The box artwork seems clear that this set is intended for the retreat from Moscow in 1812, when most of the French army that began the retreat was either captured by the Russians or died of exposure, exhaustion or hunger. Any vehicle that could be found would be pressed into service by the French, particularly for the transportation of the sick and wounded, and the sledge was a common form of conveyance in such parts. However vast quantities of horses died along with the men, and while their carcases kept many men fed for a time, in the end little transport made it to relative safety, so most of the sick and wounded were simply abandoned along with their worthless vehicles.
This set was released at the same time as French Army Sledge Train 1, and it shares the same model of a sledge. As a result our full remarks on this model are to be found in that review, which we will not repeat here, but in essence the design is very basic but not necessarily unlikely, though far from ideal for the purpose of evacuating wounded. The model itself is also pretty crude, making a very rough little piece that does the job but is not pleasing to the eye. The horse looks good, but the harness is not of the usual type found at the time, which is depicted on the box!
Like Set 1 there are a rather mean eight poses, with just one of each in the box. The first pictured figure is of an officer in a coat running; needless to say no one ran from Moscow to Paris, nor had the energy to run much at all, so we don’t know what reason there is for this generic pose. Next there is a man in a bearskin, who has his eyes covered and walks with a stick. Since he cannot see, his raised right hand is probably meant to be on the shoulder of a guiding comrade, and is a perfectly appropriate pose, although the fact that he has his coat undone means he is in a much warmer environment than existed for most of the retreat. Third in the row is a really nice duo of a man helping another who has an arm in a sling. There are many stories of men helping each other like this, and the wounded man might well have frostbite, be totally exhausted or ill, or any number of reasons why he needs support. Once again however the man on the left has his coat open in a carefree way, so it can’t be particularly cold, meaning it must be early in the retreat before the temperature dropped so dramatically. Lastly this row has a man carrying some sort of bag over his shoulders. If it contains food then he and his comrades are lucky indeed, but if it contains the spoils of war, for example, then he may regret spending so much energy on trying to take this home with him. Nevertheless early on in the retreat many men were heavily burdened with loot, and throughout those terrible weeks the men wandered well off the road attempting to find food from locals, so perhaps this is the result of a successful forage.
You will have observed that so far there have been no figures relating to the sledge, and the first figure in the second row is the same as he walks with full kit and a bag slung from his musket. Once again his quite neat and regulation appearance suggests he has not suffered like many have, so perhaps this is early on, or he is from a garrison that did not march all the way to Moscow. The only sign of the cold is that he has stowed his shako and has his head wrapped in something to keep warm.
The last three figures are clearly suitable for the sledge itself. First we have a woman sitting on a small barrel and holding something. Many women accompanied the men on the retreat, including vivandiéres, wives and camp followers of all descriptions. Their suffering was no different to that of the men, and needless to say huge numbers died on the march. There is no sign of uniform on this figure, which does not mean anything, but while her burden is impossible to make out it could be a baby, in which case its chances of survival would be exceptionally slim. Next there is a man wearing a hussar pelisse and also carrying something, but again it is not certain what this is. One strong possibility is the lower part of a horse's leg, hoof and all, in which case this would be perhaps the only food to which this man has access, and dead horses kept many men from starvation, at least temporarily. He is sitting, so can only be sitting on the back of the sledge. Finally we have a man wearing a lancer’s cap and sitting cross-legged wielding a whip. Again wrapped up against the cold, he is rather flat in that the whip is flying sideways over his head, but this is nothing new for plastic figures.
If not always easy to understand, the poses are all perfectly reasonable, as are the choices of clothing etc. Items of uniform circulated through the army as the dead and dying were relieved of theirs by those with the strength to go one, and the lack of weapons is good too since vast numbers were thrown away as simply slowing down the escape. Our main problem with the design was the figures with open coats, who would only make sense for the early stages of the retreat, before the weather turned really cold. All the poses are OK, although few in number.
The sculpting is the same quite chunky Strelets style, and smaller detail is hard to make out. Generally there is very little flash, although the running officer has quite a lot. The pair helping each other must have been a very common sight, and is our pick of the poses, but all are usable and fairly well done.
A single half-sprue of figures plus a sledge is not a lot to fill a box, but we quite liked all the poses, while the sledge was much more of a disappointment, and something more like what is promised on the box illustration would have been better. An interesting collection of figures for a terrible event.