For most Victorians India was the jewel of the Empire. By far the most populous and valuable of the British possessions, much imperial policy was devoted to securing it, particularly against the supposed threat from Russia. India’s native forces were primarily devoted to domestic duties, particularly defending the North-West and North-East frontiers, but after the British crown took over control of these forces in 1858 they were called upon to serve in various campaigns beyond their own borders, mostly in Africa and elsewhere in Asia. Indian infantry was regarded as very much of mixed quality at the time, but those raised from the 'martial races' were considered to be excellent and were usually chosen for service abroad. Famously it was Indian infantry that was first into Peking in 1900 to relieve the siege of the legations.
The figures in this set depict Indian infantry during the later part of the 19th century. The marching figure is the most indicative of this, as he is wearing the 1871 valise equipment, but the rest are in a lighter, battle order with no more than a haversack and canteen in addition to their ammunition pouches. The Indian armies tended to get equipment quite slowly, and certainly well after the British European troops had been reequipped, so although the 1871 kit was later superseded it was still in use by native troops for some considerable time thereafter, so these figures are suitable for most of the last quarter of the 19th century.
In all other respects these soldiers are clothed in conventional manner. They wear a kurta (blouse), lose trousers and puttees along with native shoes that are turned up at the toe. Ordinary boots were also often worn, but it seems both were common. On the head all have a turban, which is of typical design although many versions existed.
HaT have been producing eight-pose infantry sets for years now and usually make sound choices for the stances to use; this set is no exception. The usual mix of firing, standing and advancing poses plus the marching figure are likely to tick most boxes for their customers, and there is also an officer firing his revolver. The nature of the terrain and the marksmanship of their opponents meant these men often fought in open order, and these figures work well. All have a bayonet attached, which is good as bayonet charges were a regular tactic against tribesmen.
Sadly this is not one of HaT's better sculpted sets. The detail is somewhat vague in places and the figures have quite a stiffness which does not give a feeling of natural human posture. The officer is perhaps the most obvious, with a rather clumsy pose including a right arm that seems to come from somewhere below his shoulder. One figure is downright painful to behold, and that is the running figure in the bottom row. His right foot is twisted through ninety degrees in a manner that is simply impossible for the human body to achieve, and we would have thought the sculptor could have simply tried such a pose themselves before producing this really poor figure.
Indian troops were a key part of Britain’s imperial power and ambitions in Asia, and these troops have many potential miniature campaigns before them. Sadly the quality of these figures does not match the superior quality of the best Indian troops of Victoria’s armies.