After the trauma of the First World War, the French government in the shape of General Jean Mordacq began to reorganise France’s military, and that would include the famous Foreign Legion. Mordacq wanted to expand the existing Legion by adding elements of cavalry, artillery and engineers, turning the regiments into divisions. This was fiercely resisted by some traditionalists, but in 1920 the first decrees were issued which would change the Legion into a more complete and flexible formation – the Legion was no longer to be exclusively infantry. For the artillery this took time, and the first artillery battery was not created until 1925, but several more were added during the 1930s.
Many of the new artillery batteries used the somewhat aged 75mm M1897 field gun, but the very mountainous terrain in which the Legion often had to operate meant the use of mountain guns was a natural choice, and this is what we find in this set. Here we have the 65mm Schneider-Ducrest Canon de 65 M Modele 1906, a mountain gun that could be stripped and carried on six mules, and was widely used in the colonies. As usual the model here is simplified to a degree, as it only comes in nine parts, but what there is could be described as pretty accurate in terms of basic shape. Certainly the brakes are missing and the weight-saving holes in the trails are not cut right through, but we thought this was a pretty reasonable model for such a set, and quite nicely made so as to be fairly easy to build. As always with Strelets there are no instructions, but it is simple enough.
The six crew figures are mostly kneeling, as you would expect when serving a gun with such a low profile, and the poses are fine. One handles a shell while another has an ammunition box, but the rest are empty handed and in generic poses. The standing man holds some binoculars, so presumably is looking for targets, although obviously not just at this moment. So a perfectly reasonable range of poses.
Unfortunately the uniform of the men has a number of problems. All wear a greatcoat, which is fine, but here it has been given a standing collar, which is wrong as by this date the M1920 was worn, which had a fall collar. Also everyone wears gaiters when they should have puttees. However the worst mistake is that everyone has a sunshield down the back, which had disappeared by around the end of the Great War. Since this is almost impossible to remedy, and is so obvious, this is a big problem with these figures. The men have the standard belts and three-pouch arrangement, so that is fine, and the standing officer has a pistol holster. No one has any other kit such as water bottle etc., which is surprising (although the second figure in the top row has a lump on his right hip which could be anything).
The sculpting is reasonable. These are not massively detailed subjects, but the clothing is quite well done. Faces are hands are fair, though there is little definition on the latter. Two men have rifles slung, but as these have the top facing the mould they are inevitably largely featureless. On our examples we found almost no flash at all.
While the gun and poses are good and the sculpting reasonable, it is the several clear errors with the uniform that presents the main problem with this set. It occurs to us that the uniform more closely resembles that worn before the War, and indeed the box artwork shows men wearing the old blue coat, so we are tempted to speculate that perhaps the sculptor decided to portray the ‘classic’ turn-of-the-century uniform despite being completely wrong, perhaps because some customers might prefer it. It is only a guess, but Strelets have made fantasy Foreign Legion sets before (see their Desert Patrol), so perhaps historical accuracy was not the prime concern here either. Well, on this site we are only interested in real history, which means these figures fall well short of the mark, but at least you get a decent mountain gun that can be used both in Metropolitan France and in the empire.