The almost fanatical belief in their excellent new weapon, the 75mm Gun Model 1897, had lead the French to neglect the rest of their artillery in the early years of the 20th century, but slowly it became apparent to some that new and heavier guns would also be required. Based on a weapon developed by Schneider for the Russians, in 1913 the French adopted the ‘Canon de 105 L, Model 1913 TR’ and placed an order. Only a few were in service when the Germans invaded, but as static trench warfare became established the need was obvious and many more were ordered. The gun was an excellent design, incorporating many new features that would become standard in all later models, and although there were some issues with bursting of worn barrels, by the Armistice over 1,300 had been built, making it a mainstay of the French artillery arm.
The gun in this set is made in a much harder plastic than the figures, and when first looking at the sprue we thought it a bit rough. In truth it is not the kind of precision model you might get from the big manufacturers, but when putting it together we found it relatively straightforward. Nothing snaps together, and instead of instructions all we get is an exploded view of the parts on the box with vague arrows indicating what needs gluing to what. You are evidently expected to find your own picture of the real thing to know the positioning of some of these parts (several can be found in our bibliography below), but in the end the parts fit together reasonably well and the end result is quite pleasing. While it is simplified to some degree, the general look matches the real thing, but there are a couple of points we would raise. First, the cradle for the barrel is not quite correctly positioned, which means it cannot fit in the cavity in the trail that would allow the gun to achieve the elevation of 37 degrees which made it so useful for trench warfare. Although the barrel pivots, the shield is static and tight on the barrel, preventing any such movement, so elevation is not much better than flat. Second, the wheels are not those normally seen on this gun. They have inner ribs near the hub which we did find, so are authentic, but does not appear in most photos.
There are a decent 10 crewmen included, which follow the standard pattern for poses. First there are several in generic poses with nothing in their hands, operating the gun directly, and then four poses handling shells or their boxes. There is a really nice kneeling figure using a field telephone (to communicate with headquarters or forward observers), and what look like two officers in charge – one with hand raised and one shouting. We thought all the poses were valuable and nicely done.
The uniform of these men is mostly the same. We find them wearing the double-breasted capote or greatcoat, which was the same as that for the infantry. It has a large fall collar and a half belt at the back, and of course the skirts are buttoned back. On the legs we find the normal trousers, puttees and boots. The gun crew all wear the Adrian helmet, which appeared during 1915, and like the rest of this uniform continued in use for the rest of the war. The signaller and shouting officer wear the forage cap or bonnet de police, of a style that appeared later in the war so matches this uniform well. The officer is wearing his kepi, which in reality might well have been an Adrian helmet too, but at least this helps us identify him. No one wears any items of kit, which is fine, although we might have expected gas mask containers here. Still in all respects these men are accurately depicted.
Detail is fair although these make few demands in that department. The faces are nice, and proportions good too, so for most purposes these are good figures. There is a small rim of excess plastic round the join, but flash is very limited so these look good straight out of the box. All figures are single-piece, but even the more complex ones like the signaller and the man handling crates are nicely done.
After the War, France sent many of these guns to other countries, but in 1939 there were still over one thousand of them in service with the French Army. This is a testament to the value of this weapon, and with this set Strelets have done a good job of portraying it in our scale along with a good crew. Despite the small complaints about the gun kit, we liked this set more than we were expecting, particularly as Strelets seem to have learned lessons from some previous poor-quality output.