When mention is made of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard it is the Old Guard that always comes to mind, but as this set demonstrates there was more to the Guard than just the 'grumblers'. The Imperial Guard traced its origins back to the Garde du Directoire, which was an elite guard for the government of the day. As France’s political hierarchy shifted so the Guard changed, and on Napoleon’s coronation as emperor in 1804 it took the Imperial label. From a small elite this unit grew rapidly over the Napoleonic years, with particularly rapid growth in 1806 and 1809. The bulk of the new troops had lower entry requirements and enjoyed fewer privileges that the original Guard, and by around 1810 the terms 'Middle' and 'Young' were being applied to these new arrivals to distinguish them from the senior regiments.
Differences in uniform between various parts of the Guard were generally fairly minor and considerably confused by individuals transferring between units and retaining their old uniform. In general though Middle Guard grenadiers had the standard uniform of long-tailed coat with square-end lapels and cuffs with three buttons. All these figures wear overalls over their gaiters and breeches, which was common practice when in the field. The most obvious difference between these men and the Old Guard is that they wore an ordinary shako rather than the fur cap, which here is decorated with cords, a plate and a long plume. The shako has brass chinscales - a device introduced around 1809, as were the fringed epaulettes also seen on all these figures, so although these troops were originally raised in 1806 the purist will say these are dressed for the period from 1809. All the men have the sabre-briquet and a variety of canteens and water bottles (these being privately purchased and therefore a matter of individual taste). In every detail the accuracy is first class.
Although there are only eight poses this is merely one of many sets of French Infantry HaT have produced over the years, so to complain would seem rather churlish. Wargamers will be pleased by the numbers of marching figures, but the other basics (advancing and firing) are also covered, although only four firing figures in a set (and none reloading) is not what we would have chosen. All the poses are very useful and well realised.
The sculpting style is not our favourite but still quite appealing, with pretty good detail. Some of the poses are a little awkward (try getting into the same position as the second figure in row two and you will see what we mean), but this is often a problem with models and nothing here is a show-stopper. We found no flash at all, and although made of a fairly soft plastic there is no sign of a tendency to bend and stay bent.
The cartridge boxes have no badge engraved on them, allowing the customer to choose their preferred option with paint (a guide to this is included on the box). Those wanting the smaller pompon can carve this out of the plume, which is great as it gives the customer the maximum amount of flexibility. This is another very solid effort by HaT, who continue to increase their range of Napoleon’s soldiers at an impressive rate and have another winner here.