Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Germany was permitted three cavalry divisions - about 16,400 men - out of a total army of 100,000. This high proportion was deliberate, since by 1919 horsed cavalry had little part to play in serious military operations, yet remained an expensive force, effectively further reducing the abilities of the new Reichsheer. After 1933 and the coming of the Nazis some of the horsed regiments were converted to panzer regiments or otherwise had their horses taken away, although some were later restored to horse (‘Reiter’) regiments, and on the invasion of Poland in September 1939 horsed cavalry proved a great success. As a result such troops continued to serve throughout the War, mainly in reconnaissance and anti-partisan duties, particularly in Eastern Europe.
As usual some consideration is first required on the subject of dating the set. None of the figures have a sabre, nor do they have their rifle in a boot or bucket, so are not appropriate for the early months of the War such as the Polish campaign. Also missing here is the breast strap and martingale, which were withdrawn after 1940, but every animal does have the M34 saddlebags mounted on the front of the saddle, which were supposedly replaced with bags at the rear of the saddle after 1940, though in fact the older style and position persisted throughout the war, and bags at the front were once more regulation in the final months. The men give more clues. Three of the poses wear a smock over their tunic, which suggests a date of 1942 at the earliest, or even later if not the SS. The central figure in the top row wears a peaked cap, again introduced 1942 for the SS and 1943 for others, and some of the helmets have covers, which further reinforces this date, so we are looking at the second half of the war.
Given that date, everything here is accurate. The men wear the riding breeches and boots with spurs, and all have standard pouches for rifle ammunition. The man in the cap has binoculars and a map case, strongly suggesting an officer of some sort, and though he is unarmed his rifle pouches were a surprise as we would have expected that he would carry a submachine gun by this date. The standing figure is also unarmed, but the rest have the Kar 98k carbine, which is fine. The saddle arrangements are excellent on all the animals, including not just the saddlebags but also the typical folded greatcoat, blanket etc. at the back of the saddle, and even the mess tin correctly strapped to the right saddle bag. Officers usually went without saddle bags, but all animals here have them, so the officer figure will have to have them. The one obvious missing item is the reins, which is a rather crucial element that none of these animals have been given!
For men that spent most of their active service on patrol the poses here are perfectly acceptable. Apart from the man firing his rifle the poses look to be away from any combat, and the inclusion of a man on foot leading his horse is particularly good in our view. When in action the men would normally dismount, so the figure firing his rifle from the saddle is harder to justify, though such an action was doubtless not unknown. The usual Caesar sophisticated mould means the men are in very natural poses, without the usual left hand held tight to the body, which improves on the usual cavalry poses we see.
The horse poses include just one at the gallop, a couple walking and one standing. All the poses are good, though we were not entirely happy with the standing animal. Undoubtedly such a pose is a requirement of this set, and moulding quadrupeds is notoriously difficult, but with their clever moulds we thought Caesar could have done a little better here.
Detail is nice and clear and everything looks very natural, so there is little to complain about with the sculpting. The clever mould helps by making sure there is no unwanted plastic anywhere, and flash is also virtually non-existent, so another good production job here. We thought the saddle was rather too thick, and so is raised more than it should be, although this would be invisible when ridden anyway. There is no assembly, and the fit between man and horse is absolutely perfect - secure but not too tight.
Although five poses is not a great deal, given the particular role of such men we thought the set covered the subject pretty well, especially with the walking man. Design and sculpting cannot be faulted (apart from the strange lack of reins) and there are no problems with accuracy. Since the figures are for the second half of the war, some may have wished to see the 1940 saddlebags to the rear, but the older style is still valid, A small but very nicely done set that maintains Caesar’s good quality reputation.