The French had first used Goumiers in Morocco in 1908, when they raised irregular forces to help them ‘pacify’ their new territory. They proved to be very effective, and helped to maintain order over the following decades. In 1942 they had played very little part in the war so far, but with fresh Allied landings in North Africa and the collapse of Vichy French forces, the now liberated regular French Army, sponsored by the Americans, began to assist in liberating their own land, and that would include the Moroccan Goumiers. They first went into battle in December 1942 in Tunisia, and thereafter in various parts of the Mediterranean, especially in Italy, where they were crucial to the Allied advance on Rome. Their behaviour in Italy against the civilian population darkened their reputation, but they moved on to be a part of the invasion of Southern France and the drive through Austria and Germany until the end of the war in Europe.
When French forces were being created in late 1942, it was the US that provided the uniforms and weapons as well as some support services. As a result many Free French Forces looked very like US troops, but the Goumiers had one item that really made them stand out from any other soldier, and that was their large hooded djellabah, which all but one of these figures is wearing. The rest of the uniform is covered by this garment, but is likely to be supplied by the US, as is the webbing these men have, as well as the American M1917A1 helmet. Those without a helmet wear a turban, and many also wear a cheche around the head. The officer also wears a djellabah, but is actually French and he wears a normal kepi, boots and leggings while the men appear to wear sandals. The appearance of these men varied depending on the availability of supplies, but this is about the most famous image of these men, so an obvious choice for such a set.
Weaponry too was largely supplied by the Americans, often old stock from the last war. Seven of the poses have a rifle, but one is fortunate enough to have an M1921 Thompson submachine gun, and two others have the newer M1/A1 version of that weapon. One man carries the M1918A2 Browning Automatic Rifle, which was a highly prized weapon that was supplied to the French, but not in the quantities that they had requested. The middle row shows a heavy machine gun, which looks a lot like the Vickers (which could have been provided by the Americans) but may be the Browning M1917A1 .30-calibre weapon. The difference is mainly in the look of the tripod, so something of a compromise here as it is not properly sculpted as either weapon, so not a good model. The weapon is water-cooled but lacks the condenser, though this does not matter as it is not being fed with any ammunition anyway. A few of the men also have a pistol, and although only one knife is visible, it is likely most or all would have one about their person. Like the uniform then, the weapons here are correct.
The poses are pretty reasonable, and all are useful without there being any that are particularly outstanding. We did not care much for the first figure in the top row, who has perhaps just thrown a grenade? Whatever he is doing, the pose is quite flat and awkward, but the rest are fine. In an unusual move by Strelets, many of the poses faithfully recreate those seen on the box artwork, which at least helps us to understand what the designer was thinking. For modern warfare, and particularly for fighting in the difficult terrain of central Italy (such as at Cassino), we would have liked to have seen more poses crouching or otherwise keeping their heads down, but perhaps that helps to explain the poses that are looking or firing upwards.
The sculpting is good, with pretty good detail and decent proportions. The faces are very good, and both clothing and weaponry is nicely done. The barrel of the machine gun fits well into the separate tripod, and while there is some flash it is not too intrusive.
In all some 12,000 Goumiers served in the Mediterranean and Europe, and were highly regarded as light infantry, especially in mountainous terrain. Many colonial forces were involved in the Second World War, and it is good to see recognition for the part played by these troops. Their distinct appearance will bring something new to recreations of the several battles in which they were involved in the final two years of the war, and this set helps to remind us of just how many different nationalities were caught up in the fighting and dying.