The achievements of the Portuguese in the Napoleonic Wars are often overlooked, and prior to this set they had been almost completely missing from the hobby, yet they played a crucial role in the eventual defeat of the French. When the French first invaded Portugal in 1807, however, the state of the country’s army was lamentable, but from 1808 when the British provided many officers and an able administrator in William Carr Beresford, the quality of the basic soldier was allowed to shine through and in time the Portuguese infantry earned a very good reputation with both friend and foe. At times the Portuguese made up more than a third of Wellington’s Peninsular army, and distinguished themselves for the first time at the Battle of Bussaco in 1810.
As the title tells us, this set is made up of line infantry and Caçadores (specialist light infantry). Our first two rows show the line infantry, so we shall begin with them. Their uniform conforms to the 1806 regulations that were in force for most of the Peninsular War, although in later years the huge quantity of arms and uniforms provided by Britain often paid little attention to such things. The men wear the single-breasted coatee with short tails and standing collar, breeches and half-gaiters. The shako, known as the berretina, has a high front and is generally of a shape that would later inspire the British 'Belgic' shako introduced in 1812. It has a front plate and brass band round the bottom of the front, a cockade and plume on the left side, and cords running round; all perfectly correct. In addition the figures all have the unusual but correct shape of epaulettes with a short fringe, plus a small grenade badge beneath the main plate on the shako, which tells us that these men are grenadiers (each regiment had one company of grenadiers). This identification is confirmed by the short sabres every man carries, while the rest of the kit is standard to all types of infantry and basically British in design apart from the water bottle held in a wicker cradle. As always it must be said that in reality the men often presented a less than ideal appearance, but these are all entirely correct as per regulations.
The poses of the line infantry are conventional and all perfectly usable. Discounting the officer you only get seven soldier poses, so it seems a bit of a waste to have two similar standing firing poses, but this is of course a very important pose and many gamers will surely welcome them, as they will the good number of marching figures in each box. As always all these Emhar poses are beautifully natural in appearance and not at all flat despite having no separate arms etc.; even the man bayoneting is a particularly good example of the type.
Caçadores were first raised in 1808, and the bottom row shows the four poses in this set. Although the colour was very different, the style of the uniform was similar to the line infantry apart from the lace or braiding on the chest, which has been properly done here. On these figures there is no fringe on the epaulettes, so they are ordinary Caçadores rather than the elite atiradores. Every man has a short sword, which is again correct although there seems to be much doubt as to whether wearing this item was actually commonplace in the field. Like the line infantry the Caçadores began adopting the British stovepipe shako around the end of 1809, but this took several years to become the norm, so these figures are correct for much of the Peninsular War. The poses are OK although the man using his musket as a club is not the most obvious choice when you only have four poses to play with; light infantry were not deployed to come into close contact with opponents in this way, but to keep the enemy away from their own formations. Equally they generally did not partake of bayonet charges, so a kneeling or crouching pose might have been more useful.
Sculpting as always is exceptional and simply beautiful. Every little detail is there, although it is given a realistic shallow depth rather than the common deep definition found on many figures. Even the brass band on the Caçador shakos has a bugle horn badge that is about 1 mm in height. There is no flash and the poses are all very natural and well proportioned. The plastic is firm and stays bent when moved, but there is very little scope to use this feature in this set. All the figures except the officer and one other pose are wearing packs of British-like design, but for some reason all the line infantry have their packs as separate items and all the Caçadores have theirs as part of the figure. Since the packs sit in the same position for both we cannot guess why this has been done, but as the plastic takes ordinary cement extremely well it is no bother to attach the packs using the hole in the backs of the men.
If you enjoy the appearance of a smart Napoleonic soldier then these figures will delight. The officer is an interesting pose and again perfectly conforms to regulations in terms of dress. We are never big fans of splitting a set over two subjects like this (although it would take little to paint either type of soldier as the other), but at least it delivers both the major types of infantry even though pose numbers are necessarily more limited. Other than this duel focus and some minor differences of opinion over what would have been the best choice of poses, we must say this is a thoroughly enjoyable set and one that fans of the Peninsular War will be wanting not only because of the major role the Portuguese played in that war but for the sheer pleasure of owning such figures.