At the start of the Napoleonic Wars the British Army had quite a number of regiments in Highland dress, although they were not necessarily exclusively filled by Scots, highland or otherwise. However it became increasingly difficult to recruit for these regiments, and in April 1809 it was decreed that many would lose the right to wear highland dress so as to make them more attractive to non-highland recruits, particularly English and Irish. That left a handful of regiments still proudly wearing the highland dress, but their unusual appearance and fearsome reputation ensured they would be well remembered long after the firing stopped, and at the time of writing there are as many sets depicting the kilted warriors as there are for the rest of the line infantry. Strelets themselves have contributed several of these, and this time they have produced them standing at attention with shouldered arms.
Naturally it is the highland dress that marks these men out from the rest. They wear the ‘Kilmarnock’ bonnet which has a tourie or woollen ball on top, and most also wear the black ostrich feathers which gave this bonnet so much more height and presence. This is the classic image of such men, but in fact the feathers were often missing when on campaign, sometimes simply because they were lost and could not be replaced in the field, so those poses here without any feathers are as valid as their comrades. There was also a detachable peak which could be worn, and some here have this while others do not. The jackets are much like the rest of the infantry (but rather shorter), with lace on the front and short tails. Most of these poses seem to have the tufts on the shoulder straps that mark them out as centre companies, but some may have the wings of flank companies (not always easy to tell here). The kilt is nicely done and of a perfect length (just above the knee), and the men wear hose, half-gaiters and shoes, completing a fully authentic uniform.
The drummer and piper are dressed like the men, although their shoulder wings are much clearer, which is good. The sergeant is also much like the men, but wears a sash over the left shoulder and has the chevrons on his right arm to announce his rank. The ensign (flag-bearer) and officer both wear the officer’s double-breasted version of the coat, and wear pantaloons or breeches in place of the kilt. Like the men then, all these command figures are correctly uniformed.
The men all have the usual cartridge pouch on the right hip, and the haversack and water bottle on the left. One man also seems to have acquired a second bottle which might contain something a little stronger than water, which is a nice and easily believable little touch. All have the standard square knapsack with twin straps, on top of which is the rolled greatcoat, and next to that the mess tin in a cover, which only appeared late on in the Napoleonic Wars. One man has a large mess dish strapped to his pack, which is good to see but rarely modelled on figures, and all the command figures have a sword by their side.
In our reviews of the earlier Strelets sets of Highlanders we commented on how much better the sculpting was than their early products, but this set is considerably better still. All the figures have beautiful proportions and excellently-done detail throughout. We were particularly impressed with the way the feathers on the bonnet have been done – much more realistic than is usually the case in this hobby, which is no mean feat as they must be very hard to reproduce. Faces are lovely, detail of lace is great and subtle elements like the dicing on the cap is really nice. The muskets are a bit featureless, but this is in large measure because they are partly hidden from the mould, so still not a bad effort considering the circumstances. We thought the rear of the kilt could have been better, since there is little to suggest the pleating that all of them had, and while not an easy thing to do, we also thought the cockade under the plume on the bonnet was often poor or missing entirely. Our only other thought on the otherwise impressive sculpting is that a few of the men have rather short right arms – the first figure in the second row has what can only be described as a withered arm. Compare the lack of a lower arm with those men reaching across their body, and the variation is quite comic. It’s a shame as the well-sized heads and great detail make these mostly a highly attractive collection.
The figures have a ridge of plastic around the seam between the two moulds, which varies from almost invisible to quite clear and thick. In addition there is some extra flash in places, particularly between head and musket on the fourth figure in the top row. Still the level of flash is not particularly bad by most standards, though it does slightly spoil the lovely sculpting.
The single pose is repeated often enough to provide a good natural variety while still showing everyone doing more or less the same thing. There really isn’t anything more to say about it, except that it is perfectly good and just what you need for scenes such as depicted on the box.
Although we have highlighted a few small flaws in this set, we still very much liked these figures. Traditionally difficult elements like the feathers and the drum have been really well done, and while the sculptor needs to concentrate more on the proper length of a human arm, the skill in their work is apparent to all. A bit less flash would have been nice too, but there are no accuracy problems, and the simple theme of the set is really well delivered, as usual. In the main this is a cracking set that will surely delight anyone with an interest in such men, and once again marks a major improvement in quality from this manufacturer.