The organisation of Russian infantry during the wars with Napoleon was complex and changed over time, but it basically followed the same pattern as the rest of Europe in having ‘musketeer’ (later just 'infantry'), grenadier and Jäger formations. Grenadiers had originally been chosen largely by their above average size, (and Jägers as below average) but with the reforms of 1811 both these elites were chosen more on individual merit. Along with the increased status of being a grenadier, they were better paid than the ordinary infantry - 14 roubles a year instead of nine roubles 50 kopeks - so it was worth being a grenadier if possible. As we shall see, this set, like most of the others depicting Russian infantry of the period, contains only grenadiers, although it is an easy job to convert them into ordinary infantry.
The title tells us that these men are on the march, and for the most part that means holding the musket upright and resting on the left shoulder, which is fine. However there are also three poses of men in a more relaxed posture, with the musket sloped and resting more comfortably on the shoulder; one of these is even looking to the side as if talking to a comrade. So between them you can make different forms of marching troops, which is great, especially as previous sets might at best only include one marching figure. Every man has the same (left) foot forward, as do all the command figures in the bottom row, so everything matches up nicely. The musician is playing and the drummer beating his drum, which is a difficult pose to do well with a simple mould, but here it is probably about as well-done as it could be.
We know all the men are grenadiers because they all have the triple-flame grenade badge on their shako and on their cartridge pouch, and the long thin plume also indicates this status. The shape of the shako dates these to 1812 or later, although some may be the earlier model, but the other elements of the uniform and kit all agree with this date, so useful for such battles as Borodino, but not for Austerlitz or Friedland. The coats and summer trouser/gaiters are all correctly done, and all the kit looks good too, including the rectangular knapsack and the rolled greatcoat slung across the trunk. Some of the men wear a forage cap rather than the shako, and of those with the shako, some have it in a cover. This cover seems to have been unofficial at this time, but worn nonetheless. As grenadiers they have a sabre by their side, although the officers have been given longer straight swords. One wears the popular peaked forage cap and frock coat, while the other wears the more formal bicorn hat – both are appropriate. Both musicians have wings on their shoulders and chevron lace decoration down both sleeves, and lack the cartridge pouch as they have no firearm.
At first glance the sculpting looks really good. There is a lot of lovely detail and the proportions are very good – much better than older sets from this company depicting a similar subject. A closer inspection however reveals muskets with very little detail on them (even considering their position relative to the mould) and some of the hands are quite vague. The faces are very good and natural, and we really liked the drum here, even if it is a little shorter than it should be. The legs of the flag-bearer have certainly had some problems and seem to resemble modern baggy trousers, which looks poor. Finally the sculptor has taken liberties with the positioning of the rolled greatcoat on the figures that do not face the mould. They have moved the lower end to the front of the figure, which makes sculpting easier but is not the natural position and would be more uncomfortable for the man. There is a line of plastic where the mould halves meet, and a little extra flash in a handful of places, but nothing too serious.
The flag here is nicely done, and of roughly the right size, but we were puzzled by the musician (first figure, bottom row). Russian infantry regiments including musicians playing bassoons, horns, flutes, clarinet and the hautboy (an early oboe). Clearly the instrument here can only be one of the last two, yet it is far too small to realistically be either, so we were not sure what the sculptor was trying to achieve. It actually looks most like a tin whistle, but we can find no evidence such an instrument was formally used by the Tsar’s army.
As always different people will have their own ideas about what makes a great set, but to our mind this is a set that should have been great, and does have some great aspects like most of the sculpting and the accuracy, but lets itself down in a few details. We have enjoyed the little extra flourishes which the sculptor has given to several of his recent sets - here it is the kettle tucked under the pack of one of the men. So very good rather than perfect, but probably plenty good enough for most people, and with the implied promise of a second similar set in the future too.