During the English Civil War the mounted man made up perhaps about a third of most large armies, and by the start of the 18th century this was still the case. However improved firearms and the introduction of the bayonet, particularly the socket bayonet, was beginning to make the cavalry less effective, and in English and British armies of the War of the Spanish Succession its prime purpose during battle was now to defeat the enemy cavalry and then charge at a disordered and weakened enemy, either destroying it or chasing it from the field. Since the British lacked dedicated light horse regiments like those on the continent, the Horse also took on the various other cavalry duties such as scouting and guarding flanks.
Strelets have already made a set of British Horse which we reviewed here, and the main difference between the two is this set depicts the men in a very relaxed and casual manner, following the ‘in reserve’ theme of other Strelets sets. No one has drawn their sword, and most are simply sitting and looking ahead or perhaps talking to their neighbour. We loved the first figure in the top row, who leans forward in his saddle and appears to be looking down as if talking to someone dismounted, and the figure in the second row puffing contentedly on his pipe is another standout pose. The last man in the top row is tricky to make out, but he is loading a pistol, which is being held upside down. The first man in the bottom row holds his carbine but has not detached it from its belt, and the trumpeter rests his instrument on his thigh. The officer with the standard is also relaxed, and the senior officer is peering ahead, shielding his eyes from the sun. Lovely poses one and all.
The horses are equally at ease. All are standing, one pawing the ground and one grazing. While four-legged animals are tricky to mould, all of these have worked really well, and perfectly match their riders. All have a good-looking saddle and bridle, a correct shabraque and a valise or rolled cloak at the back. The tails are natural length rather than docked, but later in the period docking became the norm, so ideally these too should be much shorter, though it is unclear when this became commonplace, and at least this is something the customer can choose to adjust should they wise. Finally each animal has a pair of pistols at the front of the saddle, which was standard equipment despite the Duke’s preference for the use of cold steel.
Our example of this set was made in quite a bright red plastic, which makes it more difficult to see and appreciate the detail, but everything looks good to our eye. The men wear the usual tricorn hat and collarless coat, breeches and long boots as did most soldiers of the day. In all cases the coat is worn open, which reveals the long waistcoat underneath, and also shows the breastplate being worn between coat and waistcoat. This device had been discontinued late in the previous century, but in 1707 Marlborough ordered it issued to the Horse once more, and this remained standard until the end of the war in 1714, which gives us the dates for these figures. The two officers wear their breastplate outside of the coat, and both also have a back plate – something the troopers were never given. Both also have their sash of office – one around the waist and the other over the right shoulder. Smaller items of clothing like the cravat and gauntlets are also correctly done here for all, and as might be expected, the officers have much finer versions of the uniform, while the drummer sports the usual plethora of decorative lace and the characteristic false sleeves.
Despite the bright plastic these can be seen to be nicely sculpted. Detail everywhere is very good, and the slightly thicker style compared to some does nothing to diminish these attractive figures as the proportions are still good. The poses do not present a challenge for the mould, and all of them look very natural and nicely realised. The rectangular standard, which is quite large at 17 mm by 14 mm (122.4 cm by 100.8 cm), is very nicely done with a fringe round the edge, but happily has not been given a design. As so often, it suggests a strong wind from the side to allow us to see it in all its glory like this. There is some flash around the seams on these figures and horses, but nothing too serious, although this is much more prevalent around the inner thighs where the figure is joined to the sprue, making the job of parting figure from sprue that much more of a chore. Once trimmed however, we found all the men sat well on the saddles.
We really liked the first set of British cavalry, and this one is if anything a little better because we were very happy with all the poses both in terms of selection and execution. The cuirass means these are indeed late war as mentioned on the set title, and with perfect accuracy and great sculpting they should see service in many miniature actions.