Like all the participants at the start of World War I the British were expecting a war of mobility and set-piece battles such as had occurred during the Franco-Prussian War. Very quickly the war revealed its true nature as the lines of trenches on the Western Front became static, creating something very like a siege line stretching from Switzerland to the Channel. The British had nowhere near enough big guns for such an enormous challenge, and in the race to bring more heavy artillery to the front in 1915 they shipped a number of 6 inch guns mounted on field carriages to France, officially designated 'Ordnance BL 6-in. Mk. VII'. The 6 inch gun had seen service for many years on board ships and as a coastal defence weapon, and had first been used on land during the Boer War as an emergency expedient. However it suffered from poor elevation, and therefore range, so in 1917 an improved carriage, the Mark II, was substituted. Marks III, V and VI followed, each slightly improving the elevation, but while the weapon was useful it was heavy and by the later part of the war was being superseded by better, purpose-built guns, although it continued to serve in good numbers until the end of hostilities.
We are not and never will be a site that reviews kits, so we will only briefly dwell on the gun in this set. Our picture of the gun is not to scale with those of the figures - the actual model is about 140mm in total length. It is a little simplified but broadly seems accurate, although the traction engine wheels look rather too thin to us. It is made up of 21 pieces which are supplied in a nice hard plastic but have immensely thick connections to the sprue, making removal difficult. We found the pieces were not that precise - certainly compared to most major kit manufacturers, and the fit was often far from good - particularly where pieces were a bit bent. The solid tyres are made in a soft, rubbery material while is great, but we found it required cyanacrylate glue to fix them to the wheel as they are a strip that needs bonding to the plastic, and ordinary polystyrene cement is not strong enough. While the fit is not great, the front axle presented a much bigger problem, since it is much too short. We had to glue the wheels directly to the side of the carriage (certainly wrong yet still too wide for the provided axle), and the whole kit-building process was very far from satisfactory, while the result is in all honesty rather rough. A lack of anything other than an exploded view also made the build an unpleasant experience.
All heavy British guns were manned by the Royal Garrison Artillery, whose uniforms were much the same as the rest of the artillery and indeed the infantry too. In this set there is quite a variety of apparel, with some men in short sleeves or at least with the tunic undone, reflecting a less formal approach to uniform while serving the guns. The men wear little kit, although some have a haversack (seems a bit unlikely while actually in action) and some the respirator at the 'alert' position on the chest (much more reasonable, although why only some?). All have the steel helmet which, along with the respirator, dates these men to roughly the second half of the war. The carriage of the gun is at least the Mark II, so again only works from early 1917.
The poses are a slightly odd mix. There are several officer's, which is fine, and include a kneeling man who appears to have the handset of a field telephone in his hand, in which case he is probably relaying information on range etc. from the troop or battery command post. The pair carrying a shell in a cradle is a surprise because photographs suggest men were quite capable of handling the shells without such devices, although that does not mean it is wrong here. The right-hand man in our photo, without the respirator, has been quite badly done as both his lower arms are turned back in an impossible position, and the ring hands are drilled so they point downwards, making them not carry the cradle properly. The cradle itself is a rather crude representation of the real thing, so we did not feel this was a useful addition to the set. The man with the spade reminds us that they often dug a pit in order to lower the back of the trail and improve elevation, so is good, but we would have liked to have seen more figures actively involved in preparing and bringing up ammunition, particularly setting fuses etc. We assume the last figure in the top row is pulling a lanyard, but he is about the only man who is actually interacting with the gun, and in general we were not much taken with the poses on offer.
As always the Strelets style leaves something to be desired, with quite coarse sculpting and some smaller items exaggerated in size. Nevertheless a fair bit of detail has been included, and there is not much flash on the figures, although a little bit of extra plastic is present. Although quite flat the poses do not look unnatural given the subject matter, and the handles of the cradle fit the ring hands well, although as we have said that will need work to make a decent model.
The considerable effort required to make the gun kit rather dwarfs the thin wheels and any other minor inaccuracies, so making that was quite a pain and the result is not that good. The figures were not impressive either, but generally useful and pretty much what we would expect. The summary for both figures and gun is much the same. Production quality is way below what many other manufacturers achieve, and it is not a particularly enjoyable product, but in its own way it makes a fair attempt at representing the subject at hand, and those with the patience can certainly find something useful here, although the more casual modeller will find this a difficult project to undertake.