The history of British artillery during the ’45 is worth recounting in full, because it is interesting but brief. The first permanent artillery unit was formed in 1716, and made into a formal regiment (Royal Regiment of Artillery – ‘RA’) in 1722, so that by 1745 it consisted of 11 companies. When the Jacobite Rebellion began the RA provided the guns and gunners for the army formed to meet the rebels, lead by the Duke of Cumberland, but this army failed to catch the Jacobites before they retreated from their invasion of England, so the first action the RA saw was the siege of Carlisle in December 1745, where the only English town to be garrisoned by the Jacobites quickly surrendered once the RA deployed six 18-pounder guns against it. The army then moved into Scotland, but did not catch the rebel army until the climactic battle of Culloden in April 1746, which was the second and last action by the RA. Given the terrible roads in the region, the commanders had wisely chosen to take only their lightest pieces, and so the Government army deployed 10 3-pounder cannon and six light Coehorn mortars. The effect of these is much debated today, but in any event the battle was largely decided by musket and bayonet rather than guns, after which the rebellion was finally crushed.
Apart from wearing blue coats rather than red, the uniform worn by the RA was much the same as that for the infantry. They wore standard army coats with turnbacks and lapels, a waistcoat, breeches and stockings, though these were always covered by long gaiters covering to above the knee. On the head of course was the tricorn, so the only variance around this time was in details of lace and pocket design. All the figures in this set are correctly attired, and have their hair properly tied back in a queue. Kit would have consisted largely of a pouch held on the front of the waist for some, a sword and bayonet hanger on the left hip, and any specific items they needed for their particular role. All these figures are so equipped (perhaps too many have the belly pouch), but for some reason no less than five of the poses are also carrying a second cartridge pouch (on the hip), a haversack and water bottle, and also have a musket slung over their backs. Gunners were indeed armed with muskets at this time, and they would also have had haversacks and water bottles, but it seems somewhat doubtful that they would choose to wear all of this, especially the muskets, while serving the guns. What is worse, why do these men have a second cartridge box, when under normal circumstances they would not expect to ever have to use their muskets? The belly pouch might contain items other than cartridges for the musket, such as quills to prime the gun, but this would not be worn by all the crew, as here. It seems to make no sense to us, and while one modern illustrator has shown such an arrangement, the others have not, and the original material from which all modern studies derive does not either, so we must conclude that this is an error.
The 10 poses here do not provide two complete crews for the two guns, but there is a good range nonetheless. A couple hold a ramrod, two more hold a worm, another has a handspike and another a linstock for the match. One man carries a powder charge while another looks to be manhandling the gun’s wheels, which just leaves the two officers in our third row. Given the limited number of poses that is a decent selection, and we have no complaints about any of them, although the possible officer holding out his hat is very unusual and is perhaps in the act of saluting, or maybe even protecting the touch-hole of the cannon. Gunners tend not to need poses as energetic as infantry, but these are all busy and as active as they need to be.
Next we come to the guns, which are the same as those to be found in the Strelets sets of artillery for the War of the Spanish Succession. This in itself is not a problem as guns had barely developed over that period, but we were not impressed with those models in the previous sets, and the same applies here. The two gun barrels provided are 18 mm and 27 mm long, and the two carriages 30 mm in length and 40 mm. Since there was no standardisation of guns at the time, dimensions varied even within the same calibre, and in fact both of these guns could be used as 3-pounders, which seems appropriate. However the barrels lack any of the usual decoration, and the handles (‘dolphins’) are flat and well behind the point of balance (because of the difficulty of moulding them), so they do not look that great. The carriages are a lot worse, because while the basic shape and size are fine, they lack almost all detail – not even the metal reinforcement strips that would have been easy to sculpt. The provided wheels are the same for both, and with a diameter of 19 mm (137 cm) they are of a proper size, but again lack any detail such as tyres, and they only have 10 spokes when every example we could find of the type had at least twelve and sometimes more. Finally, the guns have a strange peg device that fits into the bottom of the trail. This is not a historical item, and is presumably meant to be something to do with moving the carriage with handspikes, but it means the gun lacks the means to attach it to the limber, and is a fantasy element anyway.
The sculpting of the figures is very nice, with the usual level of detail we have come to expect. In particular, a good effort has been made with the many buttons these coats displayed, and the poses do not feel particularly flat despite the difficulties such figures present. There is a fair amount of flash in some places, although some seams are quite clean, but the cannons present more of a problem, because the extra flash partly or completely fills the holes in the wheels which are supposed to fit over the axles, requiring them to be drilled out to make them fit. Unfortunately, on our examples there are also a few places where the plastic has not properly filled the mould, and this is particularly evident on the first figure in our top row, who has the wooden end of his ramrod ill-formed, and the second man in row two, who’s worm head is no more than a blob.
So the figure sculpting is good but let down a little by the unfilled mould, yet our main problem with the crew is the two pouches many of them have, which just seems excessive for men that would only use their musket in an emergency. We did wonder if they were seconded infantrymen, which did happen, but they are using specialist equipment, so this cannot be so. The guns, particularly the carriages, are disappointing as they are much over-simplified, although it is a nice touch to include separate wedges to elevate the guns. It should be noted that the RA were not present at either Prestonpans or Falkirk, when the Government guns were manned (badly) by civilians and sailors, so although the RA were only called into action a couple of times during the rebellion, this is a fair set to depict them which has some nice figures but unimpressive ordnance.