At the time of the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden was famously one of the poorest nations in Europe. Its internal difficulties and marginal position meant it could avoid involvement in much of the turmoil of those years, although not completely, even when declaring itself neutral. Sweden was to lose Finland to Russia in 1808, but gained Norway from Denmark, and it participated in the campaign that climaxed with the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.
This set has an impressive 17 poses, but these are split over five different troop types, so no one type has more than a representative selection of figures. Our pictures show the troops grouped by type, beginning with the ordinary line infantry, which includes all the figures on the top row. With only five poses to work with, these are probably as good as any, and they are augmented by the captain - the first figure on the second row. The rest of that row is made up of Guard Grenadiers. Row three contains figures for the Life Guards, plus a general at the end. The final row has two figures of Finnish sharpshooters and two of Varmland sharpshooters. By choosing the most obvious poses for each unit, HaT have inevitably duplicated the same pose several times, but nevertheless the poses are reasonable, although we thought the general would not be caught dismounted like this, so the figure could be used as a generic senior officer as well.
Sweden had an impressive capacity for changing the uniform of its soldiers very frequently, to the point that it is doubtful that some regulations were ever turned into actual clothing. Sweden's relative poverty also meant uniforms were only replaced when completely worn out, and at any one time two or more styles, or a mix of several, were commonly seen on these troops. Other European nations tended to deride the dress of the Swedes for this reason, and because Sweden often bucked the current fashion and introduced devices into their uniforms which everyone else thought bizarre and/or old-fashioned. One of these was the fur crest that ran along the top of the hats (kusket), either front to back, side to side, or indeed any angle in between. Added to this contemporary mess is a lack of good documentary evidence. Some illustrations show regulation dress, some the actual appearance in the field. The correct appearance of many of these troops in the field continues to be hotly debated to this day, so no one can say that any particular uniform is or is not correct for a given time and place.
Such is the background when HaT came to design this set, and the same difficulties face us in attempting to review it. To take the figures in the order they are shown, the line infantry were given a uniform of a jacket with a single row of buttons and a hat with an elongated upturned left brim in 1807. In 1810 this was changed to a jacket with two rows of buttons, and most of the line infantry here have this later uniform. The man at attention has just one row, which could easily be the remnants of the previous style still being worn. The figures wear a single crossbelt from which both the cartridge pouch and bayonet hang, the line having lost their swords in 1810. Therefore these figures seem to be for the later part of the wars, particularly for the campaign of 1813, and as such they are about as accurate as anyone can now guess.
The uniforms and equipment of the Guard Grenadiers (formed in 1808) and the Life Guards both match this suggested time period, and are as close a match to the various contradictory sources as you are likely to find. The direction of the crest in particular changed over time, but again any one style could be appropriate for any one moment during these confusing times. The Finnish sharpshooters also seem accurate, with their shakos with upturned peak.
The figures are in a softer plastic than the majority of Hat's sets, and we were not impressed with the quality of the sculpting. Though there is some detail like the knots of the trousers of the infantry, in other areas there is almost none. A case in point is the muskets, which have no detail apart from the lock, and the bayonet is simply a thinner strip of plastic that protrudes directly out of where the barrel should be. Other features are quite vague, and there are missing items like the lower half of the sabre for one of the Guard Grenadiers. There was a complete absence of flash, but this set does not compare well with the best that this manufacturer has presented over the years.
Regular visitors will know we do not like mixed troop types, and with five such types this set looks like a grave offender. However we are aware that asking for a full set of Finnish sharpshooters, for example, is pushing optimism to an absurd degree, so we acknowledge that in this case good commercial reasons probably lay behind the decision to combine them. As such, this set does at least provide all the major elements of the Swedish infantry. Under the circumstances we felt the accuracy was about as good as could be achieved, but the standard of sculpting was well below par. Amazingly, Sweden has not been at war since these troops took the field - a record that most other nations can only envy. It is a pity that the quality was not better, but at least this set fills a most obvious hole in the range of Napoleonic figures currently available.