Although the French Army had long had both Line and Light infantry by the time of their expedition to Egypt in 1798, in reality there was very little difference in how they were used in the field, with both being able to perform the speciality of the other well enough when required. There was also very little difference between them in uniform, and what differences there were quickly faded as the splendid clothing wore badly in the Egyptian climate. With supply difficult and the need urgent, a number of changes and simplifications were made to the uniform, which was to be supplied and made by local tailors. This set provides figures in that later uniform, introduced over a number of months from the summer of 1798, in which the infantry was to fight its later battles.
Although colour of cloth varied enormously, the style of the new uniform was pretty consistent. The new coat was single-breasted with usually short tails, but while these figures all wear the new simpler coat they all have tails just as long as those with which they arrived from France. The evidence suggests that styles did vary, including the length of tails, but as most seem to have had very short tails we would have much preferred to see these here, at least on most figures. The original boot-like gaiters of the light infantry and the long gaiters of the line made way for trousers and half-gaiters, which these figures show to advantage, but the most apparent change was the replacement of the bicorn with a leather helmet or 'petits-casquette'. This had one of a variety of crests and tufts on the top, and a flap that could be let down to protect the neck. All the figures in this set bar the officer have this, which in all cases has been given a single large and not particularly convincing tuft in the centre.
As elites these figures have many of the recognised symbols such as fringed epaulettes and the sabre-briquet, which is fine, but they lack another symbol of the lights - pointed cuffs - which seem to have been retained on these later coats but do not appear in this set and may not have been universal in reality either. There is a mixture of men with and without the pack (including one with a dish strapped to it), but all have the cartridge pouch of course, and all have also acquired a gourd, which is OK although more variety of vessel would have been nice here.
The officer is in a uniform more like that with which he might have landed in Malta, so while officers may have made greater efforts to keep their fine uniforms in better order this figure is still a little out of sync with his men, although he matches the corresponding line infantry beautifully. He does however have one very curious feature, which is his sword scabbard. With the two fittings this is intended to be hung from a waist belt, but this man has attached his to a cord which runs over his right shoulder, fastening each end to one of the fittings. This looks poor and would have been very hard to control as well as being uncomfortable, so is somewhat at odds with his otherwise regulation uniform. Despite the laws of physics his scabbard hangs completely upright, however.
The officer’s pointing pose is a classic in the hobby but there is nothing wrong with it, and all the other poses in the selection of 14 are unremarkable but cover most of the usual activities. Most are fairly flat but not unduly so, and if there is nothing particularly noteworthy here then for many that means everything is easy to use – even the quite nice soldier with the bayonet. For some reason there is no marching pose, which could easily have been made in preference to one of the others, but the poses are satisfactory otherwise.
We thought the sculpting was marginally better than the sister set of Line infantry, but the usual chunky details and shortened items such as bayonet scabbards that are a feature of most Strelets sets are much in evidence here too. Equally familiar is the lack of any flash, and the flattish poses mean there is no unwanted plastic either. The faces are quite nice, as are the plats of hair down the temples of many here.
Apart from the missing pointed cuffs (which are easy to fix with paint anyway), the only accuracy problem with these figures is the long tails, which are not typical of the intended later uniform of the French infantry in Egypt. Indeed it is quite possible that Strelets intended this set to represent the later uniform of the infantry, and the set of Line Infantry to represent the early uniform, with little regard for the subtle distinctions between line and light. If so then they largely achieved that goal, so while you could convincingly argue that in reality these troops would often have been a good deal more ragged than they are here, between them these two sets cover the French adventure in Egypt quite nicely.