Prior to 1805 the Habsburg Austrian Army had two companies of grenadiers in each infantry regiment, but these were usually taken away and brigaded with companies from other regiments to form elite battalions of just grenadiers. Shortly before the 1805 campaign the structure was changed so each regiment had a battalion of grenadiers (along with four of fusiliers), made up of four companies, but this was only part-complete when the campaign began, and caused some confusion during the war. In 1807 the old arrangement was restored, but still the grenadiers were usually taken to build ad hoc all-grenadier units. When at war therefore grenadiers marched together rather than with their parent regiment, and provided the backbone of the Army, gaining a grudging respect from no less a person than Napoleon himself after the Wagram campaign of 1809.
The box title tells us that these men are all on the march, although many are clearly quite informal, and not in a formation. Anyone marching behind the fourth figure in the second row would be worried about getting a bayonet in the face if he walked too close behind. Some are more formal, with musket held upright on the left shoulder, although none are supporting their firearm under the stock as they should. Those poses that are side-on to the mould feel quite flat – especially the last figure in the second row, whose feet are tripping over each other. The sapper (zimmermann) in the bottom row carries his axe over his shoulder (they were not given a case for their axe for some reason), and while the drummer carries his drum in the correct manner, he holds his sticks in his hand - perhaps he lacks the stick holder on his belt which was standard equipment. The ensign holding the flag is fairly relaxed, but has the flag uncased, which would have been unusual when just on the march. If these men are moving into position on the battlefield however, then this is more reasonable. All told we were not particularly pleased with the poses, many of which are rather awkward, and which do not readily build a formed unit.
By ‘winter dress’ the set title means all the men wear the greatcoat, which was a single-breasted garment with six buttons, although some here seem to have more than that. Strangely three of the poses have managed to pin back their skirts, but we could find no evidence this was ever done, partly because the coat lacked the buttons to hold them. Most wear the typical Austrian grenadier cap, which is correctly done in basic shape but the sculptor has failed to understand the bag at the back, has let the cap fall down over the neck to touch the coat, and has unwisely attempted to put some detail on the front plate. No one has a field sign either, which is a pity, and those with a cover over the cap lack details of how this was fastened. Finally three poses wear a sort of forage cap similar to 20th century designs for which no one seems able to find any firm evidence beyond a general acceptance amongst re-enactors. Certainly the usual forage cap of cylindrical design would have been a good idea, but not this. Some wear gaiters, as they should, but some clearly wear trousers, which is not generally illustrated, and may not have been particularly common.
All the men carry a knapsack of appropriate design, which is held by two straps over the shoulders (except for the drummer), but none have the cross-strap that connected these two across the chest. Each also has a cartridge pouch on the hip (which should bear a badge but is blank). As they are grenadiers they have a sabre on the left hip, but this is sometimes quite short and thick so does not look good. A few have a haversack (not part of the normal kit), and there is a wide variety of water bottle designs, although many seem to have no water container at all. Also the sapper is carrying a musket when these men did not usually have any firearm at all.
The sculpting of these figures is not good, with detail quite vague in places and not sharp. Some of the poses not facing the mould (like the sapper) have provoked compromises in the detail which are not attractive, and some smaller detail like the badge or matchcase on the crossbelts is missing completely. The drum on the back, while a good idea, has meant quite a lot of compromise, with the drum melting into the man a good deal, but some areas like faces and muskets are quite well done. The seams between the moulds have a noticeable ridge of plastic everywhere, but otherwise there is no flash.
The flag is not engraved, and is of about the right size, and while relatively flat it can easily be removed and replaced with a paper one if desired.
While there are good things about this set, the style of sculpting and the many small and not-so-small accuracy problems are a disappointment, as are some of the rather awkward poses on offer. Since this is labelled as set 1 we can assume at least one more set, which when combined with this one will deliver an impressive range of marching grenadiers in winter dress. However we couldn’t get excited about this set, which apart from the number of poses could be much improved in almost all respects.