When HaT first came on the scene, they declared that they wished to make sets that complemented and expanded on others already available, and that they would cover some of the more unusual subjects. The choice of Mamelukes for their first set certainly underlined that commitment. Though a very well known unit in Napoleon's army, and surely its most exotic, they were never more than 250 men strong, and in 1805 there were probably around half that number in existence.
For their first set HaT established the pattern that they were to stick to with later production. Namely to make good quality figures in a small number of poses, thereby keeping the cost of development down and allowing more sets to be produced covering subjects that might never have seen the light of day otherwise. The four poses in this set are fair enough, with all the men clearly in the midst of battle, sabres drawn. Some are more suitable for charging, while others seem to be in close-quarters combat - a good mix.
The 'uniform', such as it was, has been properly sculpted here, though the Mamelukes themselves displayed a great variety of costume. The figures wear the cap surrounded by a turban, a shirt and waistcoat, a sash round the waist and the baggy charoual-style trousers. While not universal it is fair to say this is the most typical dress of these warriors. No attempt has been made to engrave any decoration on the clothes, but since this decoration was often very intricate and largely down to the taste of the individual this is as it should be. The only criticism we would make is with the headress, which should have an aigrette of one style or another, but in fact has a long slender strip. This over-simplification is prone to breaking off as these figures are cast in quite a hard plastic.
All the figures carry the scimitar and each has a brace of pistols tucked into his waist sash. In addition the records show that these men were issued with muskets (blunderbusses to begin with) and either a mace or a short axe. While none of these figures have such weapons, we feel it is the sabre-waving Mameluke that is most appropriate and so their exclusion is not important.
The horses are quite a letdown. The poses seem very fixed and unnatural, and there is no texture to their hides. Indeed they look like a simplistic computer-drawn image with a couple of very artificial-looking folds in an otherwise perfectly smooth surface. Horse furniture for the Mamelukes seems to have been quite diverse, but the cloths on these beasts are not wrong although very plain. Two pistols were housed in front of the saddle, and some unusual leather (?) decorations are to be found on the animal's hind quarters, which do indeed appear in some contemporary illustrations. However we would have liked to have seen the saddles with high front and back, which was the style usually, but not always, employed by these men.
The sculpting of the men, while not as poor as the horses, is still a little flat and 'clinical'. However the detail is not bad, and a good paint job will go some way to breath life into them. As with most other manufacturers, HaT had a lot to learn when they produced their first sets, and it shows here. Nonetheless a fascinating group of soldiers and a promising start for a genuinely innovative product line.