Of the many colonial conflicts of the British empire, the Zulu War of 1879 is probably one of the best known, in no small measure thanks to the success of the film 'Zulu'. The image of red-coated British troops facing superior numbers of brave but poorly equipped natives makes this a popular subject for wargames and models, but until the release of this set there were no suitable 1/72 scale plastic figures. All Esci's previous sets had been on World War II, so this represented a first step away from the relatively safe waters of that conflict and into the much less certain ocean of the rest of human history.
Although this was the first non World War II Esci set, the formula was kept the same. 15 poses deliver a number of perfectly usable figures, though there are no marching or standing in line examples. A number of poses are particularly apt for this subject - none more so than the figure using his bayonet. Usually the British infantry relied on overwhelming firepower, but during 1879 they found themselves having to use the bayonet at several actions. This pose is quite awkward as the rifle is being held directly over the helmet, but it is a difficult activity to model correctly. The man waving his helmet in the air seems to be here simply because such an illustration appears in the Osprey book of the Zulu War, and not because of any practical use. Lastly there is a man crouching and dragging an ammunition box. This figure strongly suggests scenes from the popular feature films 'Zulu' and 'Zulu Dawn', where the actions at Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana were depicted.
The uniform of the men is correctly sculpted, as are the weapons. However there are a number of small errors to report. The drummer (he carried a bugle in the field, but was still known as the drummer) had a sword as his only weapon. Clearly however if the circumstances demanded it (as they would have at both Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana), drummers would have used whatever weapon came to hand. Both the officer and the ensign (flag-bearer) are brandishing swords, but neither have a scabbard for it. Two of the poses have full 1871 valise equipment, but this is in full marching order, which would not normally have been worn when in action, and the valise in particular was very rarely worn on campaign. Also the colour, or flag, that the ensign carries is too small. It appears that the colours taken to Natal were a little under 2 metres square, not the extremely small affair modelled here. Still at least it is not engraved on either side. The staff on which it flies is little better as it should be considerably longer and have a finial of a lion surmounting a crown. However by this stage very few colours were actually taken out of their cases during action, so such a figure would have been an extremely unusual sight. The officers wear uniforms much like their men, and the only variation is with the man distributing ammunition, who wears a Glengarry, which was the standard undress headgear for all ranks.
The sculpting is well done, though as is often the case with Esci the poses are a bit stiff and lacking in life. However the detail is excellent as always, and there is very little flash. Another fine and workmanlike set from this manufacturer with very few faults.