The French Army had had light regiments since the later 18th century, but by 1805 their role of skirmishing or flank-protection was one that could be fulfilled by any infantry regiment, and likewise the light regiments could act as ordinary line infantry when required, so the difference between the light and line troops was no more than one of uniform and tradition as they were employed virtually identically. This did not prevent the light regiments, and the light companies established in ordinary line regiments, from considering themselves an elite, and being treated as such - light regiments were ranked above those of the line. This resulted in a better ésprit de corps, aided by a better uniform and supposedly better training, which could indeed mean a better performance on the battlefield.
The poses in this set reflect their skirmishing role, and so most are either moving forward or engaged in various parts of the musket firing process. As such they are perfectly good, and lend themselves well to the system of men pairing up so one is ready to fire while the other is reloading. However this does mean that there is no marching pose, which of course is also a very common posture for such men, and one some wargamers may feel is an unfortunate omission. The last pictured figure is an eagle-bearer or escort, depending on which of the accessories (eagle or halberd) is plugged into his hand. Neither look particularly good as the hand is by the man's side, and both devices are attached by a peg on the pole. Thus the hand is not gripping the pole, and it would have been better if both poles had included the hand, which could have fitted into the wrist of a suitably angled arm. At a distance and on a wargame table, such subtleties might not matter, but close up it is not an ideal arrangement.
These '1805' troops can in fact mostly depict light infantry from 1801 to about 1812, from when the shako was first issued to them to the introduction of the Bardin uniform, although the shako would change in 1806 by having the plume and cockade at the front. In 1805 this shako was the most distinctive difference between the light and line infantry of the day, and here it has been correctly done with a hunting horn badge on the front, a cockade and plume on the left side, and cords ending in pendent 'raquettes' on the right. The short-tailed habit-veste and breeches were as for the ordinary infantry, and these men all wear the short gaiters cut to look like hussar boots. Naturally on campaign the look could vary, particularly when campaign trousers were worn, but this look is as typical as any. The equipment each man carries is the same as for the line infantry, so each has a cartridge box on the right hip (with rolled cap stowed underneath), sword and bayonet on the left hip, and knapsack with rolled blanket on the back. The 'Têtes de Colonne' figure at the end is clothed in the same way as the rest, but if he had been an eagle bearer he would have had no need of a cartridge box, and if he were a Porte-Aigle then he should be armed with pistols.
Clearly these figures have not been sculpted by the same sculptor that did the 1805 infantry as these men are slender and much better anatomically, with the heads correctly proportioned compared to this other set. Indeed despite their large range, this set showcases some of the best sculpting HaT ever produced, and the figures are very pleasing to look at, and to paint, with great detail throughout and good proportions. The only area of concern on most of them is the sword and bayonet scabbard, which are often much too short and sometimes arranged in a way that does not suggest the usual twin-frog was used. While it is true that this could vary when actually on campaign, we would have preferred to see a more regulation look here, and the greatly truncated bayonet scabbards are a difficult thing to fix.
While this was a high point in the history of HaT sculpting, the same cannot be said for the mould-making, as these figures have quite a lot of flash. The whole of the seam shows a ridge of plastic, and in places there are quite large tabs of flash which may not be too difficult to remove, but are still an annoyance. The poses offer few chances for excess plastic where the mould cannot reach, but the man biting his cartridge has some round his left hand, so these are not the cleanest figures ever produced.
Whilst we have pointed out the minor problems with the last man as part of a colour party, many customers may choose to give him a separate musket as supplied in other HaT sets (see our article on all these accessories on the HaT Accessories page). It would still not be an ideal arrangement, but it would at least find a use for a figure that might otherwise have none, since few people need four such men in each group of 48. Equally, the unused eagles and halberds in this set are very useful accessories that will no doubt see service with many other sets. Since this figure can be used in this way, it means there are no problems with accuracy in this set, and the poses are good too, though a marching figure is still needed. Apart from the issue with sidearms, the sculpting is also very good, so the only real problem here is with the amount of flash that would need to be removed. Overall however, this is a small but very nice set which also supplies some useful accessories for other Napoleonic French units.