Since the 18th century the Ottoman Empire had been increasingly aware that it was falling behind the Western Powers in its armed forces, as in much else, but most attempts to reform or modernise were resisted by reactionary and traditional elements within Ottoman society, and in particularly by those with the most to lose of course. An earlier attempt at reform had collapsed with the deposition and murder of Sultan Selim III in 1808, but a much more successful attempt was made by Sultan Mahmud II, who suppressed the Janissary Corps in 1826 and did much to improve the army and navy, so that by the Crimean War the Ottoman forces had more of a European look to them. The Ottomans had always had an interest in guns, and when Krupp developed a steel breech-loading gun in the 1850s they were amongst the first to express an interest. In the mid-1870s they ordered many of the now well-proven weapon, and by the time war broke out in 1877 these guns were delivered and in use, which meant the Ottoman guns were superior to the Russian bronze guns. They were to prove their worth in battle, although deficiencies elsewhere in the artillery meant they had less effect than might have been hoped, and they could not save the Ottomans from defeat.
In this Strelets box you get two guns and a total crew of 14. Although the Ottomans still had plenty of bronze muzzle-loaders in 1877, the gun here is clearly one of the new Modell C 1873 Krupps. The carriage modelled here looks to be reasonably authentic if of course considerably simplified (such as lacking the screw and the common axle seats). The barrel on this model is very long and slender, but it lacks the obvious widening mid-way along its length that meant the muzzle was thinner than the breech. The breech mechanism is fairly good, so this is a fair but much simplified model, while the barrel in particular could have been better done.
At this point you might expect that we would discuss the accuracy of the crew, but, sad to relate, we have failed to find sufficient information from which to make a solid judgement. The paltry bibliography below tells its own story, for there seems to be very little written in English on the subject of Ottoman arms. Regarding the artillery, Knotel blandly states that the whole army at this time wore a traditional uniform something like the famous Zouaves, while Drury’s book provides a clear illustration of an artilleryman but no caption to put it in context. Since this illustration shows an entirely Western uniform (apart from the fez), this directly contradicts Knotel. The Illustrated London News published an engraving of these men in 1877 which seems to show the traditional shoes, stockings and baggy trousers, but a European tunic - so a half-way house between the two styles. Various later paintings show mainly traditional Turkish uniforms, but they are of unknown credibility, so all we can say is that all these figures wear an entirely European uniform (again, apart from the fez), which is at odds with the general 'Turkification' of uniforms at the time, but we cannot be sure of their validity.
The poses are fairly typical of the genre, and we particularly liked the man taking a drink simply because he is perfectly natural but an unusual choice for a pose. What did initially surprise us were the three figures holding ramrods with a sponge end. A breech-loading gun such as this had no need for such a ramrod, but as we have said, the Ottomans still had many older muzzle-loading guns too, so these poses would make perfect sense for those guns. The two men carrying shells do, however, match the ordnance in the box.
While there is no flash the quality of these figures is not particularly good. Detail is there but often exaggerated in size, and some areas are noticeably misshapen such as some of the heads. Long thin items tend to be too thick, so for example the shells the men carry are wider than the outside of the barrel of the gun, and those with swords have particularly wide bladed examples.
It is a shame that we have not been able to properly assess the accuracy of this set, but it’s fairly basic quality is not appealing although it depicts an important element of the war of 1877, and also a major landmark in the development of field artillery.