The enduring image of Napoleon’s 1812 campaign in Russia is of the increasingly desperate French Grande Armée being destroyed by weather and lack of supplies during their long retreat, but in truth the Russian army also had much to do with that disaster. Yet the freezing temperatures and deep snow also took their toll on the Russian forces, and many died as a result. It goes without saying that those troops would have worn their greatcoats during those cold winter months, yet this is the first set depicting them in this much more realistic way.
The 12 poses are really just a variation on two themes – standing firing and advancing. The two firing poses are quite similar but one man appears to be moving forward as he fires – a pose that we did not care for. All the rest can be described as advancing with musket at the ready, sometimes lowered to show the point of the bayonet. Actually that is a little unfair as the last figure in row 2 is more bayoneting than advancing, but as can be seen these poses are quite similar. This means when placed together in a mass they give a very reasonable impression of a body of men moving forward, although exactly what the last man in the third row is supposed to be doing we cannot tell and again we do not like this pose. More significant is what is missing from the set. No marching pose, and no one simply shouldered arms and moving around the battlefield. There are no officers (which is normal for Strelets Mini sets), nor musicians or flag-bearers, so the variety is pretty low here.
Troops in greatcoats tend to be easy to paint and easy to review because much of the detail of the uniform is obscured. These men wear the scuttle-shaped shako introduced from 1812 and as grenadiers they correctly have the tall thin plume, although here it has been made rather thicker, presumably because a realistically thin plume would be very fragile. The shako includes the full ornamentation including the three-grenade badge, which is correctly repeated on the cartridge pouch. Over the greatcoat are the two crossbelts carrying the pouch and the combined sabre/bayonet scabbards, which is fine. None have a knapsack.
The style and level of detail of these figures is about average for this manufacturer, with rather thick details and a lack of refinement. Bayonets and scabbards tend to be a bit short but the detail is adequate. The figures are a little tall, but grenadiers were traditionally (although not always in fact) amongst the tallest soldiers. The faces are OK, and we were pleased to see all wearing a moustache as befits grenadiers.
The greatcoat was popular even when the weather was not so inclement, so this is a welcome addition to the ranks of Napoleonic soldiers. However we were not impressed by the narrow range of poses, and while the engineering is good with no flash the chunky style of these figures does not fit easily with output from some other manufacturers.