As an answer to the shortage of heavy artillery early on in the Great War, the British took some obsolete 6-inch guns, shortened the barrel and rebored them to turn them into 8-inch howitzers. Naturally these had to be mounted on different carriages to achieve the necessary elevation, but the result, which was introduced from early 1915, went down well with the troops and a number of marks (numbers I to V) were produced based on the gun used to make them. Carriages too varied greatly and were modified from various sources, but also proved very useful. However the guns were heavy and not ideal, and were replaced by purpose-designed marks VI and VII in due course.
Given the variety of gun barrels and carriages, the model in this set looks pretty good. Inevitably being somewhat simplified, it is not too bad in terms of accuracy, with the exception of the wheels, which are much too narrow for this weapon. Where the model falls down more obviously is in the quality of its manufacture. Despite being made in a hard plastic it is quite rough at the seams and is joined to the sprue by enormously thick links, requiring both some effort to remove said sprue and to trim the resulting piece into more or less the required shape. The fit of parts is not that bad but nor is it brilliant, and the 'instructions' on the box are limited to a single exploded view of the parts which those not familiar with the gun will find less than comprehensive. Making the gun was more a chore than a pleasure, although apart from the wheels the result is quite accurate and with a good deal of care and attention could be made into a fairly decent model by someone with the patience to do so.
Like all heavy guns this one was crewed by the Royal Garrison Artillery, and the men in this set correctly wear the Service Dress current during the conflict. The main characteristics that make these 'early' as described on the box is the presence of the stiffened peak cap (rather than the later softer versions or the steel helmet) and the absence of such items as the respirator. There is little kit being worn, which is fine, and some men have jackets open or are working in shirt sleeves, which is great. However two of the men have their rifles slung rather precariously across their torsos, to which we simply ask why? Manning a gun of this calibre they would be well behind the lines and very unlikely to suddenly face infantry or cavalry, so what use is the rifle when the worst they face is long-range counter-battery fire? Naturally such men had rifles, but when in action they would be stowed nearby, not worn like this so they impede the movement of the individual.
The poses include a number of officers in charge of the gun, which is OK, but not a lot actually manning the weapon. Having said that, our favourite figure was the man mopping his brow (first row), and what poses there are are all useful. The two men with the tray are a nice touch, although making them stand properly is no small task. The figures have the usual Strelets chunky appearance, with large heads and small items, but they are largely without flash and luckily there is no assembly apart from the tray team.
Precision engineered figures and models has never been something Strelets has excelled at, and both the gun and figures have an unrefined quality which will not appeal to many. The gun is no small challenge to put together, and should be given wider wheels, although exactly how is hard to say. The figures are adequate although the slung rifles look a bit silly and the tray team is a good idea poorly done. Overall not a particularly good set, although as with so much of Strelets' output they have at least delivered an important subject largely lacking in the hobby up to now.