When Esci were planning their first Crimean War sets, it seems that they were mainly thinking of that war's most famous battle, Balaclava, and the famous charge of the Light Brigade. Since the 11th Hussars were the most spectacularly dressed of the regiments involved, it seems natural for them to portray this regiment first.
This was the third set of cavalry that Esci produced, and as with so much else in their range they followed a formula, which for the poses was four troopers plus a trumpeter. All the poses are carrying their sword at various angles, and all are looking forward as if charging. There's little imagination here, but they are adequate for the job. Whether the trumpeter would have drawn his sword as well as playing his instrument, which he does with his left hand, is unclear but seems doubtful (how exactly is he controlling his horse?). The sculpting is of the usual high Esci quality, however, with great detail picked out really clearly, which on a hussar is especially important. The men fit their horses well, and there is virtually no flash anywhere.
Sadly, this set really let itself down when it came to the accuracy of the uniform. The most obvious problem is that both hussar regiments had left their pelisses on their transport vessels when they landed, and had not received them by the time of Balaclava. So all these figures with their dramatic pelisses draped over their shoulder are badly inaccurate, at least until November of 1854, by which time they were destined to participate in no more charges. Also, all light cavalry except the Lancers were equipped with a carbine, but only two of the figures here are so equipped. The trumpeter would not have had one, but they should be present on the other two. Other pieces of basic equipment missing here are the haversack and water canteen, both of which should be slung from belts over the right shoulder, but both items and belts are missing on these figures. A General Order not long after landing in the Crimea permitted all ranks to grow moustaches and beards, and from the photographs it seems almost everyone did so. Three of the figures have moustaches, but none have beards.
The three horse poses are all in advancing or charging poses, which is appropriate for the riders. As with all Esci horses they fit into separate bases via pegs on their hooves, but these fit well and present no problems. However all should have a sheepskin over the saddle, but do not. The cylindrical valise that has been modelled on all these horses was also left behind on disembarkation, and also failed to reach the hussars before the Charge of the Light Brigade, so again for that action this is wrong. What should be here however is the rolled cloak, which should be fastened over the front of the saddle but is missing, and the rolled blanket, which should be attached to the rear of the saddle but is also missing. The basic saddles and bridles are correct, however,
After Balaclava the British cavalry played very little part in the war, so it is reasonable to judge these figures against the actual appearance on that day in 1854. In several respects these figures have been poorly researched, though as ever the Esci standard of sculpting and level of detail is beyond reproach. This set would form the basis for the Napoleonic British Light Dragoons set later on, a period for which it is ironically more accurate, but as it stands it is not a useful set for modelling one of the most famous cavalry actions in military history.
Note that a book by Mark Adkin ("The Charge") claims that the 11th Hussars, the subject of this set, did indeed have their pelisses on the day of the charge. If this is true then it would make a big difference to the validity of these figures, but is it? Well your humble reviewer can only be guided by what the experts tell us, and in this case as so many others, the experts disagree. Other sources explicitly state that the pelisses only reached the regiment in November of 1854, so who is right? Has Mark Adkin found evidence that contradicts the other authors, or is he in error? We cannot possibly know, but history is full of uncertainties, so should you choose to believe that the 11th did have their pelisses on 25th October then this set offers much more than we had originally thought. In any case, all hussars look more cool when they have the pelisse slung over the shoulder!