Although the quality of the Austrian cavalry was very good, its impact on the wars with Napoleon was much less than was hoped for. The light cavalry in particular was often praised, yet it was poorly used, often being little more than a support for the infantry rather than a powerful force in its own right on the battlefield. Although it was the hussars that were the most famous of the Austrian light cavalry, the Empire gradually raised more regiments of uhlans as the wars progressed, and these too proved to be effective horsemen.
As in most European armies, the Austrian lancers adopted a Polish-themed uniform, which we find on these figures. The classic czapka cap is here uncovered and of a greater height than before, which is valid from late 1801 onwards. It has the plume and cords and is well sculpted here. The men’s short-tailed kurtka jacket with plastron front is also properly done, and every man has a single fringed epaulette on the right side (the officer has them on both shoulders). This is a feature often but not always illustrated, yet seems reasonable here. The trumpeter correctly has no distinguishing uniform features, and apart from the extra epaulette, the only thing identifying the officer is the chest with various medals and decorations. Some sources say the officer should have a fuller drooping plume, but again it is unclear if this was always the case, so the plume here is reasonable. In all respects then the uniform is correct from 1801.
The men carry almost no kit. Each has a cartridge pouch suspended from a belt over his left shoulder, but does not have the water flask that you would expect if these men were on campaign. All have a sword, but none have a carbine, and all the troopers hold a lance, which is of a good size and has the pennon attached. On the horses there is a cylindrical valise and two small bags, plus the suggestion of a brace of pistols at the front. On campaign there would normally be more impedimenta than this, but for parade and perhaps battle this might be normal.
Although the set title does not suggest what these figures are doing, they are clearly not in action. All are relaxed, chatting or fiddling with things, perhaps anxious or simply bored. The nine lancers in the set are all very nicely posed and work well together. The trumpeter rests his trumpet on his thigh and again is relaxed, while the officer has his arms folded and is smoking an enormous cigar. The fourth figure in the second row is a lancer holding an infantry flag. Strelets must know by now that this is a nonsense, as even on the rare occasions when light cavalry carried their standard it was a guidon 80 cm square, not the massive and unwieldy flag we find here. Presumably they think customers like it (they have done this many times before), and perhaps some customers do. For us, such a figure goes straight in the bin as it is completely unhistorical and not even any good for conversion. Apart from that, great poses.
The sculpting of the men is excellent. Lovely sharp detail, really natural poses and everything you could ask for in a figurine. There is no assembly, nor any flat poses, and on our sample there was almost no flash either. That might well have got this set a 10/10 for sculpting were it not for the horses. These are very similar to those found in earlier Strelets sets of cavalry ‘in reserve’, and the poses are pretty good, given the limitations of the two-part mould when producing quadrupeds. However we thought they were not amongst the best horse sculpts, with a rather flabby look that gives their bodies little apparent musculature. We also worried about the last horse, who appears to be unable to reach the ground for grazing. They aren’t terrible, just not as realistic as the men, and the fact that some of them lean noticeably to the left looks odd too. However man and horse do fit together very well indeed. All have a shabraque ending in a point, which seems to have been correct for some parts of the period, although annoyingly for much of the time a rounded corner seems to have been the more common. Also the men should have a sheepskin cover over the saddle, but this is missing in all cases here.
Finally we have a couple of bonus figures – a gentleman in a long coat with hat and cane, and a religious figure. Both are fine and useful figures, and as a way of introducing more civilian figures we are pleased to see them here, especially since they do not reduce the standard number of cavalry figures on the sprue.
Many will be disappointed that this set does not show the men in action, especially as at the time of writing the only other set of Austrian Uhlans (that from Mars), has many weaknesses. However as a set of relaxed uhlans this gives you pretty much all you could want, with nice character in the men and a very high level of sculpting to enjoy. The horses are not quite so good, and the infantry flag is a waste as always, but this is still a really attractive collection which at least goes some way to improving the lamentable lack of Austrian cavalry representation in the hobby.