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Airfix

Set 01722

US Cavalry

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 1965
Contents 11 mounted figures, 1 foot figure and 12 horses
Poses 12 poses, 4 horse poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Mid Blue, Dark Blue
Average Height 24 mm (= 1.73 m)

Review

Airfix described this set as designed '...to complement the US Civil War series...', but the box artwork shows action against Indians. Apart from during the Civil War, US cavalry was always badly undermanned and spread very thinly over the vast expanses of the American West. Nonetheless their reputation is cemented by innumerable Hollywood films which rarely if ever accurately reflect the historical truth.

This was the first full set of cavalry produced by Airfix, and they delivered 12 figures which are all in different poses - an impressive feature even by today's standards. The poses are mostly of men waving sabres at various angles, but also include a bugler, an officer and a flag-bearer. One pose that is unique to this set is the wounded man who is still mounted. Airfix also introduced another very welcome cavalry standard of including one dismounted man. In this case he is sitting next to his downed horse firing his carbine. Cavalry horses were trained to do this, to provide cover for their riders in a firefight, but not like this, and since the man is not using the animal as cover this is definitely a downed animal. Still this is a very realistic pose and a refreshing change from the 'charging waving sword in air' norm. The poses are generally pretty good and look realistic.

The uniform is something of a mystery. All the men appear to wear shirt-sleeves, with sleeves rolled up to the elbows. During the Civil War the men usually wore jackets with a standing collar, which is not shown on these figures, and would rarely have gone into action merely wearing shirts, though this was more common after the War. Though several shirt styles, including civilian, were to be seen in the army, the regulation shirt only buttoned part the way down the chest, whereas these men have shirts that button all the way, so they must all be civilian private purchases. All the men also wear knee-length boots, which were a highly desirable item that all cavalrymen wanted but many did not get. Another problem is that the men have a canteen hanging from their waist when this should in fact be hanging from their saddle. Finally all wear the fatigue cap (or bummer cap), an item of headgear that provided no protection from rain or sun and was very unpopular in the cavalry. Brimmed or slouch hats were always worn on campaign after the Civil War, and were not uncommon even during that conflict.

All these figures wear shoulder belts which seem to have ammunition pouches along them, a feature that only appeared long after the period of the Indian Wars. Not one man has a pistol nor a holster for it, and none bar the two who are using them have a carbine, although even these two models are very inaccurate.

The big let-down in this set is that most men have sabres. Though sabres were occasionally used in the Civil War and early in the Indian Wars, most troopers preferred to trust to firearms, especially as more and more Indians became armed with bows and firearms themselves. Therefore having only two men with carbines, and none with pistols is a serious fault that considerably reduces the usefulness of this set. The sabres vary in length, although this may be to do with faults during the production process, but on the whole are simplified but reasonable.

As with all Airfix mounted men, these suffer from horses that fit poorly into separate bases, and the men themselves do not sit firmly on their mounts, so gluing is required. The horses are of the horrible 'standard' poses for this manufacturer, and have a much simplified and wildly inaccurate arrangement of saddlery. They also lack all the usual items such as saddle-bags, canteen, nosebag etc., managing with just a roll on the rear of the saddle.

The level of detail is reasonable, though the uniform is quite simple. With a mould that is so old, yet still seeing service, amounts of flash will vary, but most examples we have seen require some trimming. Though the figures are not bad, the absence of firearms and unusual uniform makes it difficult to see many applications for this set. Despite being a well-loved set from a well-loved manufacturer, there seems to have been precious little attempt to actually depict men from the civil war or later Indian wars, so this remains firmly in the 'toy' category for which it was originally created. Much better attempts have since been made to depict these men with reasonable historical accuracy, but even as toys these are not great because of the frustrations of attempting to keep horse on base and man on horse - a memory familiar to many a middle-aged enthusiast today.


Ratings

Historical Accuracy 3
Pose Quality 7
Pose Number 10
Sculpting 7
Mould 7

Further Reading
Books
"Apache Warrior versus US Cavalryman" - Osprey (Combat Series No.19) - Sean McLachlan - 9781472812469
"Sound the Charge" - Greenhill (GI Series No.12) - John Langellier - 9781853673191
"The American Indian Wars 1860-90" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.63) - Philip Katcher - 9780850450491
"The United States Cavalry" - Blandford - Gregory Urwin - 9780713718171
"US Cavalry on the Plains 1850-90" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.168) - Philip Katcher - 9780850456097
"US Cavalryman 1865-90" - Osprey (Warrior Series No.4) - Martin Pegler - 9781855323193
Magazines
"Military Illustrated" - No.71
"Military Modelling" - No.27303

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