In 1793 Britain's first troop of horse artillery was formed, marking the beginning of the Royal Horse Artillery. As with the cavalry, horse artillery is generally seen as more exotic than their counterparts in the foot, so it was no surprise when Airfix chose to depict this unit in their expanding range of Waterloo figure sets.
The set is sufficient, more or less, to depict one gun limbered and on the move plus one gun in action. Each of the crew is a different pose, and all have their allotted task, though for some reason there are two men with ramrods. The poses are pretty good, and include an officer holding his telescope with both hands, which illustrates that it can be done, even though several subsequent sets have the officer holding the telescope one-handed. The man using his ramrod is missing part of the tool, presumably as he is meant to be standing in front of the barrel performing his task. However we would have preferred that the whole tool was included, allowing the customer to cut it as necessary. The man pulling on a wheel is performing a vital job and is a nice touch, and the man with two buckets is a moment of humour as he has inadvertently got his sabre entangled with the bucket! The mounted officer is OK, but his horse seems to be engaged in some form of dressage as the pose is very strange.
The uniform of these men has been accurately done here, with the 'Tarleton' helmet and the tailless dolman that were in imitation of the light dragoons at the time (1799). The lace on the dolman has been quite well done, given the limitations imposed by the scale. Most have the curved sabre, though one man has been given a long straight example.
Six-horse teams were used to haul 3- and 6-pounders, and on occasion even 9-pounders, so it is pleasant to report that a full team has been included here. The limber is pretty accurate, but the team is anything but. One wheeler (rear horse) has been correctly attached to the limber with shafts, but the rest of the team should be attached to each other and the limber with traces. One thin strip of plastic is supplied to link the limber with the three ridden horses (not shown in our picture as it is a nightmare to attach), but other than that there are no traces - the other two unridden horses are completely unconnected to anything! Three drivers have been supplied for the team, and these are correctly uniformed as members of the Corps of Drivers, with the RHA Tarletons and the foot artillery jacket, complete with coat tails.
The two guns are also very passable models. They are of the Congreve block trail design which was normal by Waterloo, with the single bault and a small ammunition box each side of the barrel. Detail is actually better than many guns found in other sets, though for some reason Airfix have modelled rivets (?) on the outer side of each wheel, which is not correct.
Airfix have not always paid great attention to authenticity, but this is one of their best efforts. The problems with the traces are likely to be caused by ease of manufacture and cost reduction rather than anything else, but the figures and guns are surprisingly good, even down to little details like the crooked handspike. However the age of the set is apparent in the number of mould marks to be found, and the fairly large amount of flash on most examples. The two crew riding the limber have a lump of plastic between them that fits between the ammunition boxes. This can only be to make them fit the vehicle more securely, and should not be there. This is a set of both good and bad elements, but even today it represents the most complete set of British horse artillery made in plastic.