Hussars were the most recognisable of light cavalry during the Napoleonic wars and beyond. Traditionally dashing, adventurous and (allegedly) attractive to women, their military role was to conduct raids, gather information, harass enemy skirmishers, guard the flanks and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Those of the Russian Empire were no different, and during the French invasion of 1812 they were particularly effective at harassing the retreating invaders, a role sometimes attributed today to Cossacks alone.
One of the major attractions of the hussar was his flamboyant uniform, produced in every colour imaginable and as heavily decorated as possible. They looked great in the ballroom or pleasure gardens, but sometimes the conditions required a more practical dress code, and all the figures in this set are wearing their greatcoats. This hides the uniform very effectively, but their headgear is still visible, and it is the scuttle-shaped shako first issued in 1812. All the cords are still attached, which is correct, although all these men have full plumes, which were apparently never worn on campaign, so those with a desire for complete accuracy will need to trim these off first. The coats are fine and each man should be wearing overalls over his breeches although whether this is true of these figures we cannot tell.
The horses are also correctly attired with a large shabraque with corners rounded at the front and pointed at the rear. The sculptor has even attempted to fashion a cypher in the corners, though this is not clear. The rest of the horse furniture, including the cylindrical portmanteaux, looks fine, although the horses are less so. As we often complain some of the poses are quite poor and in this case all seem to be on the move, leaving no suitable mounts for the men firing their pistols, for example. Note these are the same horses as those in the first Strelets Napoleonic Russian Hussars set.
The human poses are the usual kind of fare and that is no bad thing. As can be seen two of the poses have ring hands into which either lances or swords can be inserted. Since some Russian hussars carried lances this is perfectly reasonable and it is good to see Strelets offering the choice here. The only pose we struggle with is the flag-bearer. In common with most light cavalry Russian hussars usually had no colours – their role meant they rarely formed up in large bodies so flags were both less useful and more difficult to defend. Some hussar regiments are known to have been awarded special flags, known as Colours of St George, for distinguished service. However for the reasons already stated these generally got put carefully away in depot. The flag could be converted into a lance, although this would be quite difficult, and it might be easier to cut away the flag and drill a hole to make an extra ring hand for one of the spare weapons. We understand that some wargamers like flags, even if not historically correct, which is perhaps why Strelets keep insisting on including such figures.
Strelets figures are usually very consistent in terms of quality and style and these are much the same. Detail is there but not particularly sharp and some items such as scabbards are much too short. However the weapons fit the ring hands very securely and there is hardly any flash. The men are a good tight fit on the horses, so there should be no need to get the glue out with this set.
While wearing the greatcoats may hide the glorious uniform this set does at least portray these men in what is perhaps a more realistic costume, certainly for the chasing of the French army in late 1812. While the style is not to everyone’s taste if you cut those long plumes off you have an often overlooked set of troops that played their part in one of Russia’s more famous victories.