In the days before Waterloo Wellington is supposed to have been asked in a Brussels park what he thought his chances were in the coming battle. Pointing to a British infantryman, he said “It all depends on that article there. Give me enough of it and I am sure”. To Wellington’s mind he did not have enough of it, at least not enough of the experienced veterans of the war in Spain. Those that he did have would be the backbone of his multi-national army, and would be positioned between less highly regarded units to stiffen resolve. In the event of course the Anglo-Allied and Prussian armies did prevail on June 18th 1815, after which Britain quickly reverted to a small army, which did not again set foot in anger on European soil for almost forty years.
The style of shako and the mess tins in this set date it to between 1812 and 1816, so clearly with Waterloo in mind. The shakos are nicely done, and some have the oilskin cover to protect them from the weather, which may well have been common in the field, but not often modelled today. Two of the poses are wearing a forage cap, which is much less likely to have been seen on campaign (although it cannot be ruled out entirely), so these figures work best on a parade ground instead. The men wear the normal coatee with short rear tails, and campaign trousers over short gaiters and shoes, although two poses have their trousers tucked into the gaiters, a feature usually associated with just the First Foot Guards.
Full equipment is being worn by all, including the ‘Trotter’ rectangular knapsack which looks smart but was apparently very hard to wear. All the men have the haversack and ammunition pouch, but surprisingly a couple have no sign of a water bottle. As for the rest, some have water bottles that are not regulation issue, but seem reasonable. Particular mention must be made of the middle figure in the second row, who has what seems to be a banjo attached to the side of his pack. The banjo originally came from Africa and reached America via transported slaves well before Waterloo. However the instrument only became known in Europe in the 1840s, and only achieved widespread popularity through music halls much later in the 19th century, so the question has to be asked – how does this man come to have a banjo? We can think of two possibilities. Perhaps he is serving in the War of 1812, so is already in the United States and has come by the instrument, or perhaps he has previously served in the West Indies, and somehow brought the banjo back home with him. To be honest it is a bit of a stretch, but actually there is a more important question – why is he carrying it here now? Soldiers had no access to regimental baggage, so he would have to carry it himself everywhere, or have some arrangement with one of the ‘private enterprise’ camp followers to stow it. It would have added weight to an already weighty pack, but far worse, it greatly impedes his access to his cartridge pouch. This would be a serious handicap in a fire fight, and surely no NCO or officer would permit such a situation anyway. So while some music would be welcome of an evening, and instruments certainly were carried by a few, we were not really convinced by the banjo, though it does bring a nice bit of character to the set.
If you are going to create a large body of such men at shoulder arms then it will look a good deal more natural if there are small variations in pose, costume and kit, which is what this set delivers. Strelets have done this many times before, and it works well, including here. With just this pose in the box, and four of each figure, you can quickly build a body of men with very little waste, so clearly attractive to wargamers and diorama builders alike. The command figures are also standing, so match the rest of the men well. The drummer looks to be actually beating his drum, and he gives a pretty reasonable impression of doing just that, which is quite rare in this hobby.
Both the drummer and fifer have been given the proper shoulder wings and lace decoration of the sleeves. The drummer has the apron for his left leg, and the fifer has the case into which his instrument is stored. The flag-bearer or ensign is nicely done, with his straight sword and sash tied on the left. His burden, the flag, is a bit smaller than it should be at this scale, but this is not easy to see so is unlikely to cause anyone concern. The sergeant with his pike or spontoon, and the officer with sword drawn are both also very nicely done figures.
The sculpting is really nice here, with good clear detail and good proportions, including heads of a much more realistic and natural size than some early Strelets sets. Muskets are nice and thin, and while they are partly hidden from the mould they are well done nevertheless. The drum, which can be problematic in many sets, is really good here, and so too is the flag, flapping gently in the wind. There is a noticeable ridge of plastic where the moulds have met, and in places there is some flash, which will need to be trimmed away, but the simple poses means there is no extra plastic areas, so these figures are fairly neat in appearance.
Apart from the slightly small flag and the perhaps controversial banjo, our only accuracy worry was that the drummer has a standard knapsack, high on his back. Apparently drummers often had a lower knapsack to allow room for carrying the drum on the back, but the evidence for this is sometimes contradictory, so we can accept the arrangement as modelled here. With great sculpting this is another Strelets set where the subject is a simple one but it has been done really well, so while those looking to recreate a battle in full swing might find little of interest here, for the rest these high quality figures should be very appealing.