Having conquered the Persian Empire Alexander the Great continued to turn his eyes ever eastward, and contrived an excuse to invade the Indian subcontinent. There he met and defeated several local kings, most famously Porus at the battle of Hydaspes, who was his most serious challenger in the region. Much is made of the elephants in Porus’ army, and indeed these and the chariots were the prestige arms of the army, but the cavalry had a vital role to play too, and it was cavalry that Alexander first met in battle after crossing the river.
As with so much of ancient history our knowledge of the appearance of the cavalry of Porus is based on very little evidence, but these figures fit well with how it is thought they appeared. They are all dressed much the same, with simple turbans and kilts and the long hair tied in a topknot. They carry a sword on a baldric but their principal weapon is a javelin (most Indian cavalry were light javelin men). It is thought that they carried shields, and the two designs of shield included in this set are thought to be likely.
There are basically two poses here - holding the javelin to the side and holding it level at head height. These are nothing exciting but useful nonetheless, although we were not keen on the man with his hand touching his turban.
The usual two HaT horse poses are fine but quite similar. Again from the scant evidence the accuracy looks OK, with the mane pulled through a tube to create a plume on the horse’s head. However neither animal has any rein, and the girth strap on the left-hand horse is too far forward, making it seem like it wraps around part of the neck. Also missing is any saddle, and indeed it seems that saddles were not used at this time, with simply a cloth laid on the animal's back.
After the first two releases under the Coates and Shine label (World War I Serbs and German Colonials), the sculpting in this set is very much better. Detail is as good as it needs to be on such simple figures, and the proportions are reasonable. The separate javelins fit both the cupped and ring hands very well, but the holes in the shields, which fit over pegs on the arms, are a little too large so these will require gluing to stay in place. However the men fit the horses very well, and for the most part the engineering is excellent.
The last item in the first row is another HaT duel-purpose part. Cut off the spear point at the bottom and you have a standard of the type thought to have been employed by all arms at the time. Turn it upside down and cut where the banner meets the pole and you have another javelin. Naturally the man with cupped hand is meant to carry the standard.
This is a very creditable set in the tradition of HaT, with only four poses but some effort made to allow more variety. When Alexander fought Porus he had a contingent of native Indian cavalry in his army, so these figures can serve for both sides during the campaign. This is the first set for a new army in the HaT Alexander range, and a dramatic improvement on the previous Coates and Shine offerings.