Bavaria was one of the strongest of the numerous German states in the early 19th century, and had traditionally been an ally of Catholic France for many years previously. Initially bound to support Austria thanks to being a part of the Holy Roman Empire, when it became possible, Bavaria sided with France and prospered as a result during the years that France was so dominant in Europe. During those years Bavarian troops fought with France in places as far apart as Italy and Russia, but at times the fighting was on Bavarian soil itself.
As the title suggests these are not fighting miniatures, but men at ease inasmuch as they are all standing (rather than at leisure) but clearly not at attention. For some it is battle poses that they require, but we have really enjoyed the many ‘at ease’ or ‘before battle’ sets Strelets have done over the years, and this one is as good as any. As well as men just in relaxed mode we find some holding or drinking from a water container and one man puffing away on his pipe. All the poses nicely capture the look of men waiting for something to happen, be it battle or just moving off, simply chatting, fiddling with equipment or whatever. The officers might have a bit more purpose about them, but could just as easily be in conversation with each other.
Prior to 1799 the Bavarian Army had been clothed in a somewhat unconventional manner, but in that year this changed greatly, and the first item was a new helmet, the Raupenhelm. This was a very tall leather helmet with a caterpillar crest along the back and top. It had a badge on the front, and metal fittings including a very fine chain that hung beneath the badge. This is what most of the men here are wearing, and it has been really nicely sculpted. Even the chain, fine as it is, is present and looks good. No one here has a plume, which was worn by grenadiers and some light infantry, but they lack the small tuft that should be above the left chinstrap boss, and the cockade above that, both of which are easy to add with paint. The crests of the officers’ helmets are noticeably fatter than for the rest, which is correct, but it should be noted that officers only began wearing this helmet in 1805, which essentially gives us the earliest date for which this set is appropriate. Also notable are the three figures in the middle row that wear the fatigue hat rather than the helmet. Looking rather like the French bonnet de police, it has been as well done here as the helmet.
All the men wear a coat with full lapels at the front and short tails at the rear. The bottom of a waistcoat is also visible at the waist. The drummer has been given the same, but it seems his should have epaulettes – perhaps fringed or swallows nest – and also chevron decoration down each sleeve, but it has none of these. The officers have something similar (doubtless of better quality) but with no shoulder straps and much longer tails, the latter being a very common indication of rank in many armies. Both officers are correctly modelled with bars on their collar – another sign of rank – and the mere fact that we can see them is more testimony to how well-made these figures are. Another classic sign of rank is the sash both wear around the waist, which was only withdrawn in 1812, and of course the cane and long sword.
Most of these figures wear campaign trousers, but a couple have breeches and so their gaiters, which reach to below the knee, can clearly be seen. It is unclear how common trousers like these were, but in these cases it is often true that such comfortable and practical clothing was more popular than contemporary artists care to illustrate. The two officers of course have full riding boots.
For equipment each man has a cartridge pouch on the right hip, plus a sabre and bayonet scabbard on the left. Many also have a bag or haversack on one hip or the other, but we were surprised that no one here has a knapsack. Until 1808 this was carried on a strap on the left hip, and afterwards it was held by two straps round the shoulders as illustrated on the box and also on the old HaT figures. It seems to have been usual for these men to have their knapsack on them, so this is a problem for accuracy, though we wonder if Strelets deliberately removed these in order to make the figures suitable for a longer period. The kit is nicely done, as are the muskets. The drum is particularly well done, something many other sets struggle to achieve.
We have already said the sculpting is very good, and does not seem to have suffered any damage during the mould-making process. The faces are good and the hands have good, clear fingers. One officer even seems to be wearing a medal on his chest. There is a little flash, but in most places this is quite unobtrusive.
We have already said we approve of the drum, and the flag avoids any criticism on size by being furled and apparently tied too. The full length of staff and finial is 40mm, which is a very respectable 288cm, so looks great, although those wishing to add an open paper flag will not find this the most accommodating of poses. Although we like these sort of poses anyway, those here are very good, and the sculpting cannot really be slighted either. Flash is low-level, but the lack of the knapsack has cost this set an accuracy point, even if it was done for sound commercial reasons. It also passes the instinct test – as soon as we saw these figures we felt the desire to paint them, which is always a very good sign!