Jäger regiments, originally light infantry units, had been established in the Russian Army before the Napoleonic Wars. Regiments 1 to 19 were established in 1797, and numbers 20 to 32 appeared between 1803 and 1806. As the value of these regiments became ever more evident, 14 musketeer regiments were converted into jäger in 1810, and four more raised in 1811, so that by the time of the French invasion of 1812 there were 50 such regiments, constituting almost a third of the total regular Russian infantry. Such men were given more training in marksmanship, and often allowed to show initiative on the battlefield, but the distinction between them and line infantry was not so great as they could also perform all the usual actions of a musketeer unit, and line regiments could on occasion perform skirmish actions, though perhaps not quite so effectively.
Dating of these figures is quite easy because they all have the rectangular knapsack that only appeared in 1808, and their shakos have the cords decorating them which only started in 1809, so that gives us the earliest date. Although the famous curved-top shako was introduced in 1812, the more conventional shape as worn by all of these figures was not fully replaced before the end of 1814, so these figures work for the last five years of the Russian involvement in the wars of Napoleon, including of course the French invasion and retreat. By 1809 the uniform of the jäger was little different from the musketeer, with the same shako and coatee, and the same kit. All these figures wear the summer dress of gaiter-trousers and shoes, and are entirely accurate. All have the greatcoat rolled around the body and under the knapsack and its straps, and all have the usual ammunition pouch, sabre sidearm and mess tin strapped to the pack.
If you are looking for variety then amongst the other ranks the only difference is some also have a haversack on their left-hand side, but of course the command figures in our bottom row display a number of differences. The drummer has the usual distinctions of wings on the shoulders and chevron decoration down both sleeves, and apart from a sword he has no kit of any sort, although of course he does have the drum and apron. The hornist is dressed and equipped like the rest of the men, but the standard-bearer is dressed like an officer, with epaulettes on the shoulders and a long-tailed coat. He wears a sash around the waist and long boots on the feet, and apart from the knapsack he has on his back he has no other kit, including no belt to support the stave that he carries, which seems odd. The last officer wears a peaked officer’s forage cap and a double-breasted frock coat with vertical pockets at the rear, which was intended to be only for when off duty, but officers often pleased themselves in such things. Of course he too has the all-important sash and his straight-bladed sword by his side.
Jägers, and indeed all Russian infantry, had historically utilised a very wide variety of firearms, some made abroad, but in 1808 rifled muskets were taken away from them and they used the same weapons as issued to the musketeers from then on. The muskets all carry here are 18.5 mm in length, which is a reasonable 133 cm, and look fine. None have a bayonet attached, and this is an aspect where the sources disagree. Some say the bayonet was ordered to always be fixed, but others say it was not, or at least that in practice it was often left off, and as any bayonet will alter the balance of a musket it would seem reasonable to leave it off if you were wanting accurate marksmanship, though every man here has been provided with a bayonet in its scabbard. The only other weapon is the pistol held by the officer, though he has no visible holster for this.
Clearly it is open order skirmishing that is most associated with such men, and the poses on offer in this set reflect that well. Most are either firing or reloading, and normally such men would work in pairs, one being ready to fire while the other reloads, then swapping roles. We thought the poses were all solid and perfect for the subject. The drummer and hornists are also good and very natural, though the flag-bearer is a little more unusual. The officer with his pistol is somewhat unconventional, but perhaps Strelets were thinking about all the officers they have already produced that could be used here too, and came up with something a bit different.
Recently Strelets have produced many sets of Napoleonics with beautiful, slim and natural figures, and this is more of the same. Great detail and perfect proportions, with good faces without recourse to bigger heads. Tiny details like cuffs and shako ornaments are superb and not exaggerated in size, and items that should be thin (such as the flag stave) are exactly as thin as they should be. Having said that, the muskets have a good lock but no definition on the barrel, and rather more importantly none of them have any sort of a trigger – a small detail but an important one! The seams are 99 percent flash free, but there are a few areas where noticeable flash is still visible such as around the drummer’s left arm, but it will take very little effort to trim this off, so a great sculpting and moulding package all round.
A word is necessary about the flag, because officially jäger regiments were not permitted a flag at all. However it is known that this rule was not entirely observed as the flag of the Life Guard Jäger Regiment was captured at Austerlitz, and other regiments may also have had them unofficially, particularly Colours of St George. Some gamers like to have figures carrying a flag anyway, and as can be seen Strelets have not actually provided a flag, so any desired design can be used. The length of the stave with its spearhead finial is a good size, and if nothing else this figure can be painted as line infantry to find him a job.
That is about all we can say about this set. There are no real complaints about accuracy, sculpting or presentation, and the poses are all very useful too. On top of that the style of these figures is beautiful – very natural and elegant – so these are the sort of figures that make you almost run to your paintbrushes, which is about the highest praise we can think of.