At Borodino in 1812 the Russians fielded about 640 pieces of artillery on a front barely three kilometres broad - that's an average of over one gun per five metres. As the Napoleonic Wars continued, artillery saw its role greatly expanded, and Russia was at the forefront of this movement.
It should be stated right from the start that there are two versions of this set in existence, as there are with some Airfix sets. The first version consists of the 24 artillerymen and four guns as shown above, with each gun having a choice of three barrels. When the time came for a fresh batch of this set to be produced, HaT added the pack horses and substituted the three barrels found in their Prussian Artillery set to create the type 2 set.
Having six poses for a gun team is pretty good compared to many other manufacturers, and all these poses are appropriate. They are very similar to the Esci artillery poses with the addition of two men with hand spikes to manoeuvre the gun. As a result the same criticism of the Esci officer must be levelled at this set, that he could not usefully be holding an unsteadied telescope with just one hand. In addition all the figures are quite thin and weedy, which is a great pity. Apparently this was not so with the original masters, but a number of production problems rendered the final result much thinner then intended. They are also lacking in some detail - for example, the coat tails on all the men are completely plain.
The men wear the 1812 pattern shako which has been correctly sculpted with the cords that all Russian troops wore even in battle. The rest of the uniform is also correct for the 1812 - 15 period, though none of the men have the typical Russian greatcoat rolled across one shoulder. However logic would suggest that this would have been set aside before going into action as it would only serve to encumber the crewman and make him overly hot.
The guns are particularly useful because each carriage has the choice of three barrel types. These are the 6 pdr cannon and the 10 and 20 pdr unicorns, which were a type of howitzer peculiar to the Russians that fired at low trajectory. The barrels were redesigned for the second type set, and are much better than those in the first, although the barrel lengths are not entirely accurate. Equally, the carriages for these types of gun varied, so having one carriage for all three is not ideal. The carriage that is supplied is a much simplified model of the real thing, but it is not too bad. The wheels fit on to pegs on the axle, giving a better and more accurate appearance than the method used by Esci.
The pack horse is the real bonus in the second type set. It comes with all the harness and two large bags which can be slung over its back. The bags need some gluing to make then stay in place, but this is a nice piece, though no substitute for the lack of a full team.
This was one of the earlier HaT sets to be released, and clearly they were still learning about the many problems that can occur during production. However all the necessary parts fit well, and it is good to see that this manufacturer is taking the time and trouble to improve its earlier sets.