Time and again history has shown that a terrible military defeat can be the catalyst for major reforms and improvements, and one such was the defeat of Prussia by France at the Battle of Jena in 1806. Prussia suffered enormously after this disaster, but it also began or accelerated a series of reforms that were to greatly benefit Prussia, many being in the Army itself. The newly modernised army remained small at French insistence, but Prussia reluctantly contributed troops to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. After the disastrous French defeat, Prussia and much of Germany rose up against the French, and helped force the abdication of Napoleon the following year. His final grasp for power in 1815 would be destroyed on the field of Waterloo, and the reinvigorated Prussian Army played a huge part in that decisive clash.
This set follows on from the earlier Strelets set Prussian Line Infantry on the March, and basically depicts the same troops in the same uniform. That uniform is the one first introduced in 1808, with the tunic sporting the double row of buttons down the front and short tails at the rear. The men all wear breeches and gaiters reaching to below the knee, and the new shako on their head. This was usually under a protective cover when on campaign, and all except the flag-bearer and officer wear such a cover. These last two figures have a shako with a visible but vague badge and cockade, but the shape and size are good. For some reason the drummer and fifer in our second row have chosen to wear the Feldmütze, or field cap, rather than the shako. We would have thought they would normally wear the same as the rest of the men, but in any case the cap of the drummer is quite a bit too large.
The men’s equipment is all standard – a knapsack, bread bag, cartridge pouch and sabre. The knapsack (which all the privates wear) is held by a strap over each shoulder (first introduced 1809), and these straps are connected by another strap across the chest (first introduced 1810), so technically this is the start date for these men. The knapsack and pouches are fine, as is the rolled greatcoat worn across the trunk with the leather cover at the shoulder. However the sabre is accompanied by a bayonet scabbard, when in fact by this period grenadiers and musketeers always had bayonets fixed to the musket, as here, and no scabbard was issued. Only some fusiliers had the scabbard, but these are not fusiliers as otherwise the cartridge pouch would be in front of the waist rather than on the hip. Missing entirely is the mess tin, which should be in a bag and attached to the back of the knapsack.
The sculpting of these figures is pretty good, and the detail is reasonable. Some of the forearms are rather too short, but otherwise the proportions are fair. One curious feature is that several of the poses lean alarmingly to left or right. Two in our top row lean to the left, and the drummer leans just as much but to the right. All do still stand however, but it looks odd. The flag, which is of a perfect size, is not engraved at all, which is good, but the poor fifer is trying to play an instrument that is far too thick. We found a couple of small places where the plastic had not properly filled the mould, but generally there is minimal flash here. The poses are mostly fine, and simple enough given the title of the set. The drummer is yet another way to depict a basically three-dimensional pose, and like many before it the result is not a success to our eye.
Good to see that Strelets have fixed the inaccurate coat tails of the officer in the first set – the officer here has the proper long tails – but the presence of a bayonet scabbard is a repeated error. While there are little issues with sizing of some elements, the general look of these figures is pleasing and they should mix well with previous output from Strelets and others. The good array of similar poses, plus a generous selection of NCOs, musicians and command figures, make this a well-planned set that for the most part has been delivered to a good standard and should prove very useful.
Note The final figure is of a soldier from the Streltsi of 17th century Russia. Though he is unrelated to the subject of this set, he is one of a series of 'bonus' figures which when combined will create a set of this unit for the Great Northern War. See Streltsi Bonus Figures feature for details.