In an age when most soldiers were taught to act in huge formations and show no individual initiative the light infantry were something completely different. They acted in small groups - usually pairs - and were expected to use cover and think for themselves as they harassed the enemy. In the British army no light troops were more famous than the 95th Rifles, and that fame has continued to this day, thanks in part to the many written accounts that members of that regiment produced, and also to the success of the Sharpe series of books by Bernard Cornwell.
The now familiar Italeri formula of three identical sprues in a box providing a generous 16 poses has been maintained in this set, and in our view the poses are mostly excellent. It would seem that the designer had the corresponding Revell set in mind as none but the very basic poses in that set have been duplicated here. As with the Revell set the kneeling firing pose is not resting his left arm on his leg, when was usually done to help steady the rifle and improve accuracy. The second kneeling firing pose is worse, with an incorrect positioning of the left arm. The man using his ramrod does not convey the effort required to push down his very tight bullet - the Revell pose is better in that it at least has the rifle resting on the ground. Also this figure holds his rifle the wrong way up for reloading! Due to the short length of the Baker rifle the men were issued with sword-bayonets, but these were seen as an emergency measure and rarely used in battle. Nevertheless many of the poses have them here, and two in the second row give the impression of conducting a bayonet charge - not impossible but definitely an extremely rare activity (and in any case the second of these two is posed quite awkwardly). Luckily a sharp knife will quickly remedy this surplus of swords, so no real problem there. The men moving up are fine (although the last figure in the second row holds his rifle in a very strange way, above the lock), but we particularly liked the man resting his rifle on his forearms - a comfortable posture that is still used today. The officer figure is less energetic than his companion in the Revell set, which is perfectly appropriate.
One attraction of the regiment for potential recruits was the distinctive uniform, and while the most obvious difference - the colour - is irrelevant for unpainted figures, that uniform has been well represented here. The coat with the three rows of buttons is nicely done, although the admittedly very short tails are too short on these figures. All the extra items that these men carried are present, with the extra pouches and the powder horn being the most obvious, although the loose ball pouch on the belt has been misrepresented as a rectangular box when it was a less rigidly shaped bag. A few of the men are wearing their forage cap (of a style first introduced in 1813), which is very unlikely during battle. The men’s rifles are of the correct length, as are the swords, although the ramrod of the man reloading is over 50% longer than the barrel of his rifle, making this figure very hard to use unless a little paint work makes him appear to be using a standard musket, perhaps as a temporary measure. Some of the men (6 of the poses) are wearing their knapsacks, which were generally not taken into action as they restricted the movement of the soldier. The officer correctly wears his hussar-style uniform, and in this case sports a full pelisse too, which is known to have been quite common.
Italeri sculpting quality of late has been very mixed, ranging from excellent to quite poor. Happily this set is from their best sculptors, with great detail and beautifully proportioned figures. The one fly in the ointment is the powder horns, which on some figures are sculpted facing the mould (a reasonable position), which makes them very difficult to shape and results in them being straight cylinders from the back, which is not convincing. None of the figures require any assembly, so there is a tiny amount of excess plastic in the usual sorts of places, but absolutely no flash (in fact in most places you can’t even tell where the seam is, which is very impressive).
The general impression of this set is one of excellence with some small letdowns. The reloading figure has not been thought through properly and is useless, but him aside our criticisms are mostly nitpicking. However Italeri need to pay more attention to their scale as these figures average 25mm in height, which is too tall for an average man of the early 19th century (around 23.5 would be correct). If we really wanted a moan then we could wonder at the absence of lock covers on the marching figures, but this is a set that gives a very positive impression and shows Italeri can still make top class figures when they want to.