When Napoleon and a French army invaded Egypt to severe Britain’s links with her Indian empire they were venturing into an ancient country little known in Europe. Around 31,000 infantry were accompanied by a number of regiments of cavalry, although only one was of hussars, the 7th bis - initially about 600 men. The hussars fulfilled the usual light cavalry duties of reconnaissance and protecting the flanks, which were particularly vital in such an alien part of the world.
When they first arrived they wore a uniform that followed the normal hussar pattern at the time, with a dolman and slung pelisse, tight breeches, Hessian boots and a mirliton cap. This is not, however, the uniform we find on the figures in this set from Strelets. Instead we find men wearing no pelisse and an array of trousers and boots. We find several wearing their bonnets de police caps, and some with a shako that includes a neck shield. We find one man wearing a civilian round hat with a brim, and another wearing nothing on his head but a bandana. In short we find a collection of men that have been in country for a long time, have suffered at the end of a long and imperfect supply line, and have adapted their gorgeous but not particularly practical uniforms to meet the demands of the environment in which they find themselves. These then are troops as they might appear in the last year of the campaign, when the peaked shako was coming into regulation anyway. By now the army as a whole was becoming very disenchanted with their continuing absence from France, and it seems highly likely that standards of dress were far more relaxed than they had been three years earlier. Clearly the bonnet de police and various civilian caps would be more comfortable than the mirliton, so while it is hard to know for certain how such troops would have appeared by the last few months of their operation we have no problem accepting that these figures, with all their diversity, are a fair representation of them.
The horses present more of a problem because all have the full dress shabraque with the long pointed tails. This would often have been left behind when on campaign anyway, and in such a hot country as Egypt it would have done the animal no good at all, so we doubt that it would have been seen by this stage. The rest of the horse equipment looks OK, although on some the saddle and valise has been placed so far forward on the animal's back that there is barely enough room for the rider to sit, and he is on the shoulders of the animal.
The poses are not on the whole too terrible in concept, although some have been really poorly done. The last figure in the top row has his sword arm fully back in order to deliver a stroke, yet is looking straight ahead, which leaves you wondering what could possibly be dead ahead of him and how does he intend to avoid decapitating his own horse. The first figure in the second row is quite simply achieving the anatomically impossible with his right arm, and while we were intrigued with the pose of the second man in the third row we wondered whether this would be a particularly likely pose, especially considering he should still be holding the reins somehow. Some of the horse poses are quite absurd - notice the rear legs of both animals at the end of rows four and five are identical, yet the front ones are in wildly different positions. This is hardly a sign that the sculptor has studied how these animals move, and it looks really bad.
The general sculpting of these figures is really quite poor, and below that we have come to expect even of Strelets. Apart from the usual blocky proportions and detail some areas are quite vague and faces in particular seem to suffer – three of the poses looking to the side have no nose at all. Most of the men have a sabretache, but this is way too small and just looks silly. The last figure in the top row has a separate sword blade that fits into a hole in his hand, but the hole is too large and the blade will need to be glued to stay in place. In many ways this is a return to the bad old days for Strelets, as the men have their legs much too close together to fit the horses, and if they are forced on then they generally 'ping' straight back off - hilarious but useless.
With the assorted adaptations made to the uniforms, the elements of local costume on some and the general rather shabby appearance, the accuracy of these figures looks to be very good, but that is about the only positive to take from this set. The flat and in some cases impossible poses leave a lot to be desired, and the poor sculpting is also very disappointing, and we feel that customers should at least expect the men to fit on the horses properly. Some very poor production standards go to make this a set that requires a lot of work by the customer for a very disappointing result.
Note The final figure is of a soldier from the Streltsi of 17th century Russia. Though he is unrelated to the subject of this set, he is one of a series of 'bonus' figures which when combined will create a set of this unit for the Great Northern War. See Streltsi Bonus Figures feature for details.