The Habsburg Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Francis II (1768-1835), viewed the French Revolution and the subsequent killing of the French king with as much horror as the other crowned heads of Europe, and this animosity turned into open warfare in 1792, beginning over twenty years of struggle. While the Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist in 1806, the Habsburg Austrian Empire continued to face France with her very multi-national army, made up of contingents from all over the Empire. Austrian troops participated in many of the major battles of the early Napoleonic Wars, including Marengo, Ulm and of course Austerlitz, yet the ordinary line infantry has not been well represented with figures in the past. This set and series from HaT helps to change that.
HaT have taken the approach of splitting sets between ‘action’, ‘march’ and ‘command’ before, which gives the customer flexibility in what they buy, but tends to leave few poses in the action and march sets. This is an example, with just five poses to depict these men in battle. Two are firing, two advancing and one is at attention, so this is a very basic selection and hardly one that would provide a realistic scene of men in action (the man at attention can hardly be described as ‘action’ anyway). There is nothing much wrong with any of them, they are just very few in number.
The uniform these men wear includes the somewhat classical helmet first introduced in 1799, with a woollen-topped crest and front and rear peaks. It had a chinstrap which everyone here is wearing, and some also had second false chinscales which went round the back of the crown, and all these poses have this too. This helmet turned out to be less long-lasting than the designers had hoped, and so was withdrawn starting from 1806, but was still being worn in 1809 at least, so saw action in many of the major Austrian battles. The coat was a practical single-breasted, short-tailed design with standing collar that was quite modern in its day, and has been correctly done here. All the men wear breeches and gaiters that reach to below the knee, which tells us that these are ‘German’ soldiers (rather than ‘Hungarian’).
Every man has a knapsack on his back, quite small and held very low down on the back, which was a common arrangement. On top of the knapsack is a rolled greatcoat, which still fails to reach the top of the shoulders thanks to the diminutive size of the knapsack. The whole is held by the conventional method of straps around each shoulder and a third holding them across the chest. Other equipment includes the cartridge pouch on the right side and the water bottle on the left. Two of these men also have visible bayonet scabbards on the left, which we would have expected to see on all of them, but no one has a sabre, which is correct.
So there are no issues with the poses (apart from their number), nor with uniform and kit. However the sculpting leaves quite a lot to be desired. On the face of it these are nicely proportioned sculpts, and from a distance they look pretty good. However on closer inspection we find the detail is sometimes quite soft and vague, nowhere more so than with the water bottles. They should have retaining straps with five arms, but those here have a simple cross shape (which is wrong) that is poorly defined. The faces too have little in the way of features, and because of the unconventional positioning of the split line, the firing figure has very little face at all. The helmets by contrast are nicely done, but the muskets are poor, especially the bayonets, which in most cases are merely a pointy extension of the barrel, with no attempt to offset it and create a believable model. There is quite a lot of extra plastic here, particularly around the water bottle and cartridge pouches, and although you cannot see it in our photo, the area between upper musket and arm on the reloading figure is solid plastic. While looking at that figure, his bayonet is particularly misshapen, and his musket curves significantly to avoid his foot. Worse yet there is quite a lot of flash, which in places considerably disfigures these models.
Perfect historical accuracy is always a good starting point for a set of historical figures, and the only flaw in this set is that none of the men have their hair in a queue, although the queue was only abolished in 1805 (so technically not wrong, but worth knowing). The mean selection of poses does not offer very much, even though other sets in the series provide further poses, but it is the sculpting that offends here, especially as it can be very good (like the helmets) as well as very bad (like the bayonets). Of little use by itself, it is at least a small boost to the other sets of these men produced by other manufacturers, but we were left unimpressed by this particular product.