Napoleon, although an artilleryman himself, well knew that the infantry were the most important part of any army. Under his rule the best infantrymen were transferred to the grenadiers or, better yet, the Imperial Guard, yet the ordinary infantry retained a high standard and served their beloved emperor faithfully right to the end. However the standard was not high amongst early attempts to immortalise these troops for the last few years of the Napoleonic Wars, 1813 to 1815, and this includes one of Italeri's first offerings, which fell well short in terms of accuracy. With the release of this product it appears Italeri is trying to make amends, and finally produce a decent Waterloo French infantry set.
The earlier Italeri standard of 15 poses has recently given way to 16, which is good, but the method of delivery - three identical sprues - means the box contains exactly the same number of each, which is bad. In this case Italeri have included figures from all three main elements of a French regiment - fusiliers, grenadiers and voltigeurs. There were normally four fusilier companies and one each of grenadiers and voltigeurs in a battalion, and the split of figures in this set reflects those proportions perfectly. The fusiliers (first two rows) are a pretty standard mixture of poses, with some in a firing line and others advancing or on the march. Opinion is divided on the value of the kneeling figures, but we thought all were OK. The third row shows the grenadiers (first two figures) and the voltigeurs (last two). With only two poses to play with these seem reasonable choices, particularly for wargamers, but we would have preferred a firing voltigeur pose. The (fusilier) NCO, officer, drummer and standard-bearer on the final row are all quite acceptable. Overall at least there are no particularly unusual poses which can waste space on the sprue.
This time Italeri have done their homework and correctly represented the Bardin uniform as introduced into the French army from 1812. All the men wear the square-lapelled short-tailed coatee and the trousers that were in common usage by this stage. The differences in uniform and equipment between fusiliers, grenadiers and voltigeurs are all correctly represented, as are some variances from regulations such as the voltigeur who, like many of his colleagues, still wears a sabre despite repeated orders to the contrary. The elite grenadiers and voltigeurs are still wearing pompons, which again was common despite having permission to wear plumes. Although a small issue none of the men have the rolled forage cap under their cartridge pouch, and rather more importantly none have any sort of canteen or flask or mess tin. While such things were not issued by the army, almost everyone carried this essential item in one form or another and they should appear here. In fact, these men are rather too regulation, but that can equally be said about most figure sets, so is not really a criticism.
The sculpting of these figures is generally pretty good. Some small items such as buttons are rather bulky and chunky, but detail is quite reasonable. Some items that in reality were virtually flat, such as detail on the flag and badges on the turnbacks, have been left flat here, which meets with our approval. However there are a very few flat spots, and we felt the drum was noticeably too small - a common fault. Also the fusiliers, who carried their bayonet on the lower part of their crossbelt, have theirs right on their right hip on these figures, much further down than it should be, and there is also a lack of detail in this area, suggesting the sculptor was not clear on how this item was held. The other obvious problem is that every single man has his chin inside his collar, or else has no chin at all, which gives the men a quite strange look. Apart from that these are quite neat and tidy, and while there is some extra areas of plastic and some tabs of flash they are not particularly noteworthy.
In conclusion then this is a very usable set that has its faults but they are all relatively minor, so if there are still some of those old Airfix French in a cupboard then now might be a good moment to consign them to plastic figure heaven and smarten up those regiments of 'Les Bleus' for the field of Waterloo or Leipzig.