An Arab column on the move must have been an imposing and colourful sight. The many colours of the clothes matched by those of the flags they carried, and there may have been drums to accompany the men as they marched. Although an Arab’s sense of belonging was often to a tribe rather than any larger grouping, when stirred to anger they made formidable fighters, whether against each other or some colonial power. Some were used as irregulars by the Ottomans when they were in charge of the Arab homelands, but they could be difficult to control, especially by those that did not understand their society.
Strelets have now made several sets of Arabs, so we have come a long way from the days when only the limited Airfix set offered us such men. This ‘in ambush’ set provides yet more poses, and some certainly do suggest an ambush, since we have several lying down or kneeling, but the rest are fairly conventional. None of those standing convey a sense of urgency or movement, so most seem to be standing still and no one is firing their weapon. These are valid poses of course, and perfectly useful in some situations, but we preferred the kneeling and prone ones, which more readily suggest battle. Some of the poses are fairly similar to ones created in previous sets, but we thought all were well done and seemed quite realistic.
As another set of generic Arabs, the costume here is pretty standard fare, matching perfectly the costume in previous releases. We find most of the men wearing the loose thobe gown, along with an array of turbans or the traditional Arab shemagh headdress. A few have a shorter robe which reveals something of their lower legs, where we would have expected baggy trousers, but they look instead to be something cut much tighter and closer to the European fashion. The costume looks fine, and the various items of kit these men carry looks reasonable as it could have come from many sources. Some even have bandoliers in the style seen on Western cavalrymen of the Great War.
Most carry a rifle of fairly modern appearance, by which we mean for the early 20th century, and not the elderly jezails that were often still used before the coming of Western nations. A couple also have a pistol in a holster, and a few still have a sword hanging from a belt. All would of course have a knife, some of which are visible here, but the stand-out weapon is the heavy machine gun in our bottom row. It looks like the early Maxim Vickers M1906 model, although it does not have the corrugated water-jacket. However there is no reason why this rare gun would have been in the hands of the Arabs, so perhaps it is a poor model of the later Vickers Mk I. Whatever it is, it has no ammunition being fed to it, nor does it has any condenser attached to the water jacket.
The style and quality of these figures is on a par with the previous releases, which is to say fairly good but with a certain loss of form in some areas such as hands. Many of the faces are obscured anyway, but the proportions are good and the clothing seems quite realistic. The machine gun fits the tripod well, and there is almost no flash on our sample.
The Arabs is presumably a popular subject for Strelets as they have made several such sets, and this one merely adds to the number of poses available. The quality is good and apart from our doubts about the machine gun there are no accuracy issues, assuming the set is aimed for the first half of the 20th century. Many of the poses seem to have little to do with the ‘ambush’ theme, but anyone collecting such warriors will find plenty to enjoy in this collection.