Following the various Jacobite uprisings in the first half of the 18th century, the Highlands of Scotland had suffered from a number of repressive measures designed to destroy the clan system and suppress further revolt, but by the time of the wars with Napoleon most of these laws had been repealed, and the Highlands were enjoying an economic revival. Service in the British Army was an attractive proposition for many young men, since the Highlands were over-populated and it was seen as a fairly respectable employment. The reputation of such men was so good that bounties for enlistment were large, and generally Scottish regiments were very highly regarded during the Wars. Not all Highlanders joined Highland regiments of course, and not all kilted soldiers were Highlander or even Scottish, but their presence on the battlefield with their distinctive uniform inspired respect and fear in many an enemy soldier.
Napoleonic Highlanders are nothing new in this hobby of course, but this is the first to limit the poses to just marching. Most of the set is made up of the 10 marching poses seen above, which are themselves divided into six marching with musket held by the butt and four with musket slung over the shoulder. The latter is more informal, whereas the former was the standard arrangement when manoeuvring on the battlefield itself, for example, and so many will find this the more useful pose. Within these two groups the poses are very similar, with the main differences being small ones such as the precise manner in which the musket is being held and the position of the right arm. They are clearly all meant to be grouped, thus showing men all doing more or less the same thing but with the kind of variety that you would expect naturally. As a result, given the limited ambition of the set, you can’t argue with any of them.
The last four pictured poses are the command figures. Like the men they all have their left foot forward, and are marching with the men. The piper is clearly not actually playing his pipes, and judging by the awkward way the drummer holds his sticks he is not making any noise either, which is fine. Again, considering they are just supposed to be marching, all these poses are fine.
The men all wear the usual jacket with the lace on the front, and as you might expect they all have the kilt, which here has been done with a proper length. Highlanders did not always wear the kilt, particularly well into a long campaign, but everyone here, as usual, is sticking very close to the regulations and is well-supplied. The men’s legwear of hose and gaiters is all good, as is the Kilmarnock bonnet with the black ostrich feathers mounted and the cockade and plume on the left hand side. None have the peak, which was detachable and often not worn. No soldier wears a sporran (nor should they), and all have wings on their shoulders, which tells us they are either grenadiers or light company men. Strangely this is also true of most of the other sets of Highlanders so far made, despite centre company men being the more numerous.
As you might imagine there is more to say about the uniform of the four command figures. First of all, we were quite surprised to see the ensign with a kilt as they usually wore breeches or trews when in the field, and the officer could easily have been the same. However since he is kilted the ensign correctly wears the sporran, as do the officer and piper. Also surprising is the three stripes on the right arm of the flag-bearer, suggesting he is a sergeant rather than an ensign, which is confusing. The drummer has several variations in his uniform, including the correct series of lace darts down his sleeves. However the most noticeable feature is that he lacks the feathers and other adornments seen on all the other bonnets here, revealing the tourie on top. This is called ‘hummel’ style, and was actually the more common arrangement, though it is understandable that most customers would want to see the full panoply of feathers on the troops. The drummer’s bonnet has become very misshapen, however, and has somehow acquired a very significant crown above the diced band which has become so large and floppy as to fall over the left side in an ugly and highly unlikely display of poor millinery (this part of the crown was only about 5cm in height). Finally the officer has, in addition to the sash that is over his left shoulder and tied at the right hip, a fly plaid, being a length of tartan material hanging from the back of his left shoulder. This was usually a full dress item, but not impossible here.
The men are all carrying full kit as used by all British infantry of the day. They have the rectangular and unloved ‘Trotter’ knapsack with twin straps top to bottom, on top of which is rolled a blanket or greatcoat. Also here is the ‘D’ shaped mess tin introduced from 1813, marking these men as for the very final campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars. On show is the standard cartridge pouch on the right hip, and the haversack, canteen and bayonet scabbard on the left. Cross belts carry the pouch and bayonet scabbard, and the knapsack is properly supported by two straps round the shoulders, connected by a third across the chest. Here this third strap is underneath the cross belts, even though the belts must have been put on before the knapsack, which seems odd to us. Many other sets show the same thing, which seems illogical, but both contemporary illustrations and modern recreations seem to suggest it could be under or over the belts, so was presumably a matter of choice for the individual. The officers and piper have broadswords and the same kit items but in a different arrangement, which is quite correct. However there is one problem with the otherwise excellent kit, and that is that the knapsack, in all cases, has been given pockets on both sides. However useful these might have been, there is no evidence that they ever actually existed.
It has to be said that by Strelets standards these are very nice figures. They are nice and slender, and have good proportions, marking them as more appealing and anatomically accurate than is usual from this manufacturer. Smaller parts are still a little over-large, and the detail is not as fine as the best being made by some companies, but this is certainly an improvement on previous output. We particularly liked the nicely done feathers on the bonnets – always a tricky thing to sculpt – and generally the detail is very good. Sometimes the hands are little more than blobs, even when their position means fingers could have been attempted, but on the other hand we notice the ribbons at the back of the head, used to adjust the fit of the bonnet, which were not attempted by previous manufacturers but look good here. There is no flash, and thanks to the simple poses no excess plastic, nor any need for anything to be made separately, so a great production job.
The flag looks to be a good size but is in fact still only about 80% of the correct size, because it is 22mm tall (1.58 metres) and slightly wider, when it should be about 1.82 metres tall. The spearhead finial is the correct shape but solid rather than the delicate piece of real life, but the cords and tassels look good. Finally of course it is to be wondered why the colours are unfurled in the first place. To save them from undue wear and tear they would generally be cased when simply on the march, and shown off in all their glory when it really mattered, such as parade or battle. However of course they do look good like this, so no complaints from us there.
The drum is a good size, and the drummer is noticeably shorter than the rest, suggesting he is a youth, which is possible. One final observation is that every man has his bayonet fixed. Unless expecting almost immediate contact with the enemy this seemed strange to us, as there is not a tradition of permanently fixed bayonets in the British Army. However they are easily snipped off if necessary, so no problem there.
So, a significant improvement in quality from Strelets, with figures that are still recognisably in the Strelets style (thanks to the manner in which they are sculpted), and a decent collection of marching poses with some good command figures also on the march. With no problems in production and accuracy concerns only in small details, this is a very worthwhile set which delivers Highlander poses rarely seen before, and should prove very useful to wargamers in particular but appealing to everyone.