After the virtual destruction of the massive army sent into Russia in 1812, France struggled to build a new army to meet the challenges of the following years. Large numbers were recruited, but the army included far too many young and inexperienced troops who had little training and were often poorly equipped. There were still successes, but the odds had shifted against Napoleon and at the enormous Battle of Leipzig Napoleon’s hopes of restoring French control of much of Europe were effectively ended. Invasion and occupation followed, then a final throw of the dice at Waterloo, which also ended in complete defeat.
The six poses in this set are divided between the fusiliers (those in the top row) and the elites (grenadiers and voltigeurs in the second row). All wear the new ‘habit-veste’ that was introduced from 1812, with the closed lapels and short tails. The elites have fringed epaulettes at the shoulders, while the fusiliers have ordinary straps. All have breeches and gaiters reaching to below the knee, which is appropriate for the time, but shows that none are wearing the common campaign trousers. The shakos of the elites sport tall plumes and cords, something meant to be for full-dress only but known to have been worn in the field by some. The fusiliers have the ordinary pompons above the cockade and badge, which in all cases is indistinct.
The men are all correctly kitted out for their role, so the fusiliers have a single belt carrying both pouch and bayonet, while the elites have a second one carrying their sword/bayonet frog on the left hip. Each man has a knapsack, which is a separate piece that comes with the pouch and sabre where necessary. This fits on a peg on the back, and is an arrangement that does improve the look of the figure. A couple of these have dishes or pots strapped to them, which is a nice touch, however no figure has any form of water carrier, which was not issued but likely to have been carried by most. The muskets are reasonably well done, given that they are side-on to the mould, but all have the bayonet barely offset from the barrel.
The poses are all the same – marching with musket resting against the left shoulder and with left leg forward. The only variety is in the position of the arms, although the two resting the lock of the musket in the crook of their arm are the most useful. For a set labelled as ‘marching’ such a pose is arguably the only one you need, so while it won’t deliver a realistic group of men in similar but not identical poses, it does deliver the minimum the title requires.
The sculpting would be described as good but a bit woolly, so the detail is rather vague in places but the overall proportions are very good. The separate packs attach to the peg on the man’s back, but need gluing to stay put, and the traditional plastic used here does not allow a firm bond with ordinary poly cement. There is some flash, but not that much.
Each sprue also includes a number of extra heads. They are wearing a shako with a pompon or disc, a shako with a much bushier plume, and one wearing the pokalem cap, also introduced in 1812. These add more possibilities for variety to the figures, so are a welcome bonus for those keen to start converting. All these extra heads have a hole drilled up the inside, suggesting the customer fashion a peg from the original head. This is a new feature for HaT sets as traditional two-piece moulds cannot accommodate this, and it is very useful.
Like so many HaT sets this is a basic selection rather than an impressive array, with a small number of poses, but it does the job and splits the fusiliers and elites in the correct proportions. The uniform and equipment present no accuracy problems, although the reality was often far less neat and complete than these figures might suggest, as usual. The sculpting is not as sharp as many other sets, which will matter more or less depending on how you intend to use them. For those looking to create a regiment of marching figures for the 1812-1815 period this set supplies all the basic figures in a workmanlike and suitable way.