As with any modern medieval army, that of the Teutonic Order in Prussia included an increasing number of guns, used for besieging fortresses, defending same or simply as a support weapon on the open battlefield. However their effectiveness was restrained by limitations in gun design and also a lack of knowledge on the best formula for making the powder they required. Also all gunpowder weapons could be rendered virtually useless by nothing more than rain, and accounts of the Battle of Tannenberg in 1410 blame wet conditions for the ineffectiveness of the Order’s artillery on that fateful day. It was arrayed in front of the army, and seems to have been overwhelmed by the first enemy charge, causing the crews to be massacred and the guns taken away by the Lithuanians.
What we have in this set is a special type of artillery; a mortar. Mortars usually had higher trajectories and were used for sending shot etc. over walls and onto buildings, encamped armies etc. The model here closely resembles artillery pieces of the early to mid fifteenth century, with its short barrel (7mm in this case) which would have made the weapon quite inaccurate, but this would not matter for a mortar. However the quadrant by which the elevation, and therefore the range, was set has been placed immediately behind the barrel when it should be at the rear of the frame, as illustrated correctly on the box! Having it where it is would mean large differences between elevations, making the gun harder to position correctly.
Although the model is relatively simple it is maddeningly difficult to put together because the parts are simply not properly designed. For example, the holes in the base for the two front uprights are too close together, so the lower horizontal plank forces the uprights to splay apart so they cannot both touch the cradle for the barrel. It’s frustrating and takes a long time to correct, which simply shouldn’t be necessary on such a simple model.
The four crew for this gun include all the usual operators and are well chosen. The poses are OK although the rammer is very flat as he holds his tool tight against his chest. Costume is assorted ordinary medieval wear with a couple of helmets, padded coats and swords for some, and looks fine for the period and subject. However the sculpting is pretty ugly, for while the detail is quite good the faces are repellent and the figures are generally stocky and squat. They have also been given the tiniest bases possible, which makes them very unstable on a tabletop. On the plus side however there is no flash on figures or gun, so it is not all bad.
The quality of this set is quite poor both in the standard of the figure sculpting and the way in which the pieces of the gun are expected to be assembled. The misplaced quadrant is the only accuracy problem however, although it is a tricky proposition to put right. This is a shame because there are few such early gunpowder weapons in the hobby so far, although to make this into a decent diorama or game piece will require much more work than should have been the case.