In 1807 Spain found itself in a sorry state, after years of bad and corrupt government had left it poor and with the army in terrible condition. When Napoleon decided to march through Spain to invade Portugal, having previously made sure some of Spain’s best soldiers had been sent to Denmark, there was not much the Spanish could do about it. Yet the Spanish people took matters into their own hands and began resisting the French occupiers, sparking what would be known as the Peninsular War, which would in time be a major drain on France’s military resources. This ‘Spanish Ulcer’ was an important element in the Napoleonic Wars, yet until recently has been little covered by figure sets. This set of Spanish infantry from Emhar marks a change however, as a large number of sets on that theme, from Emhar and others, finally brings the conflict in Spain and Portugal to the hobby.
When war broke out most Spanish line infantry wore the 1805 uniform, which is what we find here, and it has been correctly done. These are fusiliers, so are the ordinary infantryman of the army, and they wear a bicorn with plume, short-tailed coatee, breeches and gaiters. The lapels are correctly squared and closed, and the cuffs are correct apart from having only three buttons on each flap instead of the usual four (a detail very hard to see of course). All have a bayonet scabbard and a cartridge pouch, and some also have a pack and rolled coat/blanket. Also on the left hip is a haversack, which is a good addition although here it has been sculpted as virtually flat, or empty, when in reality it would usually be at least partly filled, particularly for those without a pack. The set also includes a number of separate water bottles in wicker cases which can be added to the men’s equipment, although we would have preferred to see a wider variety of such items. Still all the kit is good, so everything here is accurate.
Emhar sculpting is always superb to our eye, with brilliant, natural proportions and lots of very fine detail. Unlike some manufacturers the detail is of a realistic depth, not exaggerated to make painting easier, so whether you see this as a positive or a negative will depend on how you intend to use the figures, but we liked the very realistic look of these figures. The horse is superb, and has been done in a refreshingly perfect standing stance which has been achieved by producing it in two halves. These halves go together perfectly, and the plastic used makes a great bond using ordinary poly cement. The rider also fits his mount perfectly, so this is a great piece of engineering, since there is also no flash and no unwanted plastic anywhere.
Leaving aside the mounted officer for a moment, the 12 other poses offer a good array of fighting men in all the usual firing and advancing poses. One man is walking casually as if on the march, but there is no pose of a man marching with musket against the left shoulder, as would be the case if he were maneuvering on the battlefield. This is a pity as it is a useful pose, but we can have no complaint about those that are provided. Even the soldier using his bayonet is better done than most in this difficult pose. Two of the figures hold their musket well away from their body, the first being a less than natural pose, but this is because the plastic used is poseable, so you can adjust this arm to get some really great and natural poses not normally possible with a standard steel mould. The man being hit is perhaps not so believable, but we loved the mounted officer. He is correctly uniformed, with longer tails on his coat, a sword supported by a baldric and a sash round the waist. He also has epaulettes, a gorget and riding boots, making him the distinctive and well-dressed gentleman that he should be.
The privations of war on a weak economy soon meant that the regulation uniform could not be issued to all, and in time this smart appearance began to give way to a much more varied appearance for the infantry, so a group of soldiers dressed in this way is most appropriate for the early months and years of the Peninsular War. Still these are really well done figures in some great poses, accurate and naturally posed, and with all the detail you could want. A terrific set for an interesting subject that finally opens up possibilities for modelling such actions as Bailen, and a long overdue introduction to a fascinating aspect of the Napoleonic Wars.