A Napoleonic battlefield could be a cacophony of drums beating and fifes playing on all sides, but when the shrill of the bagpipes was heard there could be no doubt which troops were taking their place. This announcement of the Highland infantry might well have a demoralising effect on their opponents, for they saw themselves as amongst the best soldiers in the World, and many others might agree. Their distinctive appearance only added to their sense of uniqueness, and perhaps superiority, but their effectiveness in a fight was matched by great discipline and endurance when on the march.
In general Strelets have much improved the quality of their output recently, but this has been patchy and some concurrent sets are not as well made as others. Happily this set belongs in the very best category, because all these figures are beautifully proportioned and wonderfully detailed. There are many areas to admire here such as the lace on the front of the coat, the check pattern on the bonnet and hose, and the delicately done faces. However special mention must be made of the ostrich feathers on the bonnets, which must be an immensely difficult thing to sculpt in this sort of medium, yet here it has been done in a more realistic and natural way than we have ever seen before. The simple poses certainly make the sculptor’s job easier, but that does not detract from the high quality of the sculpting on show here, which is a pleasure to behold.
This is essentially a set of just one pose, rendered multiple times to add natural variation to a line-up. Nevertheless that pose is very well done here, and should prove very useful for both gamers and diorama builders looking to create such men formed up ready for battle. The command figures in our final row match the rest of the men quite well, although the pioneer does not seem to be at attention, but rather more relaxed. The piper is clearly actually playing his pipes, and the ensign is in danger of being engulfed by his colours, as the staff rests on the ground rather than in the holder. The officer is reaching to draw his sword, and is a nice pose, as are they all.
The uniform of the Highland regiments during the Napoleonic Wars is well documented, and has been properly reproduced on these figures. Working from the top down, all wear the ‘Kilmarnock’ bonnet, which in some cases has a full quota of ostrich feathers, but in others has none. Since the feathers were often damaged and lost during a campaign, both states are valid and welcome here. Those without the feathers reveal the tourie or bobble on top, and some have the detachable peak while others do not. For some reason the designer has chosen to give all those with feathers a peak, and all those with no feathers also have no peak. This is not wrong, but why this correlation between feathers and peak we cannot guess. Moving down the body, the men have the shorter coat with lace on the chest and, in all cases here, the shoulder tufts of a centre company. The kilt is nicely done and of a good length, and the hose, half-gaiters and shoes are all good too. The pioneer also wears an apron, and the piper has wings on his shoulder as he should. The sergeant has the chevrons of his rank on his upper right arm, but it is the ensign and officer that are the most distinctive. Both wear a sash across the body, which is clearly visible because neither wear the Highland scarf. Both also wear trousers or pantaloons rather than the kilt, which is also correct, so everything about the costume here is accurate.
The men carry the standard equipment of the British infantryman of the day, including the cartridge pouch, haversack and ‘Italian’ water bottle. Below the haversack the bayonet scabbard can be seen, but only on some of them. All the men have the normal rectangular knapsack on their backs, to which is attached the rolled blanket and the ‘D’-shaped mess tin, an item which dates these men to 1813 or later. Three of the poses also have extra baggage to carry – a bottle in a wicker container, a jug (perhaps?) and a mess dish. All are perfectly likely and add character, so are very welcome. One item not visible however is the case for the axe which the pioneer is grasping.
Weaponry is the usual musket, which is nicely done here despite being partly hidden from the mould. The sergeant has his spontoon or half-pike, and a long straight sword by his side. Such a weapon is also seen on the piper, and on both officers, where the basket hilt is easier to make out. One problem however is with the flag. Although it is partially limp, it is noticeably too small, since it is about 18mm (130cm) square when at this scale it should be 27.5mm flying and 25.5mm on the pike (198cm by 183cm). At the proper size it would of course have interfered with the ensign, since the staff is about the right length, which is why he has the holder to support it well off the ground (which is ignored here).
If we were being picky (as we usually are), we would say a couple of the hands are not quite as clear as they might be, with little in the way of visible fingers on such as the piper, but it is hard to notice. Also, the pipes lack the drone cords that keep them together, but again, a tough omission to notice. Instead we are inclined to say this is a really great set, beautifully produced, both in terms of sculpting and in the almost complete lack of flash. There are no accuracy problems apart from the flag (which unfortunately would be very difficult to replace with paper), and while the principal pose is simple it is useful and looks very natural here. Anyone looking to depict Highlanders at Quatre Bras or Waterloo will surely find much to love in this excellent collection of figures.