The British Royal Marines, officially titled 'Royal Marine Light Infantry' in 1900, were perhaps the most important force in the early part of the Boxer Rebellion of that year. When the call came from the legations in Peking for guards, 76 Royal Marines and 3 officers were sent from the British ships off the Chinese coast, and 213 more were in Seymour’s abortive relief expedition. Marines also participated in the capture of the Taku forts, the fighting around Tientsin, the Gaselee expedition and later actions, but it is their major role in the siege in Peking that is most often remembered, where they impressed everyone.
The Marines wore several uniforms during this conflict but when the initial call came for troops to defend the legations the assembled men wore their working dress of tunic and field service cap, which is how these figures are attired. There are plenty of photographs of them in Peking, which show that normal dress during the siege was shirt-sleeve order (hardly surprising in the summer heat), and later in the conflict various elements of tropical uniform were worn, so it is hard to say to what extent the depicted uniform was actually worn in combat, but technically at least these are in an authentic uniform.
The tunic itself has the two skirt pockets but seems to be missing the breast pocket on the left, although in fairness this area is obscured on many poses and hard to see on the rest anyway. It should have a narrow twisted epaulette which is not well represented here as the figures seem to have a more conventional shoulder strap, although again the quality of the sculpting is not conducive to making such fine distinctions. A much more obvious mistake is the 1888 Slade-Wallace equipment that they are wearing, which is fine from the front but at the back the sculptor has the shoulder straps merging into a 'Y' shape when they actually crossed. Also the complete lack of kit is worthy of mention. Apart from a bayonet scabbard these men carry nothing, which makes sense when besieged but not when on a sortie or in any of the other more mobile actions that these men fought. Even when within the cramped legation, a canteen would seem likely given the heat they suffered.
As we have said the sculpting of this set leaves much to be desired. Although the subject is not highly detailed the general look of the figures is quite poor. For example, the cap should be perched fairly high on the head but here it is pulled down to the ears rather in the style of the later comforter cap, which makes it much less smart and military than the real thing, and simply less authentic. What detail there is is fairly vague and there is no hope of positively identifying firearms, while general anatomy is only passable. Also there is quite a lot of flash here - not as much as some other RedBox figures, but more than we are accustomed to seeing these days.
The poses are on the whole quite good. We particularly liked the man running with his rifle across his chest in the second row, which has been really well done despite being just one piece. The last man holding binoculars is perhaps meant to be an officer, although apart from these he is dressed and equipped as the men and is completely unarmed, which would be strange for any soldier or officer, particularly in Peking itself. If not particularly inspired the poses are at least quite dynamic for the most part.
It is almost always true that sets of figures show the ideal appearance of soldiers rather than the less smart and more grubby reality, but this set is particularly guilty of this as there is plenty of evidence that the Marines presented a more comfortable and practical appearance, albeit much less military, once the siege got underway. Of course the rules would have been adhered to more strictly elsewhere, so these figures are merely one of several possible images of these men. In any case many customers like their figures to be smart and uniform, regardless of the reality, so this was a reasonable choice by RedBox. The quality of the figures still has plenty of room for improvement, but these are a long overdue addition to the increasingly impressive range of Boxer Rebellion figures from this manufacturer.