The title of this set is more than a little vague, since it could be argued that the people of the Rif region in northern Morocco were in almost constant rebellion. They were a fiercely independent people who no more welcomed domination from a sultan in far-off Fez than they did from Spanish colonial troops. A strong sultan could keep the Rif under some sort of nominal control, but a weak one meant the Rif largely ruled themselves, which was often the case. However the weapons carried in this set allow us to be much more precise, and to date the set to after the First World War, which means we are talking about the major Rif War from 1920 to 1927, when the Spanish attempted to take control of the region and the wider protectorate they had been formally granted in 1912.
The Rif War was not simply a conflict between the indigenous Berber Rif people and the Spanish conquerors, but a much more complex struggle involving the many Arab tribes that dwelt in the Spanish Protectorate. Many of these tribes at various times joined with either the Rif ‘rebels’ or the Spanish government, depending largely on who was in charge at the time and seemed likely to offer their tribe protection. Thus after the Disaster of Annual (1921) many Arabs fought for the Rifian leader Abd el-Krim, while later on, as the Rif cause floundered, they switched sides and fought against the Rif. This meant no change in appearance or weaponry, so any figure depicting these Arabs could be used for either side.
Prior to the release of this set, Strelets had produced two sets of Rifian warriors, both wildly inaccurate (see links below). With this one however the scope is much wider, and from the looks of it the focus here is on the Arab warriors. Like the earlier Rif sets we see little here that indicates typical Berber dress, but instead an array of flowing robes and a mixture of turbans and the classic Arab shemagh. The styles are varied, which is good, but nothing about the costume looks particularly out of place.
Most of the men carry rifles which are clearly of several different designs, although it would be difficult to positively identify any one. Some are clearly fairly old for the period, some very modern, which reflects the actual weaponry well. However two men stand out as they both carry a Lewis gun. The Lewis gun was produced from the start of World War One, mostly in Britain and the USA, and after the War there were many of them still around of course. However the question is how did these tribesmen get hold of such weapons? Neither the Spanish, nor the neighbouring French Protectorate, ever used this weapon, and while it is true that there was some gun-running by European sympathisers to the Rif, this involved rifles rather than machine guns. Since this and the capture of enemy weapons constituted much of the armament of the Arab tribes, we can see no reason why Lewis guns would have fallen into their hands, and must therefore seriously doubt they were found in this conflict. One more curiosity is that the foot warrior carrying the Lewis has ammunition belts round his body and encumbering the gun. The Lewis gun was not fed by a belt, and this man is making no attempt to use the weapon, but it seems strange to us that the figure has been given this belt, merely to wrap round his arm and weapon and make life awkward for him.
As can be seen, there are nine mounted figures in this set, six of whom are riding the provided horses. These are the six without pegs inside their legs, and we were pleased to see them just holding their weapons or waving them excitedly. No one is actually fighting from the saddle, and while such a thing was not impossible, modern rifles made it far more dangerous than it had been, so these poses all look good since they do not imply immediate contact with an enemy. However several of them are very lively, and the rest could simply be travelling on their mount and are in much more relaxed pose.
The horses are another matter however. These animals have been used before by Strelets, and the poses are really not good. Some are more or less OK, but ones like the first pictured with straight legs sticking out at all angles is far from natural. Despite some poor poses, most look like they are moving rapidly, even charging, so if you want to depict a column on the move then the lack of walking poses means you will have to look elsewhere. Their decorated saddles and other furniture are all different but easy to accept as authentic, so that at least is acceptable.
Of some surprise is the inclusion of three camel-riders with their mounts. While camels make very bad platforms for fighting, they make great vessels for carrying men or baggage, and were widely used in Morocco for that purpose. The three men intended to ride these animals include two very sedate poses plus one with arms up in the air as if in jubilation. Nice poses, and again as they do not imply actual fighting we have no trouble with the choices made. However the last man in the second row is odd as he seems to hold a book face out and points to some part of it. Why we cannot guess. Perhaps he is quoting from the Quran, but why would he be pointing out some text? Make of this figure what you will.
The three camels have also been used in other Strelets sets, so we will repeat our comments here. The general proportions are good, but the poses are very poor. The first two animals are walking, so have one foot off the ground, but the rear legs are in the wrong position – you only need to ask yourself what leg the animal would raise next to see this is an impossible gait. A quick study of videos of camels walking would have allowed the sculptor to be far better, but apparently this was not done. The third animal has all four hooves on the ground, so is standing, yet has his legs widely spaced in a highly unnatural manner. Again, a little basic research on photos of camels would have avoided the problem. So the gaits are very poor, but we liked the cloths and saddles here.
Generally the sculpting is pretty good, with nicely done faces in particular, and the loose clothing is well done too. Detail on weaponry is a bit more rough, or at least not especially sharp, but not too bad. The worse we can say is the horse riders generally have their legs too close together, meaning they cannot stay on their mount, which means the customer will have to remedy this. The men have practically no flash, the horses rather more and there is a good deal on the camels, who also suffer from some misshapen legs.
The foot figures are not quite as lively as the mounted men, but all are quite reasonable. You might well ask why the fourth foot figure has pulled is scabbard to his front in order to draw his sword, and how could his arm continue to draw it in this position, but this is the sort of compromise we are used to with figures made with a two-piece mould. The big problem with this set is the presence of the Lewis guns, which seem like a random inclusion. Leaving those two figures aside, we have a collection with no other accuracy problems, some variable but at times good sculpting, and some good human poses along with some really poor animal ones. A mixed bag, as so often, but one that can be improved by sourcing animals from elsewhere, leaving you with some very useable warriors that compare favourably with the old Airfix set, which is in many ways similar.