The Crimean War is unusual in that more people have heard of various key elements than would recognise the name of the conflict itself. Florence Nightingale and the 'thin red line' are both very well known, yet it is the charge of the Light Brigade that has captured the imagination, and become one of the best known actions in military history, if not for all the right reasons. To many the lancers are the most recognisable element of that body (a recent television re-enactment had nothing but lancers), so to some this set represents the heart of that famous charge.
As always Strelets have supplied 12 different poses, and in this case 12 different horse poses too. The human poses are all very different from each other, so if the famous charge is to be recreated then several boxes will be required as only a few of these poses are suitable for any particular phase. However the lancers did also perform all the usual light cavalry duties during the war, and it is nice to see those represented here, as in the man with lance slung or the trooper firing his pistol. However our favourite poses are the men thrusting down with their lance to left and right. The second man in the second row may look strange, but he seems to be meant for the falling horse, so he is actually falling forward, which explains the peculiar way he holds his lance. Two of the men are using their swords, which is very important as the lance is largely useless in close quarter combat. The only fly in the ointment is the flag bearer, who is entirely pointless as standards were not taken to the Crimea by British cavalry, let alone carried into battle. Although it wouldn't make a great pose the flag could be trimmed into a pennant to fabricate another lancer.
As in many countries the British adopted the Polish czapska helmet, but the uniform was otherwise fairly standard light cavalry pattern. Their epaulettes had been left behind before the campaign however, as had the sabretache and valise, and none of these were present at Balaclava. Furthermore on campaign the cap was either covered in an oilskin or substituted by a foul-weather cap (of identical shape and size). The uniform, with all these omissions, is correctly sculpted here and our only accuracy complaint is with the trumpeter, who is using his trumpet (used in camp rather than on the battlefield) and is missing the bugle that would be the normal field instrument.
The horses are noticeably slimmer than previous Strelets sets, which is entirely appropriate for the light cavalry. Poses are mostly OK, although there are a couple with quite unlikely gaits. The horse crashing down on its head is a highlight and has been very well done, and it is good to see one horse walking, allowing a stable platform for the man firing his pistol. All the saddlery is correctly and well done, including the distinctive spoon cantle at the rear. Most of the mounts have the crescent-shaped brass amulet under the throat, but two also have the throat plume, marking them out as belonging to officers, as does the visible lining on their sheepskin. None of the horses has a valise, which is correct, but they all have the blanket and cloak rolled under the sheepskin, which is again correct.
The standard of sculpting on these figures is at least as good as anything Strelets have yet produced. Detail is clear and plentiful and there is no flash to speak of. Some items are somewhat larger or less elegant than can be found with other manufacturers, but this is down to the fact that the figures are sculpted in their final size rather than sculpted larger and then sized down, which limits what can be achieved at this scale. However this 'chunky' feeling is less pronounced than previous output. The bottom four figures in our picture have separate weapons - three lances and a sword for the second man from the left. The sword (or more correctly just the blade) fits well enough, but the lances are considerably bent on the sprue. However the plastic used is soft and these can be straightened quite easily. The final figure on this row has a groove into which the lance must be glued, but the bond is not strong. The other two have ring hands, but we found that in both cases these were not wide enough to take the lance. The hole can be filed wider, but we simply split the hand, which worked almost as well. Note that the lances and sword have been cut away here to allow the figure to be photographed.
We were disappointed that there was not a figure with lance straight ahead, and some attention needs to be paid to the thickness of items such as lances, but in general this is a welcome return to good form for this manufacturer and an important addition to the rapidly increasing number of Crimean War sets available.