When the USA entered World War I in 1917 the armed forces were far from ready to make a significant contribution to the conflict. The artillery had been promised a modern gun, the M1916, but the optimistically named weapon had yet to appear (and would not do so before the armistice), so they were forced to turn to their new allies for assistance. As a result the French provided their field artillery, and this was the famous 75mm model 1897, or simply '75', so beloved of the French military and press. This had been a revolutionary weapon when first brought into service at the end of the previous century, and it was still a good one now, although France’s obsessive secrecy did cause the new American gunners some problems. Still the gun was made the standard divisional artillery piece of the US Army (and remained so until the 1940s), and was therefore used in large numbers by the American forces in France. Licences were issued to manufacture it in the US, although none actually appeared until after the end of the war.
The centre-piece of this set is of course the famous gun itself. The model is built with just five pieces, so is very quick to assemble. Naturally there has been much simplification here - the breech and muzzle-rollers in particular - but in general this gives a good overall impression of the gun with sufficient detail to keep many happy enough. The fairly soft plastic is not ideal for such constructions, but the parts mostly fit well, although gluing is necessary throughout. The exception is the shield, which fits onto two pegs which are slightly too far apart, requiring a little cutting back to make the fit work. In general however this is a very nice model.
The caisson for the weapon, which is also included in this set, was itself an unusual design. It was moved as shown above, but placed on its side when in action to act as a sort of cupboard from which the ammunition was drawn. The model here is correctly done, down to the 72 compartments in which the shells were placed. The 'lid' of the caisson comes as two separate pieces, which means they can be attached open as we have shown it, or closed if on the move. However the 'hinge' is just a tiny knob of plastic so again gluing is necessary, especially if the lid is to be open. However again the model is accurate and nicely done.
The crew figures reveal that while the French supplied the field artillery the British supplied elements of the personal kit as all are wearing the British steel helmet and respirator (or the American produced copies). The latter (which was first worn by the Americans in early 1918) is on the chest in the 'ready' or 'alert' position, which was quite normal when in action. However there should be a securing cord (missing on these figures) tied round each man’s back to stop it waving about when on the move, which is particularly pertinent to the mounted figures. Otherwise their simple uniform is correctly done here.
The foot figures are of men handling the shells and presumably working the gun. However the third figure in the top row is hard to explain as he is holding his hands, palm out, by his thigh for no apparent reason. The box artwork suggests he should have had something in his hands, although whatever this might have been the pose remains a strange one. One pose sadly lacking here is a forward observer, who would be in advance of the gun, telling the crew how the shot was falling so they could adjust their aim.
Since there is no horse team in this set the mounted figures, which are clearly designed for such a thing, seem to be unnecessary. However HaT intend to make a separate unmanned horse team, so those that wish it will be able to add all the necessary figures from this set.
The sculpting of these figures is mostly not too bad but not great either. While the uniforms make few demands for detail some of the folds are less than convincing and the basic shape of the human form is not all it might be. For example the outriders have a hump or ridge on their back which cannot realistically be explained as shoulder blades, and some areas are quite flat and lacking any definition. The outriders also suffer from disproportionately long and spindly legs which does not promise much when they have horses to ride. On the plus side there is almost no flash nor excess plastic to spoil things, although the shells carried by the men are noticeably shorter than they should be.
While more intricate models of the gun and limber can no doubt be obtained, this set is clearly aimed at providing fairly simple guns in quantity and with a suitable crew. As such it works quite well, although our misgivings about the poses have already been mentioned. While the gun is nice the men are less so, although they could serve for both the British and Canadian armies as well as for the years following the end of hostilities.