Although it is pitched battles that tend to get remembered today, warfare has always had a lot of sieges, and this was certainly something the Ottoman Empire had to handle in their wars of the 17th century, particularly with the Habsburgs in Europe. By raining projectiles down from above, mortars were perfect for besieging towns and forts, though they could also be used in defence. Ottoman mortars were provided by the Humbaraci regiment, part of the regular Kapikulu Corps, but a lack of confidence in these and the artillery in general meant many sieges were successfully concluded by mining rather than bombardment.
One problem with 17th century Ottoman artillery was the wide variety of sizes and calibres, and this also applied to mortars. In 1686 for example, 12 different sizes of mortar were recorded, which must have made supply a real problem. At this time the West also had such problems, but they were more advanced in introducing standardisation, though the diverse range of Ottoman mortars does mean a model of any calibre is likely to be correct. The one in this set stands 13mm high at the top of the frame (about waist height), and has a barrel calibre of roughly 5mm (36 cms). This makes it a good deal bigger than the one to be found in the RedBox set, but still much smaller than the really big examples for which the Ottomans were famed. The frame is quite different too, but we have no reason to think any element of this weapon is incorrect, and it looks OK too.
The six crewmen for each mortar begin with one apparently feeding powder into the barrel, followed by one carrying more powder in a sack. The third is handling a barrel (again probably full of powder), which is carefully covered with a greased animal hide to avoid the dangers of flying sparks. The fourth man holds a swabrod which cleaned the barrel between shots, though the length of his rod is far more than is required for this particular weapon. The second row begins with a man holding the match on a linstock, followed by what must be the master gunner, since he holds a quadrant with which we is aiming the mortar. This last pose is really odd, and we are not sure what the designer was trying to achieve with it, but the rest are quite OK as concepts, though the absence of someone handling a bomb is an obvious omission.
The first five poses all wear fairly typical costume for Ottoman labourers, which appear to be breeches with a shirt and sometimes a short kaftan. On the head there is a cap with a turban wrapped round it, all of which would be reasonable for men in gruelling physical work, particularly if they were in a hot environment, as suggested by the box artwork. The sixth man – the master gunner – is dressed in western European style, with a broad-brimmed hat, shirt and waistcoat, breeches, stockings and shoes. He illustrates that the Ottomans imported many westerners to help run and improve their artillery arm, and of course it also means he can be useful for other armies of the day. The various tools these men are using all look correct, so we have no problems with accuracy.
Where we do have problems, big problems, is with the sculpting. As so often before with Mars, these are really horrible figures, with poor detail that is often impossible to tell what is being depicted. We only know that the second man is dispensing powder because the box illustration shows this (and is in fact a pretty good representation of the poses you get). Looking at the figure itself there is nothing to suggest the nozzle on this bag, nor even the man’s left hand, and that is typical. The faces are the stuff of nightmares, and in some places the sculptor simply put no detail, almost as if they realised it was a pointless exercise anyway. There is plenty of flash too, so very much up to the usual standards of Mars. By comparison the mortar is a delight, needing little trimming and going together fairly nicely. Certainly the parts do not fit in a manner you would call snug or well-engineered, but at least you get a reasonable model at the end.
So the accuracy is fine but the figures are really poorly sculpted and also poorly made. The European’s pose is bizarre, but the mortar itself is reasonable. If you are looking for something to represent Ottoman mortars during the 17th century then this would be adequate, but those looking for figures that are a pleasure to look at or display will find nothing here for them.