At the start of 1757 the French could dwell with some satisfaction on the progress on the war with the British North American colonies so far. However the future looked less rosy, with considerable reinforcements being sent from Britain while France was concentrating on the continental Seven Years War and would find it difficult to support New France in the same way. The commander, Montcalm, decided to take the initiative and attack the British Fort William Henry, situated by Lake George. For the siege Montcalm took 30 cannon and 15 mortars, which were floated to the action on bateaux lashed together to form rafts. The siege and subsequent fate of the defenders has been memorably depicted in the film 'Last of the Mohicans’ (1992), and this set models one of the French mortars or bombards used in that victory.
The French had relatively few resources with which to conduct the French and Indian War, and as with the rest of their forces the artillery was a mix of regulars from France and locally raised troops. As a result a number of uniforms would have been evident, although all would have followed the basic pattern of the time, being a tricorn hat, coat, breeches and stockings. These figures conform to that standard, with the only notable feature being that none of the coats have turnbacks. By this date turnbacks were common, yet by no means universal, so while not strictly following the uniform of French regular artillerymen there is no reason to complain about the appearance of these figures. As so often, however, we would observe that a more relaxed appearance, with men working in waistcoats or shirt sleeves, might be closer to the reality during action.
French mortars of the day were of 15 inch calibre, and this one looks fine. It is mounted on a static carriage, and remarkably is moulded in just one piece, carriage and all. Despite this the model is pretty good, so clearly a highly flexible mould has been used. What it does mean is there is no option to change the elevation of the barrel, or indeed to swap the carriage for something else, but these are more desirable features than essential ones.
The sculpting is not particularly good, with some indistinct detail, and as with the mortar a flexible mould means there is no excess plastic or assembly, so even the man holding the ramrod in front of his chest comes in one piece. The poses are passable but there are far too few of them, so having one of an infantryman essentially doing nothing is a significant waste. Clearly a static carriage would suffer little movement, so man-handling it would not be necessary between shots, but it would still need to be serviced with ammunition and moved as the need arose, so more figures than this should have been included.
The real centre-piece of the set is the diorama piece. The figures and accessories are made in that very soft plastic that BUM so often uses, but the entrenchment is made in a nice solid resin that is very robust. It's a great model too, with the usual sort of detritus that would litter any such emplacement. Note that at 172 mm by 106 mm it is a good size and our photograph is not to scale with the figures so we could fit it in. With a basic earth-filled bastion and gabions, this piece has a very wide range of possible dates and locations so is particularly useful.
Although the mortar is quite nice, it and the handful of figures feel like filler for the main piece, as are the few paper flags the box also contains. The figures are historically appropriate but not particularly good, so it is very much the other parts of this set that will generate the most interest and make this a potentially worth-while acquisition.