With the sudden urgent need for troops in China in the spring of 1900 France sent those closest at hand - the Infanterie de la Marine, France's colonial troops in Indo-China. However she also sent numbers of reinforcements from metropolitan France, assuming quite reasonably that while they would take some time to sail round the world they would probably still be needed by the time they arrived. In any case, Germany and other states were doing the same thing so France felt she had to as well. In the event the fighting was over before these troops arrived, but they stayed as part of the allied army of occupation.
This set is actually made up of three types of uniform. The first five figures pictured above are dressed as Zouaves, with the short jacket and immensely baggy trousers. Zouaves certainly served in China at this time, and these figures wear the classic uniform that was to last for so long, but with the interesting addition of a tropical helmet. The tropical helmet (which would be the 1886 model at this date) had first been introduced in the 1870s once France’s colonial ambitions recovered from their defeat at the hands of Germany. It was standard wear for the colonial troops, but not the Zouaves, who did not come under the Ministre de la Marine and had their own traditional headwear anyway. However it seems reasonable that such troops may have worn this helmet on occasion.
The next four figures are of infantrymen in their paletot jackets. Summer in northern China is no place to be wearing a heavy greatcoat, so it would seem reasonable that these men would be in jackets rather than the heavy capote, although military authority is often far from reasonable. They could also serve as rifles companies.
Finally there are two figures in the classic French military garb including the double-breasted capote coat and full pack. Such a uniform would be a nightmare in the summer months but much more suitable for the cooler months, once the 'rebellion' was over. Since they also wear the normal kepi it would seem these are reasonable for the troops that stayed through to 1901. Finally we have an officer in a long frock coat and with a sash around his waist.
All the figures seem to have the belts and kit appropriate for the Lebel rifles that they should be carrying, and many of them have full packs on their backs.
By covering several orders of dress the range of poses is spread unevenly between them, so for example there are no soldiers with jackets firing. However by avoiding kneeling and prone poses RedBox have made a decent attempt to cover as much ground as possible, and in general the poses are useful, although the soldier resting his rifle muzzle on the back of his neck was not a favourite of ours.
Sculpting is typical RedBox in style, which is levels of detail that are adequate but not impressive. Smaller items tend to disappear and finer detail such as that on weapons is indistinct or simply not there. Many seem to have a blob on their right hip, which may be a canteen (it certainly should be), although in truth it does not look any anything in particular. However the recent improvement in terms of flash continues here, with almost none of that unwanted waste to be found.
Although not involved in the immediate action of the Boxer Rebellion, if you take the longer French presence in China as part of the whole campaign then these figures are useful, and of course there is some scope for their use in French colonial actions elsewhere. Another piece in the expanding RedBox Boxer Rebellion range which won’t win any beauty prizes but just about does the job.