Dragoons had started life as mounted infantry, and had spent decades trying to become accepted as true cavalry, a more highly regarded branch of the army. On the whole they had succeeded by the Napoleonic Wars, but in the French Army their dismounted role remained important, so at any time they might have to fight on foot. However there was a major problem in supplying horses for the dragoons, since the other branches of the cavalry were ahead of them in the queue, and animals were often in very short supply. At various times during the Wars numbers of dragoons were made into 'foot dragoons', essentially taking away their horses and making them a form of infantry. This greatly displeased the men concerned, and they performed the role with ill grace by all accounts. Such foot dragoons were generally a temporary expedient, and would eventually be remounted using captured enemy stocks of horses.
The uniform of the dragoons did not change a great deal throughout the period, but these men all wear the habit coat, which remained almost the same until the habit-veste of 1812. More specifically, they have possibly genuine turnbacks on the long tails, with a triangular patch at the end that stopped manufacture in 1810, although like any uniform change could have been worn for years after. As foot dragoons the differences were that the men replaced their high boots with infantry gaiters reaching to above the knee, and were given knapsacks. Both these distinctions are shown on every figure here, so these are specifically foot dragoons, rather than simply dragoons momentarily on foot. Their helmets, with the horsehair mane, are well done here, as is all of the uniform, which is completely correct.
The kit is the dragoons straight sabre, bayonet, cartridge pouch and knapsack with rolled greatcoat or blanket. The sword and bayonet were as per their mounted colleagues, but a few look like they have been sculpted as the combined frog of the infantry. However others clearly are not done this way, so this seems to be just a coincidence. The only issue is with the cartridge pouches, which in some cases have an intricately done eagle badge on them. This would date them to 1804 or after, but is in any event incorrect for dragoons, mounted or not. However this is easily removed, or simply ignored when painting.
Another aspect of converting mounted dragoons into foot dragoons was that their trumpets were removed and replaced with drums, hence the drummer in this set. He has no cartridge pouch as he has no firearm, but is otherwise dressed and equipped the same as the rest, which is fine. Also of note is the flag-bearer in the bottom row. Dragoons had been ordered to turn in their flags in 1805 or shortly thereafter, but some ignored this and still carried them years later. Since the 'foot' designation was only temporary, they would have continued to carry their usual cavalry guidon, as here, although it was probably only rarely actually carried in action like this. The flag itself is of standard dragoon design, with a large imperial eagle beautifully engraved in the centre on both faces. This is a generic design as the actual flags had wording describing the unit, so this is a compromise. At 12mm wide and 10mm tall (86cm by 72cm) the guidon is a little larger than it should be, but hard to tell at this scale. Much more importantly, the flag is attached to an eagle, which means it cannot be before late 1804 at the earliest.
We have long been enthusiastic admirers of the sculpting standard of Waterloo 1815, and these figures are yet another excellent example of their work. The detail is crisp and beautifully rendered, and the proportions are very good indeed. Tricky areas like the mane on the helmets have been well done, even when the soldier faces directly into the mould, and tiny details like the engraving on the guidon are gorgeous. A few of the poses have some assembly to help reduce unwanted plastic, which is still there in a couple of places but very minimal and hard to even notice, and the flash is again very little and mostly absent entirely. Quite simply another very fine piece of sculpting making for some very attractive figures.
The poses all make perfect sense for the subject, since such men often acted as a sort of light infantry rather than moving round the battlefield in solid formations. The usual firing, advancing and marching poses are supplemented by a few worthy of special note. The man wielding the bayonet is about the first time this particular pose has been done in the hobby, and we particularly liked the kneeling man in the second row holding his musket to the side. The man to his left is unusual in that he is firing a pistol, a weapon foot dragoons did not carry, so not a pose we would have chosen. The two kneeling poses just described have a separate arm to make them possible, as does the second advancing figure, and all are the more natural and realistic as a result. The separate arms fit quite easily but require gluing.
Although French foot dragoons did not have a huge part to play in the Wars, those in this set have been very well done in a variety of appropriate poses and with no significant accuracy problems. Because the sculpting is so good these are attractive figures even if your interest is not in the subject, so we have another great set from this manufacturer which is streets ahead of the only other set thus far made of these men, that of Strelets.