In the spring of 1900 the situation in China was not a major topic of conversation in Europe. Anti-foreigner unrest was nothing new and nothing seemed much different now. Of far more interest was Britain’s considerable difficulties in southern Africa fighting the Boers, and with their sympathies for the Boers Berlin was probably more pleased than most to watch the discomfort of the dominant imperial power. Then suddenly the news from China was much worse. Contact was lost with the legations in Peking and newspapers reported the massacre of all diplomats and westerners there. Several imperial powers - Britain, France and the United States - already had possessions and garrisons in Asia and were able to send soldiers to China relatively quickly, while their natural proximity gave Russia and Japan a similar advantage in responding rapidly. Germany had no such possessions, yet was very determined not to be left out of any opportunities that the situation might offer. In a remarkably short time volunteers were called for and an expeditionary force was assembled. The first elements, by now titled the Ostasiatische Expeditionskorps or ‘East Asia Brigade’, sailed in late July and was made up of two infantry brigades, a regiment of Uhlans, artillery and various support troops, numbering about 15,000 in total. Naturally it took some time to sail from Germany to China, and by the time they arrived Peking had been relieved, Tientsin and the Taku forts were in Allied hands and the 'rebellion' was over. Greatly disappointed at missing all the action, elements of the Brigade had to settle for involvement in a number of 'punitive' raids, which consisted of robbing, raping and murdering Chinese who might, in theory, have been Boxers, although no one bothered to distinguish between the guilty and innocents.
The troops raised for the expedition were given mostly knaki-coloured uniforms of similar cut to their normal uniform, although there was some variation, which is hardly surprising given the short amount of time available. The uniform had been authorised earlier in July, and the only distinctive element was a wide-brimmed straw hat, pinned up on the left or right, or sometimes not at all. Otherwise it was merely a 'tropical' version of the home service uniform, and kit was no different. During the voyage out it was decided that the straw hat was not practical, and the men were issued (from 12th August) the normal peaked field cap from then on, although photos show the straw hat still worn for some time thereafter until supplies caught up. The Germans stayed in China long after most of the Allies had left, and the peaked cap was quickly superseded by a tropical helmet of similar shape to that of the other powers. Winter uniform was the normal European blue uniform, and even the Pickelhaube was worn on occasions!
As you can see the uniform worn by these men changed quite rapidly, and having described its evolution we generally follow with a remark on the lines of 'and this is what we find in this set'. But not here. The actual cut of the jacket varied, so those on these figures are OK (apart from a bizarre arrangement of buttons on the rear skirt), as are the trousers and boots. However the hats are not convincing as the large straw hats, having much too small a brim. In fact they look much like the hats in the box artwork, which sadly is completely wrong. The artwork shows the home service uniform of the Schutztruppe, the German colonial troops, who were nothing to do with the East Asia Brigade. Even if they had been, this is the grey home service uniform (i.e. worn in Germany) complete with Südwester, and only ever appeared outside Germany in South West Africa, and even then only for parade.
The kit on these figures is all wrong too. As we have said, the Brigade was made up of regular soldiers from Germany, and they wore their ordinary kit. This were two large ammunition pouches on the belt supported by vertical straps over the shoulder, and while a few figures here have this arrangement the majority do not. Some have an arrangement with multiple pouches around the belt and even up the braces, which was a genuine German model but only ever issued to mounted troops in Africa and never seen in China. Around the back the straps should join in the classic German 'Y' arrangement, but all those in this set cross to form an 'X'. All have a bayonet but most are missing the bread bag and canteen that was standard issue, and while a few do have a backpack this is very different from the regulation pack that was actually worn.
Given that the brigade saw almost no fighting, the poses are a hard feature to assess. Certainly we would wonder at the man crawling on the ground, although in general the usual sort of poses work equally well for full battles or for 'police actions' against 'bandits'. However the presence of several marching and standing poses does rather reflect the lack of action these men saw, so perhaps the poses are not too inappropriate.
Sculpting is about average for this manufacturer, which is to say with fairly poorly defined detail. Faces are not too bad but hands are mostly just featureless blobs, and weapons lack much definition too. Flash is minimal, and there is no excess plastic in blind spots due to the choice of poses which mainly keep weapons pressed close to the body.
Ignore the box artwork, which has nothing to do with China or the Boxer Rebellion. By a stretch of the imagination and an impressive paint job you could almost get away with the hat being the actual straw hat, but the lack of equipment is impossible to hide. Similarly the inappropriate design of the straps and equipment that is provided leaves little room for correction. By 1901 the tropical helmet was the norm so these are no good for the post-rebellion years either. The figures make much better Schutztruppe, which is to say for the colonies in German East Africa, South-West Africa and Cameroon/Togo, but even then only those clearly not in battle as they wear dress uniform. If you read the Osprey title mentioned below you would think these figures are completely accurate, but then you would be guilty of not bothering to conduct a proper research job, and sadly this particular Osprey title is much discredited for some very good reasons. A very poor effort here has produced some figures with no real value to anyone.