As in many armies, the light infantry were an elite within the German Army in the early 20th century, and the Jäger (literally ‘hunters’) carried considerable prestige despite being relatively few in number. Their tasks were the traditional ones for light infantry; to skirmish, patrol and reconnoitre, and it is not surprising that they were chosen to utilise the relatively new machine that was the safety bicycle. Although men had for some time considered the military uses for the bicycle, it first really showed its possibilities during the Boer War, when it proved to be fast, virtually silent and requiring much less maintenance than a horse. The Germans created their Jäger cyclists by adding one cyclist company (the 6th) to each of their Jäger battalions in 1913 (ordinary infantry battalions would not raise bicycle companies until after mobilisation in 1914), but as the initial fluidity of the war developed into static trench warfare, the bicycle was only really useful for carrying messages, so the men were either dismounted and used as ordinary infantry or transferred to the more mobile Eastern and Balkan fronts.
In many respects the uniform and equipment of the Jäger was the same as for the ordinary infantryman. The most obvious difference was that they wore the shako rather than the spiked pickelhaube, although both were given covers when in the field (through which the oval fieldbadge showed). The four figures in this set have the shako, and surely also have the cover as there is no sign of the badge etc., yet the peaks front and rear are very clear and distinct, which is not how they looked with the cover, when the peaks all but disappeared. Instead they look like the figure on the box illustration, which is a very bad representation of the covered shako. All the men wear the Waffenrock tunic rather than the later Bluse as the buttons are clearly visible. This should have one of a number of types of cuffs, but here they are simple with no buttons, so perhaps an early simplification of the basic model (later models had such simple buttonless but deeper cuffs). The trousers look fine, as do the boots, which would later be largely replaced by puttees, so these are early war troops.
All have the usual waist belt with standard M1909 ammunition pouches on either side. Suspended from the belt they have the haversack or 'bread bag' attached at the rear right and a canteen hooked onto that, all of which is correct. No one has a visible bayonet, which is a pity, but more obviously wrong is that all have pack support straps which go over the shoulders and meet at the back in a 'Y' arrangement. This is wrong because none of the men actually have a pack or, since they are Jäger cyclists, the rucksack (non-cyclist Jäger carried a special 'Dachs' or 'badger' pack). Straps of this type without any pack were worn by cavalry, but there is no reason why these men would wear them. Finally all have what should be the M98 carbine slung across their backs, which is fine.
When you are making a set of cyclists there is not a lot you can do with the poses, and most of what you can do has been done here. One pose has both hands on the handlebars and the others have just one hand, with small variation in the position of the free hand. Everyone has their feet on the pedals so all are travelling, but that is about all you can say about the poses. Having someone stopped and perhaps looking through binoculars or using his weapon might have been useful, but it is hard to think of much else you could do with moving cyclists. All the poses have at least one separate arm to make them more natural, and are essentially fine if more utilitarian than interesting.
The sculpting is pretty good, with reasonable detail and good proportions. Apart from the shako covers already mentioned the sculptor has done a fair job with his subject, although there are occasional surprises like misaligned collars on the tunic, but the main issue with this set is the plastic used. As with all recent HaT sets the plastic is pretty soft, and this makes assembly a good deal harder than a hard plastic kit. Each cycle has separate handlebars and each man at least one separate arm, and we found it quite a fiddly process to put everything together when the plastic is not as rigid and precise as it might be. There is a very small amount of flash too, so these are not the easiest to put together, although the end result is still quite pleasing. Why the sculptor put the chains on the left side of all the bikes rather than the usual right we do not know however.
It comes as no surprise that around the centenary of the events of World War I there are a lot of new sets devoted to that conflict, but this is likely to be one of the more obscure subjects. A set of Jäger actually in battle would have been more widely useful, and it is not easy to think of many scenarios where these cyclists might naturally fit, although that certainly makes them all the more interesting. However, they are what they are, and as such have been reasonably well produced apart from one accuracy problem (the straps) and some occasionally vague or misguided sculpting (such as the shako covers). Not a set to get the pulse racing (for which a couple of stopped or dismounted poses would have helped) but another product for those looking to comprehensively depict the German forces of 1914 and 1915.