During the Great War troops of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Empire found themselves fighting in some of the most inhospitable parts of Europe – high in the Alps or in the freezing winters of Eastern Europe. At least initially they had little to combat this cold but their standard greatcoat, which is how we find the figures in this set from Strelets.
All the men wear the standard Austrian greatcoat (although various styles were seen at times), with the coat reaching to below the knees. On their heads they have the standard peaked field cap, although here some seem to have a particularly high crown (which nonetheless does echo some photos of the time). The only other clothing visible is the trousers, which end in integral cloth gaiters over the short boots. Such gaiters did not stand up well in wartime and were replaced by puttees from 1915, with breeches replacing the trousers. These therefore would seem to be early war soldiers.
All have the correct straps and front ammunition pouches, and all carry the haversack and bayonet scabbard. Some have also been given a rucksack-style pack, which was only introduced into the infantry from 1916, having previously only been used by mountain troops. This marks those figures as appropriate for the second half of the war (as earlier mountain troops would have other distinguishing features lacking here).
Weaponry is mostly rifles, but the officer has clearly ignored both official advice and good common sense and continues to go into battle with his sabre and pistol (which looks like the 8mm Roth-Krnka M07 Repetierpistole). Such foolishness was discouraged from early on and banned from 1916, so this idiot must be very early in the war.
Next to the officer is a man carrying a machine gun. The standard machine gun of the war was the Schwarzlose M07/12, but this is not that. It has a bipod just in front of the ammunition feed, which must be fairly close to the point of balance, and it has a drum feed rather like the later Thompson sub-machine gun. This makes it look like the lightened German MG 08/15, although when this weapon was given a drum feed it was on the side rather than underneath. As an intended assault weapon its water jacket would have been emptied before being carried like it is here, yet it would still have been much heavier than this figure seems to suggest. However we can find no evidence that the Germans gave numbers of this weapon to the Austrians, so the question must be why it is in the arms of an Austrian.
The poses are a reasonable mix of quite useful examples with most of the basics well covered. We particularly liked the idea of the man running while holding on to his cap, but the man carrying the machine gun seems an odd choice. Although the hobby already has an Austrian machine gun (in the HaT heavy weapons set), we would have liked to have seen another Schwarzlose M07/12 machine gun being operated (like the box artwork seems to promise) rather than some unidentified one being carried.
The standard Strelets sculpting style is on show in this collection of figures, with fairly thick and chunky items like rifles but a fair amount of detail and no flash.
The main problem with this set is the confusion of early and late war characteristics. Those without the rucksack will make perfectly good early war infantry (apart from the man with the MG 08/15, which did not appear until 1916), but those with it present more of a challenge, although thanks to the long coat the form of leg wear is not readily apparent anyway. The officer parading his sabre around has severely limited use, while the machine gunner is of doubtful authenticity. This is a set that would have benefited greatly from a little more thought as to what era it was supposed to cover rather than have elements from several.