Most of the time the only way to get soldiers to where you wanted them was to march them there, and Napoleon took his soldiers further than most during his years as leader of the French, from Portugal to Russia, the Netherlands to Egypt. As in any army there were several forms of march depending on the circumstances, but for movement between distant places the route pace was adopted, where the men marched at about 90 paces per minute, carrying their muskets sloped over either shoulder, and not required to keep step with each other. This was the most informal method, which meant it could be maintained over long distances, and could more easily accommodate obstacles and variations in the path. While the men might be smartened up when passing through a town, route pace was how they would normally be seen in the countryside, and how they are seen here.
As is common with Strelets, although the men are all doing much the same thing, we are treated to a broad range of poses to make the overall effect seem more natural. Every man has his musket on his left shoulder, and his left foot forward, so there is less variation than there should be, but all the poses differ in many small ways, and most are quite believable. Having said that, the first and last figures in our top row are looking toward us rather than ahead, and the second one does not give the impression of moving forward at all. The last figure in the second row holds his musket tipped forward, and again is not looking where he is going, which makes for a very strange marching pose. The flag-bearer pose is reasonable, but we must ask why his flag is unfurled. While modern films love to show flags flying high while on the march, in reality the flag would be cased to protect it most of the time. The drummer has chosen perhaps the most uncomfortable and awkward way to carry his drum, and so is highly unlikely. He has merely rested his drum sideways on his pack, and holds it by its carrying straps on one side. How this does not slip off we do not know, but in reality it would be carried upright with the straps round the shoulders, making it much more comfortable, better balanced and safe from mishap. The next man (perhaps an NCO) seems to be standing, and holds his fist up in the air for no obvious reason. Finally the officer has his sword drawn and rests the hilt on his shoulder. Again the question is why. This does not seem like a very comfortable position, and why is his sword drawn in the first place?
Every man wears a greatcoat, so the finer details of their uniform are hidden from us. These coats are all double-breasted and look reasonable, although several styles were used at the time. Most wear the covered shako on their head, a garment that was introduced to the infantry around 1806, which sets the earliest date for this set. A few however wear the pokalem, a fatigue cap which could have the sides let down to cover the ears in bad weather, as has been done in all cases here. This had been worn in the 18th century, but disappeared before the Napoleonic era and only reappeared in 1812, which further limits the dating of those poses. That is largely all that can be seen of the uniform, and so looks authentic.
The box labels these men as belonging to a flanking company, which means grenadiers or light voltigeurs. As such all have the correct pair of belts across the trunk holding the cartridge box and the combined sabre/bayonet frog, but all are missing the epaulettes which were normally moved from the habite to the greatcoat to ensure everyone still knew they were the elite of the battalion. Each man has a knapsack, but this has only two straps to close it rather than the usual three, and for some strange reason not one man here has any form of gourd or water container, which would seem highly unlikely. The command figures have similar levels of equipment, but the flag-bearer has placed his sword the wrong way round in his scabbard, meaning it would be awkward to draw.
The sculpting of these figures is reasonable but not impressive. Detail and faces are okay, but some of the hands are not good, and the sabres and bayonet scabbards are often particularly shortened. The same applies to many of the men’s arms, which vary greatly in proportions, but at times there is little of the arm between the elbow and the wrist. This means many barely reach to the waist even when fully straight, and often the left and right arms are not even of the same length. Detailing on the muskets is good, and where the shako is uncovered the detail of its decoration is nicely done, but sometimes the sculptor has not given thought to how the belts and the items they hold should relate to each other (i.e. they are not close). Flash is noticeable and varies to some degree, but is not particularly bad anywhere.
These men must be marching into something of a headwind since the flag is not fully limp, revealing that it has no engraving on either face, which we always like to see. Also while we think we recognise the style from previous Strelets Napoleonic sets, in this one at least the sculptor has made a decent job of sculpting the side of the drum, which has the necessary tension cords. Many of the smaller annoyances in accuracy seem to be down to the sculptor not understanding what they are sculpting, and the quality is not the best this company has produced in the past, but it is the many awkward poses that we find so hard to understand, especially the drummer. This set is no treat for the eye, although doubtless many will find all or some of the figures to be useful, especially if you don’t look too closely.