In 1683 a writer described a decisive moment in the battle for Vienna by saying 'The hussars attacked the Godless Turks like angels from heaven'. What he was watching was a charge by 3,000 Polish winged hussars, and what an amazing sight that must have been. Now Orion have produced a set of these spectacular troops.
This is Orion's first cavalry set, and it follows the Airfix format of 12 different riders, in this case with eight different horses. Half the men are moulded with swords drawn, while the other half have ring hands to accommodate one of a wide variety of separate weapons. The poses are fine, with most of them looking forward as if in the charge, though a small number are looking to one side as if in contact with the enemy.
The separate weapons are a good array of appropriate items, and include long swords, sabres, axes, a mace and a pistol. However pride of place goes to the lances, which are superb. At about 76mm (5.5 metres) in length they are enormous and yet quite correct. They are slender and completely straight, an example to some other companies that have difficulty producing such items. The pennants on the end are long and come in two styles. This is all completely accurate, though in fact they could sometimes be considerably longer. All the weapons fit very well into the ring hands, and despite their tiny size they are beautifully sculpted.
These men wore no uniform as such, and in fact competed with each other to wear the most extravagant and expensive costume they could afford. The many styles and fashions of the time are accurately represented here, with different kinds of armour, the normal range of helmets and with many wearing animal skins as further decoration. Detail is excellent, which allows the costume to be judged as completely correct.
The most obvious feature of these men is the wings. Their original purpose is likely to have been for show and to create a terrible impression with the enemy as these enormous men charged at them, although to what extent if at all these wings were worn in battle remains a matter for debate. All the wings are separate, and plug in to the backs of the men. This fit is firm and secure, and creates a fantastic impression when put together. All the men (apart from the man holding up a mace, an officer) have the slots in their back to take the wings. Some of the horses also have slots by their saddle as wings were often worn attached to the saddle rather than the man, but there are also horses without these slots. Some of the wings in the set are angled to fit on the horse rather than the rider, and there are enough wings for all, though clearly whichever arrangement is chosen will leave empty slots that would need to be filled, especially if the wings are to be omitted entirely. The wings themselves are well detailed, though they are less so on the reverse, which is the side that would face in to the other wing, and would therefore be difficult to see. The different styles of wings as seen above are all authentic, though the small 'angel' wings seen at the bottom middle of our scan are a joke item, for which Orion have become renown (though these items could have a use for converters who know their early hussars). The different styles may not all be contemporary with each other, but allow great flexibility for the modeller.
The horses are in reasonable poses, and the riders fit them very well. Apart from their lance, hussars carried two swords - a sabre that hung from their waist, and a long sword that hung from the saddle. Both are correctly shown in this set. All mounts also have the brace of pistols that hussars were obliged to carry. The saddles and ornate harness is all completely in keeping with the evidence for these men, as well as their apparent showy inclinations.
But enough of the description, for this is a very impressive set for an amazing subject. Detail is superb and there is no flash or excess plastic. The sculpting is naturalistic and well proportioned, and a lot of trouble has been taken to ensure complete accuracy. If we have a complaint then it is that there are only two lances for 12 men, when the lance was their main weapon, at least until close quarters were reached. However it would seem that this problem has been addressed as more recent production of this set has four extra lances included on an extra sprue. There appears to be no certain way of knowing whether a box would contain these extras except by examining the contents before buying. This is a good looking set that looks its best when the figures are assembled. Such a set requires a high degree of good quality engineering to ensure men fit on horses, weapons fit in hands and, in this case, wings fit in men and horses. This is the first such challenging set from Orion, and their achievement is remarkable.