Unlike most European armies of the Napoleonic period Austria did not have any true horse artillery, but instead possessed ‘cavalry artillery’. Introduced in the 1770s, cavalry artillery was not intended to support the cavalry (quite the reverse in fact), but merely to form a more mobile reserve to be deployed rapidly wherever it was needed. Austria long clung to the old-fashioned practice of battalion guns (where one or two guns supported infantry units on an ad hoc basis) rather than massing artillery in larger batteries where it could be much more effective, so such a mobile reserve was particularly useful. The speed of deployment was achieved by placing much of the crew on a padded seat on the gun and the rest on horseback or riding the caissons, so they could keep up with the movement of the guns. The classic cavalry artillery battery seems to have been four lightened 6-pounder guns and two 7-pounder howitzers, although sources do not agree on this and it seems other combinations were used as necessary.
We will begin on a positive note by listing what we liked about this set. Actually we liked a lot, starting with the very fact that it had been made at all, given the great lack of Austrian artillery at the time of writing. The set is essentially three gun teams, each pulling a wurst-howitzer, and the general level of sculpting is pretty good. The two outrider figures are reasonable well done and quite adequately detailed for the relatively simple uniform they wear. Their horses seem to be in poses that suggest something between standing and walking, which is not without its advantages, although neither horse pose is particularly natural if they are moving forward. The limber is crisply done, as is the harness, though some shortcuts have been taken which do not really spoil the look. The limber holds a nice ammunition box, and of course has the spike on which the piece of ordnance can be attached. As we have said, this is a 7-pounder howitzer fitted with the wurst seat for the crew. Although the trail is a little wider than it should be, the remaining dimensions are spot on, as are the wheels, and everything is quite sharp and reasonably detailed, given the limitations of a one-piece carriage. The seat is separate, revealing the ammunition in the box underneath if desired, which is a nice touch. All the parts fit together well, so this is a well made model.
On the down side, our eye was immediately drawn to the seat, which seemed very wide: And so it is. In reality it was between 10.15 and 11.25 Zolls wide, which is about 29cm. That is quite a comfortable width to straddle, and scaled down that’s about 4mm This model however is a good 10mm wide, scaling up to 72cm which, even for the longest-legged human being, is far beyond the maximum distance anyone can part their knees (unless they are a professional gymnast perhaps). As a result, no one can sit on this, which is a real pity as it cries out for some mounted crew figures.
That is about all we had to complain about in this set. The kit includes an ammunition chest for the limber which is shown above, although the evidence suggests that this was not in fact used. However as it is a separate piece it can simply be omitted. Also it is true the teams were sometimes made up of six or even more rather than the four, but four were sufficient in good going and take up less room on the table-top battlefield too. The uniforms of the drivers are accurate and include the shako which was gradually introduced from late 1806, although a number of variations were worn so there is plenty of scope for conversion to add variety. The plastic used is soft but everything goes together easily and takes ordinary polystyrene cement very well.
In total then this is a good set with just one blemish, albeit an extremely important one. Crew for the gun can be found in the Hat Set of Austrian Artillery, so none are required here. Not being able to place seated figures on the gun is a real shame, but if you leave the seat off then you have a very reasonable howitzer, and the team too is perfectly serviceable. Common sense and an understanding of what they were sculpting would have avoided the seat error, which, like a single bad hole in a great round of golf, messes up all the otherwise good work.