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Strelets

Set M039

Normans on the March

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 2009
Contents 48 figures
Poses 12 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Dark Grey
Average Height 24 mm (= 1.73 m)

Review

Norman soldiers might find themselves marching in the north of England or the deserts of North Africa, but they could be certain that they would spend far more time on the move than in battle. To be a warrior at that time required good walking legs – after all, some crusaders walked right across Europe to reach Palestine. Even if only the day of battle is considered, all the participants would still have to move into position before hostilities began, so figures such as these have plenty of uses.

While there are naturally a good many walking poses in this set it is perhaps surprising that there are quite a few which appear to be standing still. Certainly any march must be punctuated with rests however, so this set of figures covers that too. The poses are of an assortment of men carrying various weapons and walking, or standing, in an apparently relaxed mood. The pose that immediately catches the eye is the pair in the middle carrying the mail hauberk on a spear. This echoes a similar image on the famous Bayeux Tapestry, which is certainly good historical evidence for its validity. However we cannot help but wonder at the inefficiency of this practice, and would suggest that this was more about moving stores over short distances (as is depicted on the ‘tapestry’) rather than lengthy marches. After all, two men carrying one suit would leave a lot of unarmoured men, and while a full hauberk weighed between 10 and 15 kilograms, which is not light, it would surely have been far more sensible to convey heavy armour on pack animals or carts. However, even if this is not a particularly good pose for a march, it is certainly authentic and a nice piece too.

The remainder of the poses look very natural and reasonable, although the third pose in the top row is of a man holding a pair of spears to his face – an awkward and poorly done position. We particularly liked the man taking a drink however.

The majority of the figures are wearing a mail hauberk. Some have a split up the front and back, implying they are mounted men, while others have slits at the side, as would infantry. Some have much shorter hauberks, which again suggests infantry, so we have a selection of both types here, which is great. However the question must be raised of when would a warrior actually wear his armour on the march? Although other armours are worse, mail is still quite heavy, particularly on the shoulders, and not to be worn without good reason. The answer must be if the enemy are thought to be near, such as when preparing for battle, but a Norman army on the march in friendly territory would be likely to wear little armour, much as the two carrying the hauberk on a pole, who have their normal tunics.

The archers seem to be wearing quilted jackets, which is to be expected, while on the legs all these men would be wearing breeches, braies, stockings or perhaps strips of cloth wound round the calves. It is hard to tell but most of these figures look OK here, but the crossbowman (middle row) looks very like he is wearing trousers, which is not correct. This may simply be the way the sculpting has been done, but these do not look at all medieval.

Several of the men carry spears while others have bows or a crossbow (which was a somewhat later weapon). The pose of which we disapproved in the top row also carries a sheathed sword in his right hand – if it were attached to a belt under his studded armour then it would be on his left side. One standing figure is holding an axe, which was not a particularly popular weapon amongst the Normans but certainly was used and deserves its place here. Lastly, many of the men have shields slung across their backs, which in all cases are the kite-shaped variety.

The usual chunky Strelets sculpting style struggles with very fine detail such as mail, so as usual such textures are rendered with much oversized detail rather than a more realistic rough overall surface. Other detail too is quite good but also quite large, and in particular many of the faces are quite indistinct and at times hard to make out at all. Nevertheless the overall effect is quite pleasing and certainly compatible with the other Strelets Norman sets already produced. There is not much flash, and with no separate items to attach the figures are ready to go straight off the sprue.

When reviewing something it is often pertinent to discuss what is not there as much as what is, and for us there is one obvious omission here. Any Norman army on the march would be expected to have at the very least its trained and very expensive war horses, and would usually also have palfrey or riding horses for the knights as well as other animals such as mules for the baggage. A mini set such as this cannot hope to include all the impedimenta of a full army on the march such as wagons, squires, camp followers etc, but the lack of horses seems like a serious gap.

In general this is a nice set with some very appealing poses and pretty good accuracy. Since most of the men are in full battle gear we would be inclined to suggest the figures are more appropriate for those moving into battle rather than on a long march somewhere, but that is no bad thing. Certainly a most useful addition to the Strelets Norman range, and one their many fans will welcome.

Ratings

Historical Accuracy 9
Pose Quality 9
Pose Number 8
Sculpting 6
Mould 9

Further Reading
Books
"Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066" - Wargames Research Group - Ian Heath - 9780904417159
"Hastings 1066" - Osprey (Campaign Series No.13) - Christopher Gravett - 9781855321649
"Medieval Military Costume" - Crowood (Europa Militaria Special Series No.8) - Gerry Embleton - 9781861263711
"Norman Knight 950-1204" - Osprey (Warrior Series No.1) - Christopher Gravett - 9781855322875
"The Normans" - Osprey (Elite Series No.9) - David Nicolle - 9780850457292
Magazines
"Military Illustrated" - No.208

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