Although Britain had been late to adopt light cavalry, by the wars with Napoleon there were many regiments of light dragoons, many of which were to be converted into hussars. During the Peninsular War these men had worn a uniform with braid and the Tarleton helmet, but to the dismay of the Duke of Wellington in 1812 they were given a new uniform which was designed with many similarities to the fashionable lancer uniform of the day, but with a bell-shaped shako on the head. The result was to make these men look very like French cavalry, yet clearly Horseguards felt this was secondary to the need to be fashionable. This was the uniform that was worn for the invasion of France in 1814 and the Waterloo campaign the following year.
One of the first things that strikes you when you first see this set is the very narrow range of poses. Most of the troopers, and the officer, are waving their swords in the air, which is a perfectly acceptable pose but only one of many that could have been portrayed. The one exception – the first on the second row – is rather more interesting as he appears to slash to his left rear. However he has his right hand in a position we found impossible to replicate (twisted too far for human anatomy to allow), so for the sake of making a fairly flat and therefore easy pose this figure is very unnatural. The officer in the second row is posed much like his men, and only the cornet provides any variety. There have been plenty of good poses made over the years, not the least being the full charge pose so beautifully illustrated on the box front artwork or the more sedate pose on the back, so this lack of imagination is hard to understand.
Things brighten up when we look at the accuracy of these figures’ uniform. All have the uniform introduced from 1813 and therefore fully appropriate for the stated date of 1815. The short jacket with plastron, fringed epaulettes and ‘waterfall’ at the back, which made them look so French, are correctly done here. The shakos are good too, and it is here that we find the only distinguishing features that identify the officer. His cockade is slightly different, and he should have a short plume rather than a tuft. While the cockade is fine in this set the officer has exactly the same plume as his men, which to tell the truth is something of a cross between the tuft and the plume. True these were not so very different in reality, so at this scale you can get away with it. The cap lines are missing too, but this is a tricky item to sculpt and is commonly missing from figures.
The men carry good-looking swords and all have a carbine by their right thigh. This is only 11 mm in length, making it the Paget carbine, which was the most common carbine of these men and correctly done here. On the back of each figure is their cartridge pouch, but this has been sculpted horizontally as if attached to the waist belt. The sculptor has not understood that this was held by the crossbelt, and on some figures the belt is behind the pouch, which would be impossible in real life. Again this is not exactly a glaring mistake but for the purists it is annoying.
The horses are all very active, suggesting that this set is to construct a charge and not much else, which is always less than ideal for light cavalry. Still the light cavalry harness and saddle are all well done and correct, although there is no sign of the pistol and blanket usually kept under the front of the sheepskin. The poses are a fairly typical selection, although it is sad to note that three of the horses have suffered horrific fractures of the ankle and will doubtless crash to the ground on the next step (by which we mean no horse’s leg bends at that point and in that way).
Of late Italeri have really regained their former reputation for a high standard of sculpting and these figures are excellent, with all the usual detail sharply done. With no hint of flash or excess plastic these come clean straight off the sprue, although the ability of the rider to grip their horse, as seen in early Italeri sets, is not repeated here as the men perch very loosely on their mounts.
Our comments about plumes and cartridge pouches are extremely minor and would not even be noticed by most, which is why we have given this set full marks for accuracy as losing a point seems excessive under the circumstances. The set has in the past been criticised for depicting elements of full dress - the men have no covers on the shakos, their lapels are open in the 'plastron' style and all have the dress shabraque on their horse. All these elements would be unlikely in the midst of battle, and you might expect all accessories attached to the saddles too, but it is a very common feature of many figure sets that they are depicted with the more attractive and neater dress elements, and this set is no different to so many others in that regard. The officer is wearing the same kit as the men, and indeed the figure could easily be used as another trooper (particularly as he has a carbine, which was unusual for an officer), but we would have preferred a more distinctive and less encumbered officer. However the sculpting on the figures can’t be faulted, and nor can the quality of the mould. Only the variety of poses leaves room for improvement, but that room is considerable as we felt seven poses could have been better used than this. So long as you want your light dragoons charging into battle with swords waving in the air then this set has everything, but for anything else you will have to look elsewhere.