The various partitions of Poland in the later 18th century had eventually meant the country had ceased to exist, and many Poles saw in the young republican France and later her new emperor a chance to fight back at the European powers and regain their freedom. Consequently very large numbers fought for Napoleon in various theatres, and while their dreams were not to be realised in their lifetimes, they served the French with great determination and courage, and often stayed with the emperor when his other allies had abandoned him.
Over many years of service to France, Polish infantry wore a variety of uniforms, but the figures in this set wear the one associated with the years of the Duchy of Warsaw, which is to say from 1807 to the end of the Wars. During this time the troops fought in central and eastern Europe, though other Poles fought in a different uniform in Spain. All here have the very distinctive square-topped czapka hat, which was supposed to be worn only by fusiliers, though as with so much else this rule was not strictly followed. None have this under a cover, so we can see the badge on the front (an eagle over the regimental number on a plate) and the pompon on top. Some have cords round the hat, and some do not, which was also true of the real thing in the field. All have normal field uniform on, with campaign trousers and the short-tailed coatee with plastron front leaving two buttons below it. Each man has a knapsack and rolled coat/blanket as well as a cartridge pouch and sword/bayonet frog. The drummer, flag-bearer and officer lack some of the kit, which is correct, and the officer has a rather thin rolled greatcoat round his trunk. Everything about these figures is completely accurate.
The poses in this set follow the pattern set by other similar Strelets marching sets, with a variety of compatible marching figures plus four ‘command’ poses. The marching figures include two with musket slung casually on the left shoulder, but the rest are in more formal marching order, supporting the musket mostly by holding the butt, and all of the poses look good. They are enough to produce a large body of marching troops with the small variety necessary to give it a natural feel, and as marching figures you couldn’t really ask for more. The first of the command figures is, by his posture and the musket on the right shoulder, an NCO, though he has not been given any rank stripes which would confirm this so these would need to be painted on. However he has been given some long service chevrons on his upper arm (rank stripes were on the lower arm in the Polish Army). His pose is fine, as are the other command figures, including the officer apparently walking along in a relatively casual manner, resting one hand on his sword hilt.
This is one of the improved recent sculpting efforts from Strelets, with pretty good detail and none of the chunky feel of much of their earlier output. They don’t compare well to the best, but they are certainly a step forward, and generally the detail is good. Smaller areas such as the hat badge and the badge on the cartridge pouches are still vague and hard to make out, but the figures are generally very slender. Indeed they verge on being too slender, and this may be because they are a shade too tall; had they been the correct height, but all else left as is, they would have been perfectly proportioned. We could find no flash anywhere, and thanks to the chosen poses there is no issue with excess plastic in hidden areas, so full marks for the technical production of the mould.
While the flag-bearer seems to carry a particularly small example, this is in fact within reasonable limits. Polish flags varied enormously, but many were square or almost so, and their size ranged greatly, with some smaller than this and others larger. This one is 10mm square, which is fine, and happily unengraved with a design. It has an eagle on the staff, which in theory should only have been carried by the first battalion of a regiment, though it is known that this rule too was not always followed. In any case, turning the eagle into a form of pike head finial would not be difficult. The staff itself is 30mm long (2.16 metres), which is at the bottom end of the acceptable scale, but acceptable nonetheless.
Other observations include that every man has a bayonet attached. This would seem unlikely unless immediate action was expected, but these are easily trimmed off if required, and at least the option is available to the customer. Also some of the figures seem to sport quite a full moustache; in theory fusiliers were clean-shaved, though again this rule may have been less than fully observed, and moustaches are easy to trim off too. So what we have here is a set of figures with a good range of poses given the limited ambition of the title, and with perfect accuracy. The sculpting is pretty good too, so for all those looking for numbers of Polish troops simply to march toward or on a table-top battlefield, these men and their associated command figures largely deliver everything that you would need and do it well.