This set covers the period 1898-1902, and the box makes mention of two famous campaigns from that time - the Sudan and southern Africa. It was a period of very rapid if grudging change as the effectiveness of cavalry was greatly reduced in the face of increasingly well-armed opponents. The campaign in the Sudan in 1898 was something of a last hurrah for the cavalry, including as it did the last ever major charge by British cavalry, at Omdurman, but the Second Boer War from 1899 to 1902 saw the cavalry change completely in the face of modern firepower.
Although this is a short period, the look of the cavalry changed dramatically during these years, and also varied between the two campaigns. The figures in this set wear the foreign service helmet with a cloth band around the crown. In India and north Africa a thick puggaree was worn, so these seem more suitable for the South African War. All have the standard jacket and puttees, common for all overseas service. There is no sign of the steel shoulder chains which were worn by many regiments, particularly those based in India, but the majority of troops are wearing the 50-round bandolier over the left shoulder, which had been introduced a few years earlier. The famous charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman cannot be accurately depicted with these troops as the 21st wore sunshades on their helmets, which are not on show in this set. As the Second Boer War progressed the cavalry increasingly took to wearing the practical slouch hat, so these are best described as early Boer War figures.
The changes in the weapons and tactics of the cavalry are of more importance than the uniform, and here we find a problem. Much to their annoyance the British cavalry found they had a very limited role in the Second Boer War because the Boers were all armed with rifles and sensibly never stayed around if it looked like the cavalry would charge them down. Occasionally the cavalry did surprise and attack Boers in the field, but for the most part they found themselves forced to discard the lance and sword and take up the rifle to act as mounted infantry. Thus figures carrying lances and swords are precious little use for this conflict. Of the two poses with a rifle one is firing from the saddle, which would have been extremely unwise as it suggests he is within range of Boer rifles, and therefore very vulnerable. Therefore the poses are really only suited to the campaign in the Sudan.
The horses, which are also used in other sets, have a good range of poses, which is nice to see compared to the all-charging theme this company sometimes produces. However the dreaded 'horse-balancing-on-both-left/right-legs' pose makes an unwelcome appearance here and suggests the sculptor has never watched film of a galloping horse. The saddlery is properly done, and includes the sword on the left side of the saddle and the boot for the carbine or rifle on the right. The latter item is separate and is largely devoid of detail but fits well enough into the side of the saddle. All have the firearm stock showing, naturally, so those horses where the rider is holding his rifle should have this trimmed off.
The sculpting on these figures is not particularly good. The helmets come much too far down on the head, covering the ears and all of the back of the neck, and the overall look of the figures is not particularly attractive. There are good levels of detail but sometimes it is a bit basic, while some slender parts are too thick. Those figures with separate lances have ring hands into which the lances fit quite well, but some of the men are an unduly tight fit on the horses - experimenting with different combinations can help with this. Missing items include a water bottle for each man - surely a vital piece of kit for campaigning in Africa - and the lance bucket on the stirrups for resting the lance. Also some troopers are missing their bandolier, and officers have single waist belts but no single or double braces as were the norm.
The second figure in the second row, wearing the side cap, is identified as Winston Churchill. He participated in both the Sudan, where he charged with the 21st Lancers, and southern Africa, and here is modelled waving a revolver over his head.
The vast areas that made up the battlefield in northern and southern Africa meant that cavalry, or at least mounted soldiers, had a vital part to play in these conflicts. However the weaponry and poses of these figures make them a poor selection for the historical Boer War, while the uniform limits their use for both the Sudan and the later part of the Boer War. It seems this set is a compromise, which inevitably leaves it falling short in any chosen period and location. An interesting subject not previously covered, and of value in colonial wargames for the period, but while technically quite accurate this is not representative and of marginal relevance to the historical reality, which as so often was much less romantic than the common modern myth.