When Great Britain went to war in 1914 much of the former empire joined it in the struggle, and none was more enthusiastic than Australia. Over the following years of conflict Gallipoli was to leave an indelible mark on the Australian conscience, but there were to be more positive memories too, and the Australian Light Horse (ALH) is perhaps the greatest of these. The ALH were mounted infantry, and famously served in the Palestine campaign against the Ottoman Empire in the conventional mounted infantry role, riding into action but dismounting to engage the enemy. However they are remembered today for what is probably the only successful charge ever executed by mounted infantry, when at the Battle of Beersheba in 1917 the 4th and 12th regiments charged and overran the Turkish lines, securing vital wells that meant the advance could continue. It was a remarkable feat that has secured their place in history, and finally this set does the same in 1/72 scale plastic.
As mounted infantry we might expect both mounted and dismounted figures, which is what HaT deliver. Three of the four foot poses are apparently in battle, while the fourth reflects the historical practice of making every fourth man hold the horses and take them away from danger until they were needed again. Normally the mounted poses would be fairly relaxed as the men would be on patrol and not in battle, and the second pose pictured above fits this description perfectly. However the famous charge is not forgotten as both the first and third poses are clearly very suitable in this. As infantry the ALH had not been issued with sabres, so they charged holding their bayonets in their hands in lieu of a sword and with rifles slung on their backs. The first pose has a ring hand which can hold a separate bayonet or rifle, while the second has been given a bayonet, and while the first man looks a little awkward the second is splendid, despite the rather absurd concept of using a bayonet as a sabre. The fourth man is doing something quite unusual - firing from the saddle. On occasion the ALH did act as scouts, and so might find themselves unexpectedly in the company of the enemy, but it would have been very much the exception to have fired while still mounted. So, all the dismounted poses and the two middle mounted poses are excellent, while the first figure in row one is a little awkward and the last is of dubious usefulness.
The men all wear the drab flannel tunic cut in the Australian style and the famous felt slouch hat with puggaree. On all these figures the hat is shown with the feather plume but without the brim turned up. How long the feathers lasted on such a demanding campaign is hard to say so some may prefer to remove the feathers, but there is plenty of evidence that the brim was often left down as here. As mounted troops the men all have leather leggings rather than puttees, which is good, but the sculptor has failed to understand the spiral strap that secured these and has carefully depicted them only on the front and not on the back. That apart the uniform is entirely correct.
The equipment correctly consists of a leather bandolier over the left shoulder with 50 rounds in pouches on the front and 40 on the back, and five more ammunition pouches on a waist belt. Also on show is the water bottle and haversack, all of which are authentic. However noticeable by its absence is the bayonet scabbard (on the left hip), which is particularly unforgivable given its unique place in the history of this unit. Also missing is the rifle for the two men charging with bayonet. This should be slung on the back, although the set does include extra rifles for this purpose.
The rifles should be the enduring Lithgow-made Mk III SMLE, and look pretty convincing although not especially sharp in the detail. The bayonet is completely missing on all but those two mounted poses, but the separate bayonets (Australian versions of the British 1907 model) are correctly done with their longer 435mm blades. For those that enjoy their pedantry the bayonets have a hooked quillon, which was phased out later in the war, so some may choose to remove this hook for that little extra realism.
The three horse poses are, thankfully, very natural, and well chosen for the subject. Their saddlery is all correct, as is the fact that they too wear bandoliers of ammunition around their necks. They have good neck ropes too, so the only detail missed is the fringe usually attached above the horse’s eyes to help ward off flies.
Finally we come to the sculpting, which is pretty good all round. There is very little flash and the separate parts fit together well, while the riders are a comfortable fit on their animals.
It would be impossible to reflect the ALH throughout their service in the Great War. Their first action was at Gallipoli, when they did not take their horses at all, while in 1918 they were issued with sabres, which are not included here. Some elements served on the Western Front, but this set does little to depict these either. However for much of their loyal service on the road to Damascus they looked much like these figures, and with a pretty decent number of poses we felt this was for the most part a worthy set for this famous unit of Aussies.