As with the rest of the allied powers the crisis in China in 1900 took the French by surprise. Initially they could only provide sailors for the first troops sent to Peking, and more formed part of Seymour’s ill-fated expedition. By the time General Gaselee set out to relieve the Peking legations the French had moved troops up from their processions in Indo-China (now Vietnam), and were able to contribute two battalions of their Infanterie de la Marine to his force. These turned back during the march, but about 400 caught up with the force before the Legations were rescued, although they took no part in that action themselves. Subsequently the marines (nicknamed the ‘Marsouins’) were part of the French forces occupying and ‘punishing’ China over the coming months.
The marines are quite well documented and photographed, and their summer uniform is correctly depicted on these figures. Introduced in 1895, it is correctly made up of tropical helmet with cover, jacket, trousers and long gaiters over short boots. Their kit too is properly done with one quite important exception. None of the figures seem to have any kind of canteen when they all should have the distinctive twin-spouted bidon. Since they are in summer uniform they are operating in the Chinese summer, which is extremely hot, so such an item of equipment was a must for all the troops and its absence here is particularly unfortunate.
The poses on offer here are the regular RedBox selection, which covers all the basics without including anything particularly interesting or innovative (which might be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective). Having said that the man bayoneting is not particularly common but quite well done. However all are perfectly adequate for the task.
Sculpting too is reasonable, with fair levels of detail although not as sharp as some. The usual suspects tend to suffer from the less than perfect sculpting, so for example we could not identify the rifles with any certainty. Hands too are particularly vague, with little or no sign of fingers, and they often seem to merge with whatever they are holding in a rather unsatisfactory way. Still from any distance such features are not clear anyway. Flash is at a low level, with many seams being mainly smooth and only a few little bits of flash in places.
Although these troops did not see action around Peking they did have to fight around Tientsin and elsewhere, and of course they saw plenty of action in Indo-China and elsewhere in the French empire, so there are plenty of uses for them. These were France’s best soldiers during the Boxer crisis and a necessary part of RedBox’s evident quest to depict all the major troop types present. However some will see them more as a welcome start to depicting French colonial forces, a subject largely ignored so far apart from the Legion. While the quality of the figures is not great they are still a welcome addition.