Whilst it is easy to think of the Napoleonic Wars in terms of the major participants, virtually every country in Europe participated at one time or another. Amongst the more important smaller nations were the various German states, which also frequently suffered the misfortune of having several foreign armies march and fight on their soil. Of these states, Brunswick has one of the most interesting histories, and some of the most distinctively uniformed troops.
The Avant Garde of the title were the light troops, skirmishers that deployed in advance of the main line, and many Brunswick troops had performed this role for the British during the Peninsular War. With Napoleon's return from Elbe the Brunswickers again fought with the British, at Quatre Bras and Waterloo. By then the Avant Garde was made up of two companies of light infantry and two of Gelernte Jägers, and it is the latter, raised in 1814, that are the subject of this set.
As their name suggests these men were foresters, natural material for the role of light infantry, and their uniform reflected this role. Most noticeable is the Corsican hat with the exaggerated brim turned up at the side. A number of sources show the right side of the hat turned up, but existing examples of this hat show that it was the left that was turned up, as accurately modelled on these figures. However they are all missing their powder horn and none are equipped with a water bottle - an essential item when you are biting cartridges of gunpowder. The weapons these men carry is also a problem, for in all cases it is a musket, with a barrel of about a metre in length. In fact these should be rifles, with rather shorter barrels (about 76cm). Since the rifles were shorter the men were issued with a sword/bayonet, and the sculptor has shown this on those figures which have this sheathed. However where it is attached to the rifle it has been done as an ordinary socket bayonet, which is wrong.
The officer is well presented, having a plume of drooping cock's feathers on his hat and a sash around the waist, and missing the shoulder straps of his men. Of course he also has a full sword, which is correctly done as a light cavalry sabre of the same pattern as that used by the hussars.
The poses are fairly standard for this type of set, and reflect the role of these men well. It should be noted that there are two versions or types of this set. The original included all the figures shown apart from the final marching figure, and had eight of the kneeling firing pose. Later HaT created the type 2 set, in which four of the kneeling firing figures were removed and the new marching figure added. This pose has a ring hand into which a supplied musket or flag can be fitted. Though the hold does not look realistic, this is a figure that wargamers will find useful.
The quality of the sculpting is reasonable and the detail is fair, though this is well short of the finest workmanship on the market. Also the anatomy of the figures does not seem quite right, with none of the men having a neck, even allowing for the rolled blanket/greatcoat they all wear. Also, the two figures firing their muskets have their right arm held right up in the air, which is both unnatural and very uncomfortable. The marching figure to be found in the second version set is noticeably better sculpted, but is missing his sword and scabbard at his left hip.
This is a passable set for an interesting and unusual subject. As one of their earlier sets this falls short of the high standards HaT were later to attain, but it is still very usable.