A number of companies have made sets of British infantry suitable for the Zulu War of 1879, but only the Esci set has included any officers or other specialists. This British Command set from HaT addresses that shortfall, and there is a lot to talk about here so we will get straight to it.
Working from top to bottom, left to right, the first three figures are all NCOs. All have three chevrons on their right sleeve, which means they are either lance sergeants (if the chevrons are white) or sergeants (if they are gold). They are otherwise the same as their men apart from the bayonets, which are correctly modelled as the slightly curved sword type rather than the straight type issued to the troops. The first two have been made in suitably 'commanding' poses, while the third is on the march but carries his rifle on his right side. Such men have been called the backbone of the British Army, but by trimming and adjusting the insignia on the arms other ranks can also be created.
The last figure in the top row presents something of a mystery. He wears a peaked forage cap and patrol jacket with lace to front and rear, which could make him an officer but he is much more likely to be from the commissariat, charged with supplying the army with its needs. Visions of the famous scene from the film 'Zulu Dawn' (1979) where there are difficulties opening ammunition boxes spring to mind, particularly as just such a box is included in the set. However this figure has a small pouch on a strap across his body, and this has a peg on it. The ammunition box has a hole, and the two go together perfectly. The question is, why? The box just looks stupid thus attached, yet why else would it have an otherwise pointless hole? Trim the peg and ignore the hole and you have a perfectly decent figure, although the sculptor has struggled to do the braiding on the jacket well.
The first two figures in the second row have winged epaulettes and no ammunition pouches, so are musicians. Both are missing their right arm, of which a choice is available as shown. One of these is a bugle, which can be positioned in several ways including brought to the lips, but this only really works on the man wearing the helmet. This figure can also have the arm carrying the rifle, so a really useful choice of poses there. The man wearing the glengarry can be holding the bucket or an ammunition box - sort of - which illustrates the support role that bandsmen played during an actual battle. Clearly other options can be explored with these figures, but they are a really good way to expand a limited number of figures.
The last two figures in this row are dismounted officers. Officers had a lot of leeway in the uniform and kit they wore, but these two are fairly typical, having a sword belt and a pistol. Both are fine and quite energetic, and perhaps could serve well as Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead at Rorke’s Drift.
The final row begins with a man carrying a large flag. This is another great figure, with the flag and right arm being separate in order to achieve such a realistic pose. In 1879 the British still carried the colours in the field, although the most recent regulations (1873) stated that the flag should be 45 inches by 36, which many then as now felt was much too small. This model is significantly larger than that, which certainly looks better and may well be accurate since the flag in question may predate the latest regulation, when various larger sizes were stipulated. The pole however exactly conforms to the 1873 regulations in that it is a scale 105 inches in length, and it is also correctly done with a royal lion over a crown as a finial (introduced 1858). The bearer is correctly armed with a sword and revolver, and while colours were often cased when in action this figure should both provide some colour and prove popular with wargamers.
Finally we come to the mounted officer. He is dressed much like his dismounted colleagues, and is armed with sword and revolver. He comes with a choice of right arms, holding some field glasses, a revolver and a sword. This makes the figure much more three-dimensional then if it had been a single piece, which is great, as is the choice, although realistically the field glasses are far more likely than either of the weapons. The horse too is fine, and he sits easily on his mount, so this is another excellent figure, and will be essential in any display of a British army on the march or in battle (Rorke’s Drift aside of course).
So these are some brilliant figures, and we cannot fault the design decisions or the chosen poses. The sculpting is a little below the ideal, but still quite reasonable and the proportions are very good, with no flash. All the various separate arms fit surprisingly well although they will need gluing, and of course they make the most use of the available space on the sprue as well as offering converters more scope for new creations. We loved this set, which has been really well thought out and seems to cover all the major peripheral figures you might like to add to a British army in Zululand. The sculpting is good enough to allow these figures to mix easily with infantry produced by others as well as HaT, so this will be a required purchase for anybody with an interest in the Zulu Wars.