When you think of the Jacobite army of 1745, the first image that comes to mind is inevitably the mass of Highland warriors ready to execute the famous Highland charge, but the reality was a great deal more sophisticated than that, as indeed it had to be if it were to stand a chance of defeating the British Army and toppling the government in London. That meant the Prince had to have artillery as part of his forces, and this would be obtained from two principal sources. The first was France, which sent over a large number of guns of many calibres, along with many professional French gunners to serve them, although not all managed to evade the Royal Navy blockade. The other source was captures from the government, particularly at the Battle of Prestonpans, and as a result the Jacobites had a significant artillery park on which to call for the many small sieges that they initiated, as well as the major field battles that they knew they would have to face. If guns were not in short supply then men to serve them were, for it was much easier to capture an abandoned gun than it was to find trained men to use it, so apart from the French gunners, many volunteers of variable utility were put to use as the need arose. Also, finding horses for transporting the guns was a problem, and on several occasions during the course of the rebellion we read of guns being lost or abandoned, presumably due to a lack of means to move them. The Jacobite artillery opened the Battle of Culloden with a barrage, and had a role to play in several other engagements great and small, so fully deserves to be represented for the first time with this set.
As with other artillery sets from Strelets, here we find two guns manned by 10 figures. That gives us four crew plus an officer for each gun, which is not enough, particularly for the larger guns, but pretty standard for this hobby, and there are some unusual and interesting poses to consider. The usual figures holding various tools are present, several of which are covering their ears, which is a nice touch. Of particular note are the first figure in the top row, who is blowing on his match in preparation for firing his gun, and the third figure in that row, who seems to be using a spike to puncture a powder charge in the breech. We also much liked the last figure in the second row, who is dipping his sponge in a bucket of water, ready to swab out the barrel, and both officers are nice too, particularly the rather plump gentleman mopping his brow. Unusually, it is possible to put together two crews here where every pose makes sense – usually artillery crew sets have poses where they cannot all be doing what they are doing at the same time. In short, we liked all of these poses, which are both useful and show some imagination.
The guns and not such a happy story, because they are the same as those found in several other Strelets sets, and are not good quality models. Most of the problems lie with the carriages, that are of different sizes (30 mm and 40 mm in length), which is great as it offers better possibilities for use with different calibre guns, but the models themselves do no more than follow the correct basic shape, and have absolutely no detail such as tool hooks or metal reinforcement. The wheels are the same, in that while they are of a good size (19 mm (137 cm) in diameter), they have no detail such as tyres, and only have 10 spokes when 12 or more were standard at the time. The gun barrels are better, but the lifting handles (‘dolphins’) are flat (to allow for the mould) and too far to the rear of the barrel, far from the point of balance. The barrels are 18 mm (130 cm) and 27 mm (194 cm) long, which is fine, and given the broad range of sizes within any given calibre they could be used for several of the smaller gun sizes.
Since the Jacobites got their gunners from wherever they could find them, there was never any sort of uniform for them. In the army at large some element of Highland costume became a sort of identification, regardless of whether you were from the Highlands or not, and while most of these figures wear standard clothing of the day, a couple have elements of Highland dress. These are the second figure in the top two rows, who both wear the plaid (not pinned at the shoulder), which would suggest they really are Highlanders as it sems unlikely anyone else would go to the trouble of wearing this item of clothing. Several of the men wear a bonnet, which would have had the Jacobite white cockade, and some items of clothing may have been made in a check pattern, again to show their affiliation. What we were particularly pleased to see is that many are working whilst wearing just breeches and waistcoat, i.e. they have discarded their coat. This was normal when serving the guns, in this age and all others, yet most plastic figure sets fail to portray this realistic mode of dress. The mix of clothing and personal items (like sporrans/purses) is a very strong feature of this set, and with suitable painting, some could be uniformed French gunners too.
The guns are far too simplistic for our taste, but the figures are really well done, both in quality of sculpting and in pose. Detail is perfectly done everywhere, although on our example it appears that the plastic has not fully filled some parts of the mould, so the end of the worm being held in the top row is just a blob. We found only a small amount of flash, and no excess plastic in hidden areas, yet there is nothing particularly flat about any of the figures. The guns do have some flash, and this is most evident in the hubs of the wheels, which are sealed with flash and so need to be drilled before you can insert the axle into them. The rest of the guns, however, are easy to assemble.
The addition of wedges for the guns is a nice touch, but had we been making this set then we would certainly have wanted better models of the guns, and would also have been tempted to provide some of the light mortars that came into Jacobite hands. Pieces heavier than those in this set were also used, but since all the guns at Culloden were 3-pounders, it is easy to understand why only the lighter calibres were included here. We can have no complaints about any aspect of the figures however, except that a few more per gun would have been nice, so a lovely set with some unlovely guns.