This set is entitled ‘in retreat’, but in fact many of the poses are simply moving quickly, and could just as easily be advancing or rushing to catch a bus. Well maybe not catching a bus, but the poses are pretty widely useful for many situations, and only the figure in the top row shooting over his shoulder strongly suggests a fighting retreat. Indeed several of the poses are apparently in close-quarter combat, particularly the first two pictured, both of whom seem to be trying to use their rifle as a club. The first of these holds the rifle well along its length, which would be an ineffective clubbing stance, but the running second man is much more credible, and certainly does not look like he is retreating. There are several about to strike a blow with knife or sword, and some discharging their rifle or pistol. All the figures in the bottom row are holding or otherwise encumbered with two weapons. While this looks dramatic and is often seen in figures, we have to wonder how realistic this is, since it must be hard to effectively use a blade while holding a rifle in the other hand. The last figure is worse yet, as he does not hold his rifle but has it tucked under his arm, which we would have thought was largely impossible while delivering a blow as he is doing. Despite that, these are original and very lively poses, and all those in the first two rows at least are mostly really nicely realised.
The traditional Arab garb is largely timeless, being perfectly suited to the harsh environment, though there are many regional variations in detail and names. All here seem to wear the usual thobe or dishdasha, the long gown that reaches to the ankles, and hides the baggy sirwal trousers. A couple have also been given a short loose jacket with wide half-sleeves, for which we could find no evidence but cannot dismiss either. Several wear the classic Arab shemagh headdress, whilst various other turban head coverings are also on show, all of which look reasonable.
Almost all carry a rifle, but the detail is not sufficient to guess as to a make or model. They are all about 18mm (130cm) in total length, and none have the magazine case forward of the trigger that would suggest something like the SMLE, so we would guess some sort of late 19th century or 20th century weapon, of which several might fit the bill. No less than six of the 14 poses have at least one pistol, which is again unidentifiable, but we thought this was a surprisingly high proportion since the pistol is only useful at short ranges. Many wear a bandolier of ammunition for their firearm – some round the waist – but the second figure in the top row wears his with the pouches round the back, which would make them very difficult to access. As far as can be seen all have at least one blade, which is as it should be.
The sculpting of these Arabs is much the same as previous sets on the same subject from Strelets. It is pretty good with quite slim and well-proportioned figures, but the finer detail is not so good. On such subjects this is not a major issue, although as we have said the rifles do suffer as they are basically featureless. The faces are nice but the hands are often very poor, usually with no indication of fingers at all and sometimes not even apparently gripping what they ‘hold’. Looking at the left hand of the penultimate figure in the last row, you have to wonder how he is supposed to be holding the pistol, as the handle must be going down the inside of his arm (the hand is just a blob). The first two figures in the bottom row have ring hands to take the separate swords. The fit is loose but adequate, although we did not care for either pose anyway. There is flash and a noticeable ridge along some of the seams, but nothing too bad.
As a generic set of Arabs we thought these were dynamic and nice-produced on the whole. Everything looks to be authentic, and the vague weaponry helps to allow their use for a fairly long period of time. Close up they look less good, with the unclear details and poor hands being readily apparent. We were not keen on the men holding multiple weapons, which would surely have been a rare event, but for many these would still be useful figures, especially when combined with the many other sets of Arabs from the same producer.