Despite being one of the major conflicts of the 18th century, and often described as the first World War, the Seven Years War has received scant attention in this hobby to date. There are a few sets for the Austrians and Prussians, but none for the Russians or French, and the British have only been represented by a handful of limited edition sets from BUM depicting Roger’s Rangers. Now at last we have a mainstream set for the British, although technically the Rangers were not part of the British Army itself. Instead, as 'His Majesty's Independent Company of Rangers', Roger's Rangers were raised in 1757 to serve as raiders, scouts and generally as light infantry, and were to inspire the creation of more formal light infantry units as well as achieve fame for their many exploits and the incredible hardships they suffered in the course of their duty. To what extent they caused the defeat of the French in the French and Indian War can be debated, but they were a fascinating part of that struggle and richly deserve to be depicted in this hobby.
When first formed these rangers wore no uniform, and instead wore the practical clothing they found most suitable to the task at hand. When a uniform of sorts was introduced in 1758, it is likely to have been advisory at best, particularly when away from their base, so a wide variety of very practical clothing is to be expected from these figures. To an extent that is what we find, as the figures wear one of two basic types of uniform. Some have a cut down European-style coat with lapels buttoned across, while the majority wear a form of buckskin hunting shirt, some of which may have been dyed green. Both of these are fine, but elsewhere things start to go badly wrong unfortunately. Some of these figures wear the leggings or mitasses which were normal native dress and very practical in the densely forested landscape in which they operated. This is great, but some of the poses seem to wear trousers. In an age when Europeans wore breeches and stockings, and natives wore leggings, we could find no suggestion of trousers in any source, so this must be simple fantasy on the part of the designer, and as more than half the poses wear this garment it seriously impacts on the accuracy of the figures. Worse yet, while some wear the bonnet that was very popular amongst the rangers, some have been given a cap much resembling the side cap worn by US troops in the mid-20th century, which again is completely wrong not just for the rangers but for anyone two centuries before World War II. No less than five of the 10 poses wear this nonsense, with four having the excellent bonnet and one a cut-down tricorn made into a cap which was also an authentic and popular item. Finally some of the men have their jacket open at the neck, revealing a smooth article that looks like a modern T-shirt with a bit of a neck. In fact they would have worn a standard shirt underneath, quite possibly with a necktie, so again this is very wrong.
Unfortunately things are also far from well here when it comes to personal equipment. Once again, the men carried whatever they thought worked best, so there was much room for variation. However some items were virtually universal, yet are lacking here. Every man would have had at least one knife, but here the second ranger in the second row does not have one visible. Much worse, it seems that just about every ranger carried a tomahawk, yet only six of these figures have one. Clearly an individual may have temporarily lost his during a fight, but we would have much preferred to see all or most of the figures which this essential item. Very few of the figures have a powder horn, yet while they would have carried cartridges, most would also have had a powder horn for the fine pan powder, particularly those with pistols. All do have one of an assortment of haversacks and cartridge boxes, which is fine, but a number of sources mention belly boxes, so we would have liked to have seen a few of those too. Every man has a canteen that looks to be the standard British Army issue of the day, which is quite feasible, but again more variety, with civilian items, would have been more authentic in our view.
The quality of the sculpting on these figures is largely very good, and in keeping with the fine products recently produced by Waterloo 1815 and Italeri. Detail is very nicely done, with good folds in the clothing and nice facial expressions. There is no flash at all, and nor is there any excess plastic worthy of the name, so these are very nicely produced. All the men have been given ponytails, which is accurate (although the hair could also be worn short), and a handful have facial hair too, which has been very well done. Ideally we would have liked more bearded figures, both because beards helped disguise the white-skinned face and because shaving was a luxury unavailable whilst on a raid. However there is one sculpting problem: although it is hard to see in our picture, the kneeling firing figure in the second row has lost the calf on his forward leg, which just looks weird.
The rangers spent much of their time travelling, perhaps to a raid or on reconnaissance or as an escort, but for understandable reasons all the poses in this set depict actual combat. We thought all the poses were quite well chosen and fairly lively, with several apparently in close-quarter combat, which is highly appropriate for this subject. The man using his musket as a club in the middle row is not particularly convincing, although this is always a hard thing to depict and the idea was a good one, even if a multi-part figure would have been a better solution. We particularly liked the man lying on the ground in the last row, who is both innovative and very fitting to the subject, but none of the poses present any real problems.
There are some other nice touches here. The kneeling firing man has a pair of snow-shoes propped up against his leg, while the other kneeling figure is still wearing one on his left foot, having removed the other to allow him to kneel. Snow-shoes imply very cold weather, yet we do not see evidence of the blankets and other items often worn in such weather. Perhaps inevitably these figures are rather neater than the real thing would be, which happens a lot with model figures, but the presence of trousers and the fanciful side caps seriously mar the historical accuracy of these figures, particularly when all manner of fur caps, 'jockey' caps and cut-down tricorns could easily have been used instead (just four of the poses are actually usable!). There are certainly some nice elements here, and with good poses and great sculpting this could have been a great set, but the errors in costume are both obvious and difficult to remedy, which is a great shame to say the least.
Note: Since writing this review, it has been pointed out that the many errors in historical accuracy here reflect those in the film "Northwest Passage" (1940). If as seems quite possible Waterloo 1815 substituted watching a Hollywood film for genuine historical research then in our view they should be ashamed of themselves!