During the early 19th century warfare was still usually a summer activity, as the poor roads made mobility much more difficult and bad weather added greatly to the problems facing an army. But even in the more clement months there could be no guarantee of fair conditions, so men are issued greatcoats to keep them warm and, to a much lesser degree, protect them from the elements. In the British Army greatcoats or 'watchcloaks' had been issued to those on sentry duty for many years, but only from 1802 were they generally issued to all.
The figures in this set all wear the issued greatcoat. This had a generous standing collar, was double-breasted and had a short cape covering the shoulders which also provided some protection for the equipment. The coats modelled here match this specification except that a few seem to be single-breasted. It is impossible to see anything of the front on many, but several poses do seem to have only one line of buttons, but it is impossible to know whether this was intentional, in which case it is an error, or merely the result of the limitations of the sculptor’s art. The coat was meant to fall to around the mid-calf, but was only made in a few sizes, so this naturally depended on the build of each soldier. A number of sources mention an 'ample' cuff, but other representations show only a normal size cuff, which is what all these figures possess.
The other major uniform item on show here is the shako, which is the 1812 model in all cases. This type of shako replaced its predecessor over the following two years, so these men are limited to the very last years of the Napoleonic Wars. Since these men all wear greatcoats it would have been appropriate for them also to have their shakos in their oilskin covers, but none do, and it is notable that none have any cords either, although various contemporary illustrations suggest these were sometimes left off when on campaign. Half of the poses are wearing a knapsack, which is properly done apart from there being buckles on each strap in the middle of the back when these were in fact underneath. A few of these men also have a blanket rolled across the top of their knapsack, although none have any sort of mess tin. The other equipment - canteen, haversack, bayonet and cartridge pouch - all looks correct.
This set is labelled as set 1, so clearly more is to follow. With that in mind perhaps the relatively narrow array of poses is easier to forgive. All are static, and mostly concerned with the act of firing, all the major phases of which are included. This allows for a lot of flexibility when it comes to constructing a firing line, but at the expense of no poses on the march, advancing or doing anything else. Assuming that set 2 etc. will remedy that, we can say that the only pose here which is not reasonable is the third man in the second row, who appears to be using his bayonet as if at Culloden, which is not appropriate drill by this era, and unlikely to be a natural posture. Because of what they are doing the poses don’t seem particularly flat, and are nicely sculpted.
The quality of the mould-making is not as good as other recent Strelets sets, because there is a good deal of flash in many places. Also in a couple of places (actually on the faces of the men) there is a suspicion of poor alignment between the moulds, although a few of the faces are so poorly done that it is hard to be certain of anything. Generally however the detail is at the top end of what Strelets have offered us over the years, and the proportions are better too, with a little less of the chunky shortened extremities we often see. Compared to the best being made today these still have some way to go, but it is more the poor mould-making that lets these figures down.
When seeing the 1812 shako, many people will naturally think of the Waterloo campaign, when this short-lived headgear was widely worn. However as this was a summer campaign all the greatcoats had been packed up and sent to the coast well before the battle, so these figures are not suitable for that famous encounter. On the other hand when serving in much colder climates such as North America the infantry would have made much greater use of the greatcoat. These are quite nicely sculpted figures and accurate, given the observations we have already made. The poses are mostly fine and presumably will be built upon by subsequent sets, but it is the quality of the mould that will be a considerable annoyance to buyers as they will need to put in a lot of work to get the best from these figures. If that had been well done then this would have been a very respectable set.