This is another of the Strelets ‘big box’ products, which as usual is a combination of products already released plus new material. In this case ‘Heavy Brigade’ includes one copy each of two previously released sets - Crimean War British Heavy Dragoons and Crimean War Scots Greys. These two cover all the regiments that formed the Heavy Brigade, but as these sets have already been reviewed before we have not included their images again here, nor will we comment on them on this page. In addition this set includes a double repeat of the 12 horses found in the Scots Greys set, but in a mid brown plastic, so again we have not pictured these here.
What is pictured is what is new in this set, and that amounts to quite a lot. The first two rows above are basically more poses for the Heavy Dragoons, and are much the same in terms of quality as the original set. This means the same accuracy issues apply – namely that the Heavy Brigade did not wear gloves during their famous charge as these men do, and the figures are missing their percussion cap pouch on their belt. Sculpting style is much the same too, so the two sets merge perfectly, and the new poses are fine.
The next two rows show the Scots Greys, which are again an extension of the original set with some new poses. Again missing the cap pouch, they are otherwise accurate and are a good selection of new poses, apart from the middle figure in the fourth row, which looks odd and is presumably being wounded.
Row five reveals some more new figures. These are a selection of British officers and a casualty, and all are nicely done. We would very much have liked to have seen a figure for General Sir James Yorke Scarlett, the commander of the Heavy Brigade, but no figure here is readily usable for him. However the officer looking at his pocket watch is a particularly nice pose and all are useful.
Now we come to what for some are the most interesting elements of this set – the dismounted British officers seen on our lower rows. As usual we will identify and discuss each figure in turn.
- Major General Sir Henry John William Bentinck (1796-1878) – Bentinck commanded the Guards Brigade. Here he wears typical British staff officer uniform.
- Major General George Buller (1802-1884) – He commanded the second brigade of the Light (3rd) Division. Here is seems to be looking at an oddly-shaped item which is presumably meant to be a despatch or similar.
- Major General Henry Barnard (1798-1857) – He was brigade commander and later Chief of Staff to General Simpson.
- General Sir James Simpson (1792-1868) - Took command of the British Army in 1855 after the death of Raglan.
The bottom full row is a rather eclectic collection of peripheral figures as follows:
- Major General Charles Ashe Windham (1810-1870) – Commanded a brigade and became a hero of the final assaults on the Redan. Here he holds a very large telescope.
- Major General James Bucknall Estcourt (1802-1855) – Estcourt served as Adjutant-General to the British Expeditionary Force. As such he was one of those widely blamed by the public for the shortcomings of the first winter, although as always this was only because the press told the public what to think. In fact it was the system that was mainly responsible and Estcourt was in line for an honour when he died of disease before the end of the war. Here he smokes a very large pipe.
- Lieutenant General Sir George Brown (1790-1865) – He held various commands in the Crimea until invalided home in 1855.
- Major-General Sir Colin Campbell (1792-1863) – This is the famous commander of the Highland Brigade, who formed the thin red line at Balaclava. After distinguishing himself at the earlier battle of Alma he asked that he be allowed to wear the highland bonnet rather than the usual hat (bicorn), so by Balaclava he no longer wore the hat which has been modelled on this figure. This makes the figure useable only for the Alma and before, which is a pity (also see below).
- Lieutenant Colonel Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar (1823-1902) – This relation of Queen Victoria received many battle honours in the Crimea while serving with the Grenadier Guards. He later became ADC to Raglan, and here seems to be enjoying a cup of tea.
- Captain Halford - We could find no information on any significant captain Halfords in the Crimean War, so have to wonder what this individual has done to deserve inclusion. The answer seems to be that, like all the others in this set, he was photographed by Roger Fenton during the war. He belonged to the 5th Dragoon Guards, but whatever the reason he was photographed (more than once in fact) there seems no particular reason to include him here. Having said that his uniform is typical and is useable as a general officer.
- Robert Rawlinson (1810-1898) – Rawlinson is a real surprise here. Strelets claim on the box that he was a doctor, but this is not true. He was an engineer who was part of a team sent to the Crimea by the Government to improve conditions for the army. This Sanitary Commission did great things and doubtless saved many lives, but why this man is immortalised in plastic is unknown. He has been modelled running – hardly the obvious pose for an engineer and surveyor!
- Cantinière – This one is not even British. The French Army had many such ladies who helped serve the needs of the soldiery. Their uniform was usually modelled on that of the regiment to which they belonged, and that of this figure is typical. She seems to be holding a riding crop for reasons we cannot fathom. Once again Fenton photographed just such a lady, who is holding what seems to be a cane, so perhaps the sculptor misunderstood this item.
- Roger Fenton (1819-1869) – Fenton was not the first war photographer – he wasn’t even the first in the Crimean War – but his many images have survived to provide an invaluable record of how this war really looked (up to a point). His bulky cameras, however, were mounted on tripods rather than the single leg modelled here. Also he is dressed far too formally for the extremely hot and dirty conditions he had to work in, so this figure is of little use to anyone.
As we have said, most of these figures are closely based on Fenton photographs. As a result we can say that they are quite accurate apart from the observations already made and some rather poorly shaped hats. Regarding the officers our main complaint is that they are fine sitting for the camera, but in battle most would be mounted, so of less use to many customers than they could have been. The Light Brigade set contained Raglan and others, so most of the possibles are covered, but the lack of a Scarlett is a glaring ommission.
Overall the sculpting is to the usual Strelets standard, with no flash to speak of but a tendency for the riders to sit a little above the saddles rather than in them. There are some very interesting figures here, but also some surprising ones for which we felt better choices could have been made. The Fenton figure in particular is largely a waste, but all the others do add to the Crimean range and are therefore welcome. Anyone buying this set will find 48 mounted men and a good selection of dismounted characters, making this quite an appealing product.
The final figure is of a Boyar, which is Russian gentry of the 17th and 18th centuries. In this case he is intended as a senior commander for the Streltsi, and is a bonus figure related to the others found in various sets rather than being a part of the rest of this Heavy Brigade collection. See Streltsi Bonus Figures feature for details.