The Ordnance breech-loading 15 pounder field gun was the main British field gun during the last years of the 19th century, including for the Second Boer War of 1899 to 1902. It had first been introduced into service as a 12-pounder in the 1880s, but the replacement of gunpowder by cordite as a propellant meant a more powerful shell could now be used by the same gun, and so the gun was redesignated the 15-pdr from 1892. Of all the rounds fired by the British during the Boer War, the large majority were fired by this gun, but in the early part of the war the British suffered because of the superior French and German guns in the hands of the Boers, and because the available fuses did not give their gun long range, forcing them to site the guns closer to the enemy, where the crew could be picked off by rifle fire. New fuses (the ‘Blue’ fuse) arrived and gave the gun its maximum range of about 5,400 metres, but the tactics needed revising in the face of an enemy that refused to obligingly stand close together in large formations, and the need for quick-firing guns became more obvious. Work began on such a new gun before the end of the war, but by then the war was one of rounding up small bands of bitter-enders, and artillery had little part to play. Within a few years this gun was obsolete as the new quick-firing 18-pdr was introduced, meaning the British had an excellent, modern gun by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
The basic elements of the gun in this set are well done. The barrel is the correct shape and size, and has a simplified form of breechblock. The carriage is also of a good size, has the proper 14-spoke wheels and the two axle-tree seats. However it is considerably simplified, as they normally are in this hobby, as it lacks the various structural supports, foot rests and any sign of recoil devices. Most carriages in the Boer War were the Mark I, which was the simplest mark, but this had shoe-brakes to retard recoil, though these would have been difficult to model, so without a complex and fiddly model this is about as good a piece as you could expect. Everything fits together very easily, and the two axle-tree seats are separate, so can be omitted if desired.
As for the crew, we find a pretty good seven poses for each gun. Several are generic poses for handling the gun, and are fine, and we were pleased to see the man bringing up ammunition, which is a vital role often ignored in sets of artillery. The kneeling gunner holds a shell, perhaps in the process of setting the fuse, and the middle figure in the top row is using the handspike – the peg at the bottom fits into a hole in the carriage. A fairly senior officer is looking on too; each gun or subsection only had an NCO in charge, but the inclusion of an officer is worthwhile.
The men all wear the standard British uniform of the day, beginning with the 1877 foreign service helmet with cover. The tunic is also correctly sculpted, and the outfit is completed by trousers, puttees and short boots. Later in the war the slouch hat became very popular, but as we have said, the artillery was mainly active in the early part of the war, before this trend began in earnest, so the uniform here is fine for Southern Africa. The men’s kit is also standard, with all having the Mark II haversack, and most also having the standard 1895 round general service water bottle. None are armed of course, but the officer has both revolver and sword, to which he was entitled, but as the war progressed many left their sword behind as a useless encumbrance that only attracted sniper fire.
The sculpting is very good, and while the uniforms are quite practical and lack any decoration, they have been well done here, with items like pockets, kit and puttees being nice and clear. Faces too are very good, and the handspike, which is a separate piece, fits quite well into the hands of the gunner, although gluing is still required. None of the poses feel at all flat, and general proportions are good too. Although there is a slight roughness to some of the seams, we found no flash at all, nor any other plastic to remove, so a great piece of production too.
In summing up this set we would have to say that almost all aspects are positive. Great sculpting and a clean mould join with good design and no accuracy problems to make a very fine set. The gun carriage lacks some of the finer details, but that is always the case with sets such as this, although by the end of the 19th century guns had much more of this sort of detail. For a simple model that is easily and quickly put together, this is about as far as you would expect it to go, so overall a terrific set that depicts this late-Victorian gun and crew very nicely.