Strelets don’t put a date on this set, so we need to look for clues to place these warriors in the appropriate setting. The dress is traditional Arab and almost timeless, but the rifles are much more helpful. They are all much alike, being between 16mm and 17mm in length (115cm to 122cm), and all have a magazine forward of the trigger. From this we would say these might be the Lee-Metford or the later Lee-Enfield, or other similar weapons of the time. This dates these figures to the last decade or so of the 19th century, and well into the 20th. The ammunition bandoliers some of these men carry seems to confirm this sort of dating.
At the end of the 19th century many Arabs lived under the Ottoman Empire, and while the Ottoman’s used them as ordinary uniformed infantry, they also used them as irregulars, when no uniform was worn. Famously many rebelled against the Empire from 1916, when they received assistance, including rifles, from the British, and such weaponry would have been kept in use long after the war came to an end in 1918. So these figures have a good long period when they could reasonably be used, including inter-tribal conflicts and anti-colonial actions, but particularly alongside the previous sets of Arabs made by Strelets for the Arab Revolt.
The costume of these men, a long robe and turban or headdress (sometimes brought across the face) is perfectly suitable for Arab fighters, but it should be noted that despite the box artwork, no one here wears the characteristic Arab kaffiyeh and egal. The clothing all looks authentic, as does the relatively modest amount of belt, pouches and bags to be found here. Every man has a classic curved knife at his belt, and a surprising number also have a pistol holster. These are of several styles, both open and closed, and look okay, though we are not sure if they were as common as implied here. Nevertheless, we have no problems with the accuracy of each figure here.
Many Arabs were ideally suited to guerrilla warfare, and might attack their enemy through ambush, so what we would call a skirmish would have been pretty common. Strelets have taken the opportunity to provide some poses that are much more dynamic and unconventional – not one man here is standing upright. One man crouches while another runs forward while keeping his head well down, but most are kneeling or have hit the deck entirely. In a landscape that might offer few opportunities for cover this makes perfect sense, and we thought all these poses were both imaginative and completely plausible. Those on the ground are particularly good, but there is not a poor pose anywhere here, and all are realistically done too, although the running man is rather tripping over his own feet, so is slightly flat.
Such figures do not call for buckets of lovely detail, but we thought the intricacies of the clothing were nicely done and natural. Faces are pretty good, but hands and finer details such as the definition on the rifles are somewhat vague. Certainly when comparing the figures with the published photos of the masters there has been some loss of definition such as fingers, which is a pity. The general look and proportions are excellent however, and although there is some flash this is fairly consistently low-level around all of the seams. Occasional small compromises with anatomy in order to achieve the natural poses are unobtrusive and worth the effort, so this is a very good piece of sculpting which has suffered to some degree from the process of making the mould.
For us the highlight of this set is the dynamic and natural poses. With several potential uses this is quite a versatile collection, and although some definition has been lost, the sculpting is still pretty good. The variety of clothing and kit work really well here, so for many a conflict in the Middle East this set would surely be a worthy component.