During the period of the Napoleonic Wars the drill of the British soldier was largely dictated by the work of one man: General Sir David Dundas (1735-1820). The firing line was one of the most important aspects of the drill, allowing infantry to either defend a position or, with more difficulty, to advance on the enemy, all the time bringing the maximum possible number of muskets to bear. Dundas advocated a line three ranks deep, to provide strength and allow casualties to be easily replaced, but this made the third rank partly ineffective, so in fact a two-deep line was almost always formed, which meant every man could use his musket. The British placed great emphasis on maximising musketry, and at Waterloo this devastated enemy advances as they approached in columns.
A firing line is all about getting the most shots off when it really matters – when the enemy is close enough to make even the inaccurate firearms of the day have an effect. Good infantry was relentlessly drilled in the complex sequence of moves required to load and fire a musket, and we see many of those moves represented in this set. Naturally it takes much longer to load and prepare a musket than it does to level and fire it, so we were pleased to see a majority of the poses in the act of loading. All of them look good, and given the limitations of the mould we thought all were very well done and accurate. Several of the figures are also actually firing of course, and they look nice and natural too. The last figure in the top row particularly caught our eye as he appears to be in the act of raising his musket before aiming, or in lowering it just after. It’s not a pose you generally see done, yet it was just as common as any of the others. We also liked the fact that muskets are being held at various angles to the horizontal. A perennial problem of the day was getting soldiers to fire directly at the enemy, when they would often inadvertently fire high. We see this in some of these poses, which is great; a line of figures all holding the musket perfectly horizontally would be far from the reality.
As is common with Strelets, they have also offered a range of command and ancillary figures for our firing line. Officers and NCOs are of course essential to control and co-ordinate the troops, and we have an officer here apparently emphasising his commands with his raised sword. There is also a sergeant, but unfortunately he has already become a casualty, with his spontoon by his side. Indeed the extra figures have suffered greatly from enemy fire, as the regimental piper is also down on the ground, while the ensign with the flag is sinking fast, and the drummer looks to be heading in the same direction. There are also a couple of general troop casualties, which like the others have lots of uses in various scenarios. It is so unusual to have command and specialist figures as casualties, yet such men succumbed as much as anyone else in the front line, and as Strelets have already made several versions of these, having them as casualties here makes good sense.
Strelets have previously made several sets of Napoleonic Highlanders, and they were all properly done in terms of uniform, so we would expect the same here, and that is what we get. The Kilmarnock bonnet all wear is well done with the check pattern round the side and the tuft or ‘tourie’ on top. Some wear this ‘unmounted’, i.e. with no feathers, which was quite common in the field, especially after a long campaign, but many modellers like to see the full headdress and the majority of poses have this. Most also have the detachable peak, along with the cockade and plume on the left side. The jacket is the standard version but shortened a little for the Highlanders, with good lace detail and short tails at the back. The kilt looks good too and is of the correct length, although it shows no sign of the pleating at the back (not an easy thing to see anyway). Below the knees the men wear the hose with half-gaiters and shoes, so all correct. The officer and ensign have trousers or breeches instead of the kilt, which was normal, and both have the officer’s double-breasted jacket, in this case with the lapels fully buttoned across. Both also have a gorget and a sash over the left shoulder, and a sword belt over the right; the last two items are also visible on the downed sergeant.
Equipment was standard issue for British infantry: the ‘Trotter’ knapsack of rectangular shape, with rolled blanket on top and mess tin attached, the black pouch on the right, the haversack and barrel-type water bottle on the left, along with the bayonet scabbard. All of this looks correct and is present on all the troops but not on the command figures, which is good.
The muskets are reasonably well done too. The locks are good, and while there is no detail such as showing the barrel, this is easily resolved with paint. We are happy to report bayonets are fixed by all, and would normally be attached so should be here. The drum is a nice shape and the swords are authentic too. In a move that will please some and disappoint others, Strelets have given the ensign a staff but no flag.
The sculpting matches the parade versions of this set previously released, which is very good with excellent detail everywhere and perfect proportions for the men. Nice lacework on the jackets, and another excellent depiction of the complex of feathers on the bonnet. The kilts have been given a checker pattern to suggest the tartan and to aid painting, and the faces are terrific – beautifully done. As we have said, the muskets could have had more detail on the barrels, and the finial on top of the flag staff is very rough – we think it is a spearhead but it is too crude to tell. Also the sculptor has forgotten the sword scabbard for the ensign (though not its belt), or perhaps left it off as it would have presented challenges of its own. Lovely poses, but the casualty on his back is a bit of an aberration as both arms and legs hover above the ground level. This is because he lies on his pack, yet of course the limbs would still fall to the ground, so it looks very odd here. The other prone figures have the same issue but to a much lesser extent. Flash is mostly minimal but occasionally you get bigger bits like on the drum, but compared to many sets this is not one that will require a lot of cleaning.
Where visible the men have tufts on their shoulders, indicating membership of the more common centre companies, which will please almost all customers. The drummer and piper have these too, and while most regiments had their musicians wearing wings, it is unclear whether any Highland regiments used tufts like this. Still apart from the small points on the sculpting these are terrific figures which we much enjoyed. Excellent poses, excellent detail, and also some very useful and unusual casualties to add to those already made in previous sets. Another great quality offering from Strelets.