French line fusiliers for the last years of the Napoleonic Wars have always been a popular subject, and there are several sets already available to meet that demand, though of very mixed quality. For some however these have been less than satisfactory as their primary need is for figures lined up side-by-side in battle formation for moving across the open fields as they manoeuvre in some wargame. Traditional sets provide many poses that do not match this requirement, so more recently sets of just marching figures have become increasingly popular, and this set from Waterloo 1815 is their first into this more specialised form of product.
In theory just one pose is required for such a set – that of a man marching as per the regulations, but here we find four different ones. Basically these poses illustrate the change from standing to attention (‘Shoulder Arms’ or portez vos armes) to marching (‘Support Arms’ or l’arme au bras). Standing to attention involves supporting the musket on the left shoulder by holding it under the butt (pose one above). The soldier then takes the weight of his musket with his right hand (pose two), bends his left and places the lock of the musket in the crook of his arm (pose three), and finally withdraws his right hand (pose four). Therefore the last pose is the one seen when moving across a battlefield, on parade or just on guard duty. All the poses are fine, but we would have liked to have seen many more of pose four since this is the most useful one, yet all poses are present here in equal numbers. Also of note is that two of the poses have their right foot forward, and two the left, so they cannot all be placed in formation together anyway.
As the title indicates, these figures are uniformed for the period from 1812 to 1815, which is to say as per the Bardin regulations. Everything here is correct, with the square-lapelled and short-tailed coatee and the half-gaiters to below the knee. Being fusiliers (the majority of French line infantry) they have just the single belt over the left shoulder which supports both the cartridge box and the bayonet. However on all these figures the bayonet has been sculpted on the hip when in fact it was positioned around the kidney, a lot further up the belt. Also the cartridge box, which is correctly positioned, is much too small – it is about two mm wide when it should be more like four, making the tiny examples here square and looking very strange. The box may have some device on it, but this is very shallow and difficult to make out, and as fusiliers generally had no such device this is easy to ignore or trim off. The shako has been well done, with an appropriate pompon and badge. The latter is the correct semi-circular plate on which the regimental number appeared, but strictly speaking all of them should also have an eagle above it. However when the king was restored to the throne in 1814, these eagles were snipped off the shako plate as an easy way to remove the old imperial insignia, and with Napoleon’s surprise return in 1815 many shakos must still have been missing them. So this small detail is really nice to see and well thought out.
All have the standard knapsack on their backs, with coat or blanket rolled on top. The muskets are sparsely detailed because of their position relative to the mould, but look fine, and all have the bayonet attached.
The sculpting is very good indeed, with fine details like the shako plate being very easy to make out. The faces are well done and fairly expressionless, as you might expect of such men. General anatomy is perfect, and while there is no assembly required here, there is no unwanted plastic anywhere. Equally all the figures are perfectly clean, with no flash or other blemishes, so these are very well produced figures.
Some other sets of marching figures have provided an array of similar poses in order to give a formation the natural, slightly imperfect look, which of course is not possible with only one pose of each position. However each of these poses is perfectly correct and natural, and we are very glad to see that the sculptor has made the men use their correct, left shoulder rather than the incorrect right shoulder shown on the box artwork. Like many sets, these figures represent something of an ideal, and particularly for Waterloo and the Hundred Days the reality was often very different. In particular you would see men with varying types of equipment, missing uniform items, wearing coats and especially trousers. However many sets are guilty of this, and many customers like it, so that is no criticism of this one. With lovely sculpting and the only accuracy issues being round the right hip, these are great figures, and while we would have preferred to see proportionately more of the final pose, and more similar poses to mix things up a bit, these soldiers do deliver exactly what is promised and will doubtless be welcomed by many.