At the dawn of the 17th century the army of Poland was, and had long been, primarily a cavalry force. As with all Eastern European countries, the cavalry were the elite and the most prized of the troops, with the infantry a poor second and the artillery further back still. Artillery was mainly useful in sieges, of which there were few compared to Western Europe, and small numbers of light guns were taken into battle but had little effect on the outcome. This all changed from 1634 when the new king Wladyslaw IV (1595-1648) initiated major reforms in the army, importing many ideas from the West. He greatly expanded the artillery, standardised calibres and modernised the tactics, including the use of light regimental guns in imitation of the Swedes. However this large and modern force suffered greatly in the wars against the Cossacks, Tatars and Swedes, and while it was partly rebuilt in the late 1650s, it never regained the strength it had previously enjoyed, and followed the rest of the Polish military in a long decline during the later half of the century.
A lot of artillery sets reviewed on this website have a rather miserly four crew per gun, while most of the rest have a more respectable six, so it is nice to report that you get eight figures per gun in this set. However there is not a great deal going on here, and indeed it is hard to see exactly what stage of the firing process is depicted. The man with the ramrod is casual, as is the one holding the match, and while we do find a man walking with shot and another with a bucket, no one is really interacting with the gun. The officer (end of top row) is quite nice, but there are some strange poses too. The first man on the bottom row is fine, leaning on his spade to remind us of the amount of preparation required to construct an artillery position in the field, but his neighbour is holding his long powder ladle with the scoop on the ground. Since he would be likely to be fetching powder from a wooden barrel, and of course depositing it in the barrel of the gun, the positioning of this implement is very hard to understand. Next to him is a baseless man kneeling and holding a spade horizontally in front of him. Why we absolutely cannot guess. Very strange, and not very stable either.
The gun itself is not the worst we have seen, but it does have issues. With a barrel length of about 26mm (1.87 metres) and a carriage length of 40mm (2.9 metres), this is a fairly small gun perfectly suited to the titular 'field' designation. The wheels have a diameter of only 15mm (slightly over a metre in scale), so this is something like a semi-culverin, although names and standards were very vague at this time. The barrel is reasonable but the carriage considerably simplified, although about the right size for the gun. The wheels have no capsquares - an item almost always portrayed on wheels of the time - and the axle on the carriage is considerably too long. We had to cut this down a good deal to achieve a realistic look for our picture. The other major problem with the carriage is that it has almost no rear transom or 'tail', which means it has no hole with which it could be attached to a limber. We can see no practical reason why this important detail would have been missed, so it just seems like sloppy work by the sculptor.
The sculpting of the men is no more pleasing than the gun. They have a decent amount of detail but the proportions and general appearance is pretty basic with some frightening faces and crude hands. Since most of the men are quite inactive they do not give the impression of being unnecessarily flat, but something needs to be said about the second and third figures in the second row, who both need some assembly. The first holds the powder ladle, and when we say 'holds' we use that word quite wrongly. He actually simply has his hand out flat, and you are expected to glue the separate ladle to the underside of this. The result, as you can see, is pretty rubbish and a really hard join to keep together too. The other man has a separate spade, and again there has been no effort to make this join at all easy or realistic. All you can do is lay the spade in the right general area, but no one is going to be convinced by the join, and the pose is certainly not worth the trouble.
Most of the Polish artillery during the century was manned by foreigners, or at least officered by them, although of course there was nothing stopping them from adopting traditional Polish costume, which is just as well as all the figures here look quite typical of the region. The usual fur-trimmed hats and coats look fine, so we have no issues with the accuracy of the men.
We found very little flash on our review example, and the gun went together fairly easily once we had reduced the length of the axle. The wheels take a long time to remove from the sprue as they are attached in many places, and the assembly of the men is dreadful as we have said, although neither of those poses makes any sense anyway. The rest of the figures are OK, although not particularly pleasant to look at, but in a change from the usual artillery set where everyone is doing his job regardless of what everyone else is doing, here no one is doing very much at all. Mars have never achieved the quality necessary to make figures or kits that can be assembled properly, but luckily here you can afford to disregard the two really bad figures and still have a half-decent crew. This is not a good set, but quite typical of Mars, although as so often we find the most positive aspect is that it models something never done before.