With the coming of a general war to Europe in 1914, each army possessed an armoury of weapons that could inflict death and injury on an industrial scale, and casualties quickly mounted. Thoughts soon turned to some form of defence for the soldiers, and with the introduction of the French Adrian helmet the British began developing their own. The result was the Brodie helmet, soon to become the Mark I, which was cheap and easy to produce and gave good protection, particularly from above. Issue began in September 1915, and by the Somme offensive of the following year most had them, including the cavalry, who were still kept in reserve to exploit any breakthroughs in the German lines. When these breakthroughs did not materialise the mounted cavalry had little to do however.
The uniform of British cavalry from 1916 to 1918 was little different from that in the first half of the war, being standard service dress which was now topped off by the steel helmet. The men still wore the 90-round bandolier, haversack and canteen (the last missing on these figures), but they now have one important new item of kit: a gas mask. Here it is the small box respirator, but not all the figures have this, which is odd as generally all would have one if it had been issued. Also, some have it in the alert position, which is on the chest, while others have it in the non-alert position, which for cavalry was on the back. Again we would have expected consistency here, although this is not a big issue.
The officer has the Sam Browne belt, supported by a single brace across the chest as was common. He holds a revolver and has a pair of binoculars, but lacks a gas mask or other kit. British cavalry at this time used bugles to make calls when mounted, and trumpets when dismounted. The trumpeter here is correctly using a bugle as he is mounted, but he should also be carrying a trumpet, which he is not. Furthermore he should be armed with a pistol, but instead he has a rifle, which when slung across his back would interfere with his trumpet (which Strelets have resolved by not giving him one).
The horses in this set are exactly the same as those in the early war set, which means there are a number of problems. The usual really poor Strelets poses are much in evidence, and some of the horses tend to lean on their base, which does not aid their stability. Despite its irrelevance by this stage, all the animals correctly have a sword on the saddle, although this is poorly modelled here, but only half have the holster for the rifle, which is strange. The saddle looks OK but the bridle is something of a mess, and the halter rope neither attaches to the bridle nor does it go round both sides of the animal’s neck, making it pointless. All the horses have the same M1903 bandolier around their neck as the men, or at least they should have, but in all cases the sculptor has given these only 80-rounds rather than the proper 90. The lump on the nose of each horse as a primitive respirator. These were crude and largely ineffectual in real life, but here they are just blobs of plastic that attach to a peg on the horse’s nose. The result is crude and not attractive, although at least the peg can be easily trimmed off if this accessory is not desired.
As with the first set the sculpting is typical of Strelets, although the men are better done than the horses as well as being more accurate. The chunky style means smaller details like the lanyard on each man’s left shoulder have been omitted entirely, while other details are noticeably larger than they should be. Naturally there were hardly any occasions when mounted men had to handle their weapons in anger, so those using their rifles are more to do with exciting possibilities on the table-top than any likely historical incident, and the man with sword drawn can have little prospect of using it to harm the enemy in any way. However a set of figures all patrolling or simply waiting would be dull indeed so these more active poses are understandable, and at least there are no figures charging the enemy with sword waving in the air. As we have come to expect from this manufacturer, there is no flash and despite a slightly rough finish there is no excess plastic, thanks partly to quite a flat set of poses, while the men fit their mounts well.
Throughout the war a significant cavalry reserve was held by the British, although they saw very little action while mounted like this. Nevertheless the figures are quite decent for Strelets, while the horses leave much more to be desired. As an illustration of the passing of horsed cavalry into history this set is certainly of interest, but the number of admittedly small accuracy errors mar the effort and make this set less than it could have been.