Warfare in the Mediterranean had been dominated by the galley from the 14th century, and that supremacy would last until well into the 17th century, although by the end of the 16th it was clear the galley was being superseded. The purpose of the galley was to allow troops to board an opponent and either capture or destroy it, so Mediterranean warfare, and by extension Italian naval warfare, was based on speed and manoeuvrability, to allow your troops to attack an enemy and avoid them doing the same to you. With the development of large gunpowder guns galleys gained a large gun in the bow, often flanked by four smaller ones, but the rowers along each side meant the ship could not have the kind of all-round defensive armament that the later galleons could muster, which eventually changed the nature of naval warfare to one of pounding an enemy from a distance.
Although galleys did not commonly fight each other, when action was joined the sailors (and indeed the rowers if they were free men) would sometimes be called upon to aid the fight, particularly to defend the ship. Sets 1 and 2 in this little series from RedBox contain the rowers and sailors for such ships, but this set includes a small number armed and ready for action. We find poses holding a polearm, crossbow, sword and arquebus, plus a man using a swivel gun. All of these are appropriate naval weapons for the 16th century, with the swivel gun being mounted on the ship to defend it from boarders or rake an enemy deck with fire. The crossbow was used on ship longer than it was on land, so all these weapons are fine, although some would not have been used in the 17th century, as claimed by the box.
The armed poses are all pretty good. The man with polearm is being nice and aggressive, and the arquebusier is in the act of firing his weapon. The swordsman, shield in hand, is ready for action, while the crossbowman is cocking his bow ready for a new bolt. They could all be along the side of the ship, or in hand-to-hand combat with an enemy. Also of course, they could be about to land on shore as galleys were often used to land troops.
Although there are a modest number of poses in the set, and it is entitled 'in Battle', four of the poses hold no weapon and do not look at all combative. The last two figures on the top row seem to be watching something, and the two unarmed men in the second row are perhaps directing operations. Naturally until contact was made the ship's sailors would be concerned with running the ship rather than handling weapons, so these are fine if rather sedate, but a slightly odd choice for a 'battle' set. The fourth man in the top row is a puzzle. He holds a rod with a thicker end, and with rope looped round it several times. We have not been able to establish what this is, but presumably is a part of the operation of the ship.
The style of clothing of all the figures is very much of the 16th century and not the 17th, so again we think the box claim stretches things too far. Their garb is fairly typical of male costume of the time, which does not really suggest the rough working costume of the sailor, so these work better as professional soldiers put on board. However none have any armour, so if overdressed as sailors they are rather underdressed as soldiers. Nevertheless that does not mean they are necessarily wrong. The final figure is very well dressed, and clearly an officer of some rank. He could be the master or captain, or even an admiral. He holds a paper, which is generally code in such sets for someone in charge, but his fine clothes mark him out as no ordinary soldier.
The sculpting is very good, as we would expect these days from RedBox. All the clothing is well done, and finer details are great, with very pleasing faces and hands, for example. The 'captain' is the best-looking of them all in our view, but all are really appealing. There is no flash, and despite not having the appearance of being flat there is no excess plastic anywhere.
Although a little unsure as to whether sailors would have dressed this way at any time whilst at sea, let alone in a fight, all these beautifully done figures are fine for much of the 16th century, are well sculpted and in realistic and lively poses. It is only a small set, but really nicely put together and will appeal to anyone interested in the later renaissance, even if they are less interested in naval warfare of the era.