these are well produced figures, and make a good crew.
The 9 pdr was the standard British gun of the 1870s, having been introduced in 1871 and still in use a decade later. Although as we have said it was by no means the only (nor even the most common) British gun to be used in her colonial conflicts, it certainly did see such use. The major colonial conflict of this era, the Zulu War, seems not to have used this weapon. Certainly during the early stages the 7 pdr was used, and when 9-pdrs were sent after news of the disaster at Isandlwana, they were of the heavier 8 cwt type which is not modelled here. For that conflict the only possibility for this gun is for use with the Naval Brigade, and even this is speculative as the precise type is not known today. Either way, these are not Naval Brigade figures. However for other colonial conflicts this combination of weapon and crew would be fine. In truth we would have much preferred to have seen either the 8 cwt version of the 9-pdr or better yet a 7-pdr, so it could have been used for the Zulu War. Nonetheless all the models here are accurate and very nicely turned out.