By the time Airfix came to produce their large Great War range, their sculpting quality was up to modern standards and the number of poses provided was at its peak.
The number of poses is superb, and was probably one of the most generous sets until the likes of Orion and Strelets starting producing their everyone-different sets. What's more, there are many interesting and useful poses, not just assorted riflemen. There is the man using his entrenching tool (all too common a task), the man carrying a sack of supplies (again very common), the cyclist, the bugler, the observer with telescope and the signaller with pigeon. Only the flag-bearer is more a matter of romance than a realistic sight on the battlefield, certainly by the time the Adrian helmet was in use, but the set is still chock full of useful and interesting poses. It all goes to show what can be achieved when there are a good many poses and some imagination is used.
This set depicts the French infantry with their Adrian helmets, making them suitable for all but the first few months of the Great War (the Adrian became increasingly common during mid- to late-1915). All wear single-breasted greatcoats (both single- and double-breasted were common) except the officer, who has retained his 'tunique' and kepi as some officers did, at least earlier in the war. The detail is excellent, though there is some flash to be removed and a few figures have ugly mould marks on them (such as the cyclist). While what there is is nice, there is much that is missing however. No one has the distinctive two-spout water bottle, and most have no rear ammunition pouch. The sculptor has been generous in distributing assorted bags in various places, but most are not as per regulation, and while soldiers would sometimes have acquired extra items such as this, these are a bit too far from the norm to be entirely acceptable. A few of the poses have the front belt supports as normal, but these turn into crossbelts at the back, so when looked at both front and back the figure makes no sense. Many have packs, but these too are at best a vague approximation of the real thing, which is not good enough today. Lastly, no one seems to have a recognisable gasmask container, which would have been quite reckless behaviour.
The set includes a wounded man and a dead casualty, which would be appropriate for any war, but particularly so for this one. About the only omission is a machine gun, which is provided in all the other World War I sets, including the later Revell and Pegasus French sets. Equally a Chauchat, the very poor French automatic rifle, would have been a good inclusion here, as would some figures with a rolled blanket across the chest (late war assault order), although it does seem hard to complain when we get 20 poses.
As with all the Airfix Great War figures the detail is very nice, and the sculpting generally is still pretty good even by today's higher standards. Flash is certainly a problem in some pressings of the set, but again there has been much worse seen on many later sets.
This is an excellent set, and superior in many ways to the much later Revell set. What's more, since the French uniform barely changed until the 1940's, most of these figures can be painted khaki and used as early World War II troops as well, depending on how generous you are feeling about the inaccuracies of course. This was, and still is, a much-loved set, and if the historical accuracy is not as good as later sets could offer, then it was at least full of interest and with enough excitement to leave many a small boy all of a quiver.