This set was first produced in 1969. While by no means the oldest set about, it still gets re-released from time to time, which speaks volumes for the quality of the figures it contains.
'Ancient Britons' delivers 11 foot figures depicting Celts that would be appropriate for any of the Celtic tribes north of the Roman Empire. The Romans knew these people as Gauls, and recognised them primarily as swordsmen. There are four swordsmen in this set, plus one example each of men using an axe, a bow and a spear. It is thought that slingers played an important part in the warfare of the British tribes, so it is good that a slinger is included here. The foot figures are completed with a splendid chieftain and a standard-bearer. Finally, a chariot with two crew complete the set.
The Celts wore simple tunics and trousers with leather shoes, though in the hot weather the tunic would not be worn. The wealthier ones wore a helmet, but the rest went bareheaded. These figures capture their appearance nicely, although the helmets with horns and wings are at best only likely for the senior leaders and even then are of uncertain authenticity (trim the horns off to be on the safe side). The figures cannot agree on the current weather as some are stripped to the waist whilst others are wearing cloaks, which was normal winter wear. Still sometimes warriors went into action underdressed as a sign of toughness. The chieftain is very imposing, with his helmet and decorated shield.
The poses are generally very good, and reflect the main Celt battle tactic of charging full speed at your enemy to terrorise him and cut him down as soon as possible. The only doubt is with the man kneeling, though perhaps he is waiting for the charge to begin.
The chariot is nicely done, but is the weakest element in terms of accuracy. There is a description of a British chariot with wicker sides, but the generally acknowledged design of these vehicles is substantially different from this model - the wheels would have had spokes instead of being the solid lumps of wood modelled here for a start. Also it suffers from the standard Airfix shortcut of attaching the horses by driving wood directly into the sides of the horses rather than make any attempt at a proper harness. However the crew are fine and the inclusion of the chariot certainly makes the set more interesting.
The set is excellently sculpted and detail is fine. Beards were common in the Celtic tribes, and moustaches were almost universal, so it is good to see most of these men have the characteristic long drooping moustache. Many of the shields (all of which come as part of the figure) are engraved after surviving examples, though possibly the more elaborate ones were for show rather than use in battle, and indeed the general feel of the set is too skewed towards the elite and their fine appearance. Still this is a very fine set indeed, and it deserves its long and successful career.