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Waterloo 1815

Set 018

Austrian Artillery 1859

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 2006
Contents 16 figures and 4 guns
Poses 4 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Grey
Average Height 24 mm (= 1.73 m)

Review

Artillery was to develop tremendously during the later part of the 19th century, but even before rifled guns became common all armies recognised the effectiveness of a good artillery arm. Austrian artillery had been the best in the world a century earlier, but in the 1859 campaign it was not well used and consequently less effective. Nonetheless its presence on the battlefield was not insignificant - at the battle of Solferino Austrian guns (of which there were 413) are alleged to have fired 10,779 rounds, with one battery alone firing almost 700 rounds.

In looking at this set it is easy to be reminded of the old Esci artillery sets. Back then four poses per gun may have seemed adequate, but with artillery sets from Italeri, Revell, IMEX, Strelets, Emhar and Zvezda (and others) the bar has risen a good deal since then. What is more one of the poses is an officer, so there are just three men to service each gun. In terms of poses the Esci model has been followed with one man holding a ramrod, another a match and the third carrying a shell.

The artillery uniform was similar to that of the infantry, with the same shako and tunic/kittel design. As with the infantry set, we felt the shako here is too tall, and the figures only have a shoulder strap, not the rolled shoulder epaulette as correctly shown on the box. All our evidence shows these men wearing a black bag on the right hip, supported by a black belt over the left shoulder. None of these figures have this. The evidence also shows an off-white haversack on the other hip, and all the crew do have this, although in two cases it is so small as to be better described as a purse. The ammunition-carrier has a proper-sized haversack hanging from the belt, but this disappears above his arms - a very basic sculpting mistake. The artillery is normally depicted with a sword on their left hip, again supported by a crossbelt, but perhaps these men have chosen to lay them aside as no one has this item either. All these figures have what seems to be a cartridge pouch, and as with the infantry set this is suspended under the pack in the small of the back. Here it has clearly been sculpted supported by two straps that emerge from beneath the pack. While artillery crews were provided with muskets we could find no evidence for this arrangement of a pouch, and it would seem unlikely that they would wear them like this during normal operations anyway. Basically the box art shows this subject correctly but the figures do not.

Austrian field artillery was mostly made up of 6-pounders, 12-pounders and long and short howitzers. We were pleased to see that this set includes both cannon and howitzer barrels, but much disappointed by how they have been designed. The cannon barrel has a separate barrel mouth. This achieves the effect of having a hole at the mouth, suggesting the bore, which is fine, although we felt the piece exaggerated the shape here and looked more like a funnel. The most obvious fault however is in the dolphins - the handles on a barrel used to lift it. Common sense would tell you that these need to be around the centre of balance, and so they were, except on this model they are by the vent at the very back of the barrel - totally useless for lifting it. The carriage is a very simple double-cheek model without even basic details like cross pieces or a hole in the transom. It does have a chain across the axle, which is a first, and also a bucket suspended there, but this is fixed to the axle by a peg that rises out of the middle of the bucket - hardly realistic. We were unable to get any good solid evidence on Austrian guns, but what we could find suggested they all had saddle seats on the trail, on which the commander and number four man travelled - something like the wurst of Napoleonic times. This model has no such seat, but we cannot tell whether such an arrangement was unusual or even unknown.

We were not keen on the sculpting of these figures. Detail is quite clear and appropriate, but the poses are stiff (the same dead straight arms as in the infantry). As can be seen on our picture, the ramrod has a rather obvious kink in it where it enters and leaves the left hand of the gunner, and it seems too short for the length of barrel supplied. Artillery officers normally carried a curved light cavalry sabre, but the weapon on this man is long, straight and has no guard, looking more like a samurai sword than anything else, and if he were ever unwise enough to place it in the scabbard he carries it would keep poking him in the chest - again basic and obvious sculpting errors.

By now you get the general idea - the more we looked at this set the more we found wrong. Such questions as why all the men are wearing full packs while servicing the gun seem trivial compared to the problems already raised. Too many basic common sense errors and too many doubtful design decisions for a set that, with so few poses, was never likely to dazzle anyone anyway. With no alternatives this set has little to fear from competition, but it may help to dissuade some from modelling a fascinating period in European history, and that is a real shame.

Ratings

Historical Accuracy 3
Pose Quality 4
Pose Number 4
Sculpting 4
Mould 9

Further Reading
Books
"Historische Uniformen 19 Jahrhundert 1850-1900" - Prisma Verlag - Liliane & Fred Funcken
"L'Esercito Austriaco nul 1859" - E.M.I. (Historica Series No.5) - Mario Zannoni
"The Austrian Army 1836-66 (1) Infantry" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.323) - Darko Pavlovic - 9781855328013

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