The Chasseurs d'Afrique are one of the famous military units of the world. From the formation of the first regiment in 1832 this light cavalry served in many parts of the world during the 19th century, including Algeria and much of North Africa, Italy, China, Mexico, Syria and France itself. During the Crimean War all four regiments in existence at the time took part and Chasseurs were present at most of the famous actions, but are best remembered for their part in the famous Charge of the Light Brigade. Once the British Light Brigade had set off and it became obvious they were blundering into a disaster the Chasseurs d'Afrique, 200 strong, distinguished themselves by charging the Russian batteries on the Fedioukine Hills to the north of the valley, silencing them and saving the returning remnants of the British cavalry from any fire from that quarter at least.
The French have long been lovers of tradition in matters military, which tends to mean they keep their uniforms unchanged for long periods of time, and this is true of these troops. Originally given a Polish-style czapska, they soon adopted a shortish tapering shako known as the casquette d'Afrique, which is what we find on these figures. This item remained little changed until 1873 when it was reduced to effectively become a kepi. Usually worn with a cloth cover, on these figures it is uncovered revealing the front cockade and pompon, which are fine. However all the figures also have a pompon on the right side of the cap which is not correct, but a simple trim will resolve this.
The uniform below the head changed even less during the 19th century. When on campaign these men wore the undress veste with a wide cummerbund and very baggy trousers with imitation 'boots' to below the knee. Over the left shoulder was a white belt supporting the cartridge pouch and the slung carbine when not in use. These figures model the uniform correctly in all regards. The officer (last figure in last row) is correctly shown in a short highly-decorated jacket with hussar-style braiding over the chest, but he has been given the same casquette as his men when he would usually wear the smaller kepi.
All the poses are well done and a good mix. A few are good for the march or waiting in line, but inevitably many are at the charge, which is how most customers like it. No one is using their firearm, but as the Chasseurs were renown for their gallant charges with the blade this does not seem to matter too much. Three of the figures, including the officer, have been given ring hands into which separate sabres fit, which make good natural poses. The second figure on the bottom row is evidently in the process of being hit, but is not particularly realistically posed, although the idea of such a pose is fine.
The style and standard of sculpting is what we have come to expect from Strelets, with good but fairly blocky detail and a complete absence of flash. The riders fit their horses very well, and give a good general impression.
Apart from the fact that these men should really be wearing the cloth covers with neck curtains these figures are suitable for France’s campaigns in the Crimea, Italy, Mexico and France (fighting the Germans in 1870) as well as many minor colonial engagements. That makes this set very useful and on the whole it has been well done. For the Crimean, Italian and 1870 campaigns this set is a vital component that is long overdue but all the more welcome now it is here.