The figures in this set are suitable for the last decades of the 19th century and the start of the 20th, a period that saw the Indian Army cavalry serve in Afghanistan and China as well as their native India. The Indian army was an excellent and very proud fighting machine, and the various regiments often known collectively as the Bengal Lancers won many battle honours and much admiration from both their commanders and the wider public, while several feature films added to the perceived romance of the corps.
The first thing that might be noticed about the poses in this set is there are relatively few actually using a lance. As the 19th century progressed firearms became more accurate and efficient, making cavalry attacks on infantry – the main purpose of the lance – increasingly likely to lead to disaster. However against an enemy armed largely with edged weapons lancers still had a role, but increasingly, as with all cavalry, they were having to use rifles or carbines. Therefore the mix of weapons in this set is a fair representation of the weapons used, although a single body of men would not normally be using all these weapons at the same time. One officer appears to hold a whip, which is a very unusual choice of pose, but all the poses seem OK if sometimes a bit flat.
The dress uniforms of the various Bengal lancer regiments were extremely ornate and colourful, but by this period the British and Indian armies fully appreciated the value of subdued clothing and khaki was always worn in the field. While there were some regimental differences the uniform of these men is fairly typical. They wear a kurta coat with a sword belt over the only significant piece of colour, the cummerbund. All the men also have a bandolier over the left shoulder, although this seems to be upside down in all cases. Styles of headress varied according to several criteria, but the styles in this set look reasonable. Most sources show these men with a sword slung from their waist belt, but these figures are lacking this item, probably because they have been given the same horses as other colonial sets released at the same time which already have a sword attached to the saddle. However at least one source suggests this arrangement may also have been used on occasion by these lancers. One other feature of note is that the men have ordinary shoulder straps rather than the metal chains commonly but not always seen on Indian cavalry of the period.
The horses are the same as found in this company’s sets of British and Australian lancers for the same period, and for the most part are fine, although we doubt the physical possibility of a few of the gaits. As already discussed they have swords attached to the saddle, and on the right side they have the rifle, which is a separate piece that fits well enough. There is a good range of poses between walking and full gallop, so something for most situations here.
While these figures don’t do too badly in terms of detail they are not elegant or attractive. Indeed these figures look a bit thin, which is particularly surprising for a Strelets set. Largely free of flash, where the separate lances need to be fitted into ring hands this is well engineered and therefore easy to achieve. The first figure in the second row has a cupped hand into which either a lance or a separate sword, as shown, can be placed, but either way they will require gluing. The lances are quite nice, with the characteristic segmentation of the bamboo shaft which happily is good and straight.
All the officers are wearing native dress, when the norm was for these to be British and dress in the British Army uniform. However many adopted ‘native’ dress to more closely identify with their men, and most junior officers would have been Indian anyway.
The box reminds us that these figures would fit well with both Esci’s Colonial India British Infantry and Orion’s Boxer Rebellion, and so they do from a historical perspective. Unfortunately however this set does not approach the sculpting standards of either of these two, so the match is not what it might have been.