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Airfix

Set 01739

Washington's Army

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 1971
Contents 39 foot figures, 1 mounted figure and 1 horse
Poses 14 poses, 1 horse pose
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Cream, Light Blue, Pale Grey/Brown
Average Height 22 mm (= 1.58 m)

Review

Money and supply were always a problem in the Continental Army, and as a result no completely uniform appearance was achieved before the war's end. In the early years the usual form of dress was a hunting shirt, but all the figures in this set wear the standard coat and tricorn, so they are mostly relevant to the later war period.

This set has long been in the affections of many collectors, and one reason is the interesting and unusual choice of poses. As well as the standard firing, loaded, etc., there are a number of stand-out figures that deserve special mention. The only advancing figure is doing so in an odd way, with his musket held across his throat. This looks very odd and does not seem a likely stance under any circumstances (unless perhaps he is crossing a deep river!). There is a crawling figure, which is very unusual for a pre-twentieth century subject, and a man firing while prone. This is also a poor choice as he would have to rise to load his weapon and the constant upping and downing would seem more trouble than it was worth - certainly an unusual pose that we would prefer to see replaced with something more typical. The standard bearer has removed his hat and allowed his flag to drag on the ground - hardly a wise or respectful action for the article that represents the regiment. However this may be intended to represent the flag-bearer saluting by lowering the colours. The drummer is very nice, with a full-sized drum, and there is a private carrying a barrel. This could contain anything from gunpowder to ale and is a perfectly common activity for soldiers, but it is very unusual to see such activity depicted in a set. However this man suffers from a quite unnecessarily small base, making him inclined to topple forwards at the least provocation - a design fault that seems totally inexplicable. The two officers in the set are well done, with the mounted one sometimes cited as representing Washington himself. Finally, the most unusual of all is the group of two men evacuating a casualty. They are carrying him with the aid of a musket that they are using to support his legs, which was a very common form of moving the wounded at the time. Once again this is a normal and useful pose, yet it is almost unique to this most imaginative of sets.

The costume of these men represents the standard uniform of most infantry of the time. It is reasonably well sculpted, though the sculptor has failed to line up the cartridge box with its shoulder belt on many of the figures, which just looks weird. Also the bayonet that some carry is poorly realised. Many also carry a powder horn, the strap of which seems to perch precariously on the shoulder. The tricorn hat is always a challenging piece to mould, and it has been done well here. The drummer has a canteen on a cord over his left shoulder, and another belt over that same shoulder. However this belt is supporting nothing, so is completely useless and looks silly.

The sculpting on these figures is not particularly pleasing. Most are squat and rather hunchbacked, somewhat in the same vein as the Waterloo French Infantry set, and the faces are not pretty either. The detail is adequate and was considered good in its day, but sets produced today would expect to achieve a much higher standard. The slighted flag is particularly strange, for it is mounted on a very short staff (18 mm long - less than the height of a man), but by the folds on the ground it is very wide, so more of a streamer than any actual flag of the period. There was almost no flash on our review copy, but some pressings have produced figures with a great deal of flash. Like all Airfix sets the horse has to peg into tiny holes in the thin base, and the fit is very precarious, particularly on some copies of this set.

This is a set with a lot of good ideas, but one that is let down by the ugly anatomy of the men and some quite basic errors in the design like the straps holding nothing and the kit being held by nothing. For a long time this was the only set of standard 18th century infantry available, so these figures must have served in many tabletop wars over the years. What dark days those were, but now there are much better sets such as the Accurate/Revell/IMEX British Infantry available, competition which this elderly set will find very difficult to overcome.


Ratings

Historical Accuracy 9
Pose Quality 7
Pose Number 8
Sculpting 6
Mould 8

Further Reading
Books
"Continental Infantryman of the American Revolution" - Osprey (Warrior Series No.68) - John Milsop - 9781841765860
"Don Troiani's Soldiers in America 1754-1865" - Stackpole Books - Earl J Coates & James L Kochan - 9780811705196
"Don Troiani's Soldiers of the American Revolution" - Stackpole - James Kochan - 9780811733236
"General Washington's Army (1) 1775-78" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.273) - Marko Zlatich - 9781855323841
"General Washington's Army (2) 1779-83" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.290) - Marko Zlatich - 9781855325906
"George Washington's Army" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.18) - Peter Young - 9780850450620
"Military Dress of North America 1665-1970" - Ian Allen - Martin Windrow - 9780684135519
"The United States Infantry 1775-1918" - Blandford - Gregory Urwin - 9780713717570
"Uniforms of the American Revolution" - Blandford (Colour Series) - John Mollo - 9780713706291
Magazines
"Tradition (English Language)" - No.49
"Uniformes (French Language)" - No.74
"Uniformes (French Language)" - No.75

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