As an island nation, it was only natural that Britain relied for much of her defence on her navy, and indeed the Royal Navy is still the senior service to this day. With the apparent threat of invasion from France, Britain spent a huge proportion of its budget on the navy, and Britain's ability to dominate the seas had a far greater effect than is generally supposed by those who know only of the Battle of Trafalgar. Very few naval subjects have yet been made for any era, but this set from HaT goes some way to acknowledge the important role of the Royal Navy in Napoleon's defeat.
The set divides nicely into three sections - Marines, boarding party and gun crew, each with four figures as seen above. The Marines wear the uniform suitable from around 1799 until the end of the Wars, with the round hat being the most distinctive feature. Their uniform has been accurately done, although it seems they usually wore trousers when on active service, and gaiters such as those on these models mostly on dress occasions. They also have their hair in a queue, a practice which was abolished in 1808. Finally, they all have their bayonets fixed, which was unusual while at sea (though of course Marines also fought on land), so customers may want to trim these off. Though there are only four poses, they are reasonable, though the man advancing at bayonet point is unlikely to be aboard ship.
As the need arose, sailors were required to either board an enemy vessel or repel boarders. The second row shows sailors apparently engaged in this task. Cutlasses and pistols were favoured weapons, as shown here, but in addition one man has a boarding axe and another has a boarding pike. All examples of British boarding axes we could find had a spike behind the head, which this lacks, but the boarding pike, while looking like an ancient spear, is more accurate. One man wears the common blue jacket while the other has taken his off, though both have the handkerchief round the neck and buckled shoes. The other two are stripped to the waist and are barefoot. Though it was much more common for sailors to be armed with pistols than muskets, all these figures are correct and nicely posed.
The last row is of the gun crew, all stripped to the waist, barefoot and manning their gun. The set includes four crew per gun, though it took more than that to manhandle the gun in action. However the poses are pretty lifelike. Clothing consists of loose trousers and the afore mentioned handkerchief, now tied round the head as a sweatband. The first figure carries a ramrod which was made of rope and therefore flexible enough to use in the confined spaces on a gun deck. The third man holds nothing, and could be used either holding a handspike or pulling on a rope, though we would have preferred at least a handspike to be included. Although not regulated, queues were apparently common among the crew, though only two poses in this set have them.
The set includes one design of carriage and two different calibre barrels for the ship's guns - 32- and 24-pounders would be our guess. The carriages come as one piece, wheels and all, and on our example some have the mould parts misaligned, which is apparent by the wheels. The carriage is quite simplified, though as with most artillery sets what can be done is limited when it is just one piece. One item which is missing from the barrels is the flintlock mechanism, which was put on the barrel when action was expected. A simple representation could have been included, or a more detailed model could have been supplied as a separate piece.
The standard of sculpting is good rather than great, with only adequately carved folds in clothing and muscle structure on bare flesh. The figures exhibit some flash, but this is not too bad. Our main concern is that there are absolutely no officers - Naval or Marine - in the set, despite any naval battle including many such gentlemen. However the seamen, particularly the gun crew, are simple enough to be useful for the navies of many nations, and for periods other than the Napoleonic Wars. A vital but often forgotten part of the Wars has finally received attention, and we can only hope for a set of officers and specialists (surgeons, Marine drummers etc.) will one day accompany this worthwhile set.