Along with his work on machine guns, during the 1880s Hiram Maxim developed a larger weapon that operated much like a machine gun but fired explosive missiles, which under international conventions meant they had to be larger than bullets. The result was the quick-firing 1-pounder, which could rapid fire to ranges over 4,000 metres, and the sound it made caused it to be nicknamed the ‘pom-pom’. Despite being a British weapon, the British government did not purchase it, but the Germans took it up, and both Boer republics bought some prior to the Second Boer War. After being successfully used against British troops, the British government then bought at least 50 and shipped them out to Southern Africa, although by the time of the Battle of Paardeburg in February 1900 only three had arrived.
The gun model in this set is exactly the same as that in the corresponding set Pom-Pom Gun with Boer Crew but without the shield. While it is in the same soft plastic as the figures it goes together reasonably well, and follows the proper general shape but with inevitable simplification in places. The belt feed seems poorly done to us, but generally it is a reasonable model.
As can clearly be seen, the crew here are kilted highlanders. The pom-pom was operated by the infantry, and we could find no information on which regiments were issued with one, so it seems perfectly possible that Highland regiments would be amongst them. The men here wear normal uniform for such troops, or at least they do for the early part of the War. Their foreign service helmets are standard, as are the tunics apart from the rounded front corners, which were cut away to make room for the sporran. Even at this date the kilt and sporran were worn on active service, along with the traditional hose and spats, all of which are correctly depicted here. While the kilt is far from an ideal garment in modern warfare, rather than lose it, the regiments were soon issued (early in 1900) with a khaki apron to make them less visible to the enemy. This did not protect the knees, which were sometimes horribly sunburnt when the troops were pinned down, and of course it covered nothing at the back when they were lying down, as they often were, so it was a poor compromise, but it is absent here, so these soldiers date to the first few weeks of the War. That presents us with a problem, as we have already said the pom-pom only appeared around February 1900, by which date the highlanders were certainly wearing the apron, and had also lost the sporran, so there is a mismatch there.
The kit is the standard Slade-Wallace belts with twin pouches at the front, a haversack on the left hip and a water bottle on the right. Missing here are the rolled greatcoat and mess tin, and also missing, rather more worryingly, is the bayonet scabbard, which all the troops would have. The two men carrying the ammunition have rifles, but the rest must have laid their arms aside. The two figures in the second row both have swords and pistols, so are clearly officers. However again we have a problem, because such men were obvious targets for the expert Boer marksmen, and officers very quickly learned to leave such things behind and look just like their men, often carrying rifles too. These two can only date from the opening volleys of the War, before such common sense took hold, so again this clashes with the presence of the pom-pom. Worse still, both swords have the full basket hilt of the broadsword, a weapon only worn for ceremonial duties and not in the field at this date, so another mistake there.
The sculpting is pretty good, with good proportions and soft but quite nice detail. The kilts have a checker pattern engraved on them, which will help guide painting and suggests the tartan pattern if left unpainted. Some of the figures look to have a moustache, which is a surprise, as is the full beard of one of the officers, although these are quite well done. There are a few places where the flash is quite noticeable, but some other areas are completely clean, so a mixed bag in that respect.
The poses are appealing but they barely interact with the gun. The two carrying ammunition are good, as is the kneeling man with more ammo. The officers work well as they are, which leaves just one man actually using the gun. He is not an ideal pose as he is reaching down to squeeze the trigger, and so not really looking where he is firing. In any case there should also be a man looking after the ammunition feed, so while the poses are nice they are not a good representation of men actually using the weapon.
The Battle of Paardeburg was something of a climax for the Boer War. Shortly after this Boer surrender, the British occupied both Boer capitals, and the war entered the guerrilla stage and the fight of the bitter-enders. There was still plenty of fighting to be done of course, and the pom-pom would have been useful, but it would have missed most of the famous battles and sieges of the early months. As we have said, the figures here are dressed for the early weeks (and the early days in the case of the officers), so they do not date from the same period as the use of the pom-pom. Of course such weapons could be captures from the Boers, but we are not aware there were any during the early period, when most clashes ended with Boer victories and the British losing guns instead. That is the major problem with this set, although as so often we would have liked to have seen more men actually using the gun, and perhaps one less officer. Still the sculpting is nice, but the choice of Highlanders greatly limits the usefulness of the set regardless of accuracy problems, so we felt this product could have been thought through a good deal better.