Though rockets were an old weapon in parts of Asia, it was the British that introduced them into the Napoleonic Wars. They had come across them in India, and Sir William Congreve had developed them into a weapon which saw action on several battlefields, notable Copenhagen, Leipzig and Waterloo. Though very inaccurate they were on occasions quite successful and were certainly impressive in an age unfamiliar to such things. However though Austria began similar development work it was only the British that used this 'ammunition without ordnance' during the war.
As with all HaT artillery sets, this one includes a good six poses for the crew, and with the very different nature of rockets this is an unusual collection that nonetheless portrays its subject well. As they were attached to the Royal Horse Artillery they wear the uniform of that unit, and are correctly attired in all respects, with good detail of lace and other refinements. The helmet is in the style of the Tarleton, and lends itself well to being moulded from the side, but detail inevitably suffers when moulded from the front as on one figure here. Proportions are good and the poses well chosen.
As well as the men carrying rockets there are two extra rockets on each of the four sprues. We have chosen to show one of these on the launcher and one by itself. From their size they would appear to be 6-pounders, the most common size and the one most used at Waterloo. Detail is fine, and if a roundshot version is required then the point can simply be trimmed off.
The launcher is a tripod that comes in three pieces that fit together well. The trough stands about level with a man's head, and cradles the rocket correctly. This was just one of several methods of launching rockets, but was a common one and is illustrated in the book Congreve himself produced on the merits of this weapon.
Finally there is the wagon, which is actually a rocket carriage. This held rockets and sticks, and the crew could ride in it as well. It was hitched to the back of a normal 4-horse artillery limber (for which the pole is provided), and could even be used as part of the launch platform. The inclusion of this piece in the set might well be considered a bonus but it allows the troop to be seen on the march as well as in action, and is a very welcome addition.
This set appears very early in the HaT product list, but in fact it was released much later than the numbering would suggest, and therefore benefits from the lessons learned from the earlier production. There is not too much flash, and the figures are nicely done. The launcher and carriage assemble with the usual excellent HaT precision.
Rockets were a novel form of ordnance at the start of the 19th century, but they make for a very nice set. Their presence at Leipzig and Waterloo alone is reason enough to produce such figures, and this one covers the subject very well.