It cannot have been long after the introduction of firearms in Europe before someone considered the possibility of having a multiple-barrelled version to increase the destructive power. No less a mind than Leonardo de Vinci drew up plans for one, but like so much of his work it was never made. The first practical weapon of this type is also one of the most famous - the Gatling gun, invented in the US and first used in anger at the very end of the civil war in 1865. The weapon had many problems, including the rather obvious amount of smoke it generated, which would attract rifle or artillery fire, but against a foe that had no real answer to rapid rifle fire, let alone a Gatling, it was particularly suited, and so it found favour with many colonial powers.
The Gatling entered British service in the early 1870s, and saw action in various parts of the Empire. The most popular model to be used was the 10-barrelled version, which is modelled in this set, and it could be mounted in a number of ways. Here it has been given a standard field gun carriage, which shows that it is the Army version rather than the Naval version as the carriage includes axle-tree boxes. The model is very good, with all the components clearly defined and everything in the correct place. There is even a choice of axle-tree boxes - either open or shut - which is a simple but thoughtful touch that shows how much consideration HaT put into their products.
As can be seen above each of the four guns is provided with six figures. The baseless figure in the second row is seated on the carriage and turning the crank to operate the weapon (true machine-guns with automatic firing would come after the Gatling). The first figure in the top row is carrying a replacement ammunition hopper, which sat on top of the weapon, while the man to his side is apparently holding the wheel of the carriage. The rest of the figures are not directly using the weapon, which is something of a pity as when the Gatling was working well, feeding it ammunition was a task for several men, so more would have been nice. However the figures we do get are also very good. The officer with the telescope could clearly be directing fire for the Gatling, but could also be working with the kneeling figure in the second row, who is operating a heliograph. A heliograph was a simple mirror signalling device that reflected sunlight at a target, and by tilting the mirror the target could see flashes of light, allowing the transmission of Morse code. This was perfect in areas with open flat country and lots of sunshine, so was widely used in Africa as well as elsewhere. Nothing to do with the Gatling, but a great little bonus.
The Gatling could be operated by the infantry or Royal Artillery (or indeed by Bluejackets from the Royal Navy), and these figures can be painted as either. They all wear the usual jacket and foreign service helmet that was seen in so many parts of the world, and on the legs are short boots and marching gaiters. Each man is carrying a haversack and the 'Italian pattern' water bottle, which is perfect for the period when the Gatling was in service. They are otherwise unencumbered with kit, which is to be expected for troops doing these jobs. The officer holding the telescope is wearing his splendid patrol jacket with its prominent braid made into Austrian knots, which again is quite correct.
The sculpting of the gun is very good as we have said, and so too are the men. Although the uniforms call for little intricate detail everything is nicely done and with no flash. The gun fits together well too, and takes glue very readily, so everything can be put together and ready to go quite quickly.
Gatling guns have been modelled before in this hobby (including the Atlantic version not yet reviewed), but this is a very fine model and well presented with a British crew that would fit well into the Zulu War or any number of other colonial operations of the 1870s and 80s. More crewmen concerned with feeding the gun might have been nice, but the heliograph we get instead is a lovely little extra and every bit as useful. This is a cracking little set, and even though the Gatling did not always have the impact that was hoped for, it adds an interesting new element to colonial wargaming.