After the upheaval of the revolution France had to defend itself from several foreign powers and initially raised large numbers of conscripts, who partly compensated for their lack of training by sheer numbers. In time the revolutionary fervour died down, training and discipline returned to the army and their effectiveness increased, while under the guidance of Napoleon they reached a peak of effectiveness that was unrivalled. It was such fine soldiers that won the battle of Austerlitz in 1805, and would go on to many other victories over the following years.
Hat have already made a set of infantry for this period (reviewed here), which contains fusiliers - the most common form of infantryman in the French army. However as well as companies of fusiliers a regiment also contained companies of grenadiers and voltigeurs. The former were supposed to be the tallest and most aggressive men who spearheaded any assault, while the latter were in theory the lightest and most nimble men, who performed a light infantry function. Both types were considered elite, and it is these that are depicted in this set. Leaving aside colours the main differences in uniform between these and the regular fusiliers were that the elites wore fringed epaulettes and had a second crossbelt over the right shoulder that supported both bayonet and sabre in a combined frog. This is all done correctly here, as is the rest of the uniform and equipment. We were pleased to see that these men have an assortment of canteens - an item lacking in the fusilier set.
The poses are pretty similar to the fusilier set, with a lot of marching figures and few firing. As we said before this would not be our choice but such things are largely a matter of personal taste. The basics are covered, which is good, and we also get a nice drummer and an NCO - a corporal - who is carrying a fanion (a company marker) in his musket. This is fine but no one needs large numbers of these. However it is a simple task to trim the flag off and leave a more generic figure.
Unlike the fusilier set these figures have been sculpted in a realistic style and look great. All the proportions are fine and detail, while not quite as crisp as some sets, is plentiful and perfectly good. The cartridge pouches lack any badge, but as this differed between grenadiers and voltigeurs its omission is a good thing, allowing the figures to be painted as either troop type. There is a minimum of flash but the third figure in the top row is missing the front portion of his musket, causing his bayonet to be floating in air beside his plume. Otherwise the sculpting is excellent.
While some grenadiers wore bearskins others were dressed as here, and apart from badges and colours were indistinguishable from voltigeurs (although pompons and plumes could vary). The nicely done faces are all carrying fine moustaches, as they should, and the NCO bears both the stripes of his rank and three chevrons (on both sleeves, which was non-regulation but common) indicating over 20 years service. In short then these are really nice figures and while they do not match well the style of the fusiliers this is because they are much superior in our view.