The Boers had never had much use for artillery. After all, their wars were ones with the inhabitants of the lands they were conquering, and against men armed with edged weapons, clubs and a few old guns, the Boer rifleman was more than a match. Such a militia had also been more than enough to handle the brief war with the British in 1880, but as the neighbouring British colonies became more aggressive once more, both Boer republics realised they needed something more than civilian riflemen to oppose any serious military threat. This was highlighted by the Jameson Raid in 1895, which could have been very dangerous if it had been competently led. During the 1890s both Boer republics (South African Republic (Transvaal) and Orange Free State (OFS)) bought modern guns of various calibres from Europe, and these included a number of 7.5 cm field guns from the world-famous German manufacturer Krupp. These guns were naturally used once hostilities broke out in 1899, but unlike European armies the Boers used theirs singularly or in small groups (not in batteries), and frequently moved them around the battlefield to stop the enemy pinpointing and attacking them. While this was less efficient, it was effective in protecting them and served the Boers well. After defeat at Paardeberg in 1900 almost all the Boer guns were lost or ran out of ammunition, but while they were in action they served their masters well, and often outgunned the opposing British artillery.
Both Boer republics had a professional artillery corps, and along with the police they were the only Boer units to have a uniform. This was a khaki jacket and trousers with smart trimmings and a slouch hat turned up on one side. It was practical and widely worn in combat, but none of the figures here seem to be wearing it. Certainly the guns were sometimes manned by ordinary burghers who wore their everyday civilian clothing, and sometimes the professional gunners were also out of uniform too, so the costume of these men is not wrong, but definitely an opportunity missed as we would have liked to have seen at least some of them in the normal field uniform. As ordinary Boers the clothing is good, but fully half the figures are wearing a peaked cap. The brimmed hat was almost universal amongst the Boers, including the artillery, and for good reasons as it was the best protection against the sun. The Transvaal Staatsartillerie had a peaked cap of Austrian style which may have been seen in the field, but none here look like it. The OFS artillery corps did have a cap modelled on the German Tellerkappe, and some of the caps here resemble this, but again, it was seldom worn in the field, and all photos of such men in the field show the brimmed hat, so this is a really poor choice by the designer of this set.
The poses are a fairly standard selection of gunners, with men handling shells or operating the gun. Two are holding a long sponge, which must be for cleaning as by now such guns were all breech-loaders. We liked the pair carrying a box, but the others are okay, although one in particular deserves special attention. The last figure in the second row is very clearly an African, and so not a member of any gun crew. Both the Boers and the British claimed it was a ‘white man’s war’, and although a few natives were armed (as scouts for example), both sides tried to exclude blacks both through the casual racism that was widely accepted in those days, and because both had actually stolen the land over which they fought from the natives, and were afraid to arm them in case of a rebellion. Both sides were happy however to use the blacks as servants and labourers, and this figure is performing once such menial task – he has three water containers round his neck, and he carries two buckets, probably also full of water. Such a figure is a nod to the subservient role blacks played in the conflict, and this man could equally well go with any Boer infantry set, or indeed any British one too. A really nice little touch here, and a thoughtful addition to the set.
So we come to the gun. In terms of field guns the Boer arsenal was made up mostly of 7.5 cm guns from Krupp and Creusot, plus some captures from the British. The gun in this set is the same as that in the Turkish Artillery, and is clearly a Krupp model rather than the lower Creusot. Many images of these guns exist, as does at least one actual survivor, so it is easy to see that, as usual in such sets, this is a greatly simplified model. It is made of the usual four pieces (carriage, barrel and two wheels), and lacks much such as the axle seats and the brake. However the general shape is about right, and while things like the wheel spokes are much too thick, it is fairly easy to recognise it for what it is, so not a bad little model. Happily it is also fairly easy to put together and quite neatly moulded, without flash.
The sculpting of the figures is not too bad, and since the clothing these men wear is undemanding on detail they look reasonably good. Faces and especially hands are rather more basic, but no worse than many other sets, and elements like the large amount of facial hair are quite clear. As we have said, the African is easy to spot by his features as well as his role, so most will find the quality good enough here. The figures have a small ridge round the seam which should be removed, but that is about the extent of the flash, so again fairly good.
It is not a work of art, but generally this set is pretty good in most respects apart from the large number of inappropriate caps being worn. As we said, we would certainly have preferred some uniformed men here, so an opportunity missed, but those we get are adequate for the job, and the gun fits that description too.