This set claims to cover the years 1804 to 1807, and during this time the Guard was mostly made up of three units, the Preobrazhenski, Semenovski and Izmailovski regiments. The first two had famously been created by Peter the Great, and the third was added to the Guard in the 1730s by Empress Anna. Their role was much the same as imperial guards in other armies of the day - they were an ‘elite’ formation favoured by the monarch, but with much wider responsibilities than simply protecting them. For long periods in the 18th century they were not taken into combat, but for the Napoleonic Wars they saw a good deal of action.
In terms of appearance the Guard got the best of what was available, but the basics were the same as for the rest of the infantry. In late 1804 they received their first shako, with the same cockade and pompon as the line infantry. However they got a leather reinforcement at the top, and as grenadiers they also got a tall bushy plume and a grenade badge beneath the cockade, which all these figures correctly display. Their double-breasted coat with two rows of buttons down the front was like that of the line too, but with lace decoration on the collar and cuffs. These men wear breeches and long boots, which were for winter wear, so all aspects of the uniform on these figures are correct.
The men have a pouch on the right hip, which bears not only the circular badge but also small grenades in each corner because these men are grenadiers. On the left hip is their sword held by the waist belt, and also a bayonet scabbard, which was less common in 1805 than later on. The cross belt over the right shoulder holds the cylindrical knapsack or valise, which correctly sits diagonally across the back, and strapped to this is the rolled greatcoat and also a mess tin, so no problems with the kit.
The NCO in this set carries a halberd, as many did, although here it has been modelled a bit shorter than it should be. The other distinction between this man and the ordinary grenadiers is his cane, which here seems to be attached to a button on the coat. In many respects the officer would look little different from those of the regular infantry, although doubtless they would be upset to be confused with them. Their coat had longer tails than that of the men, and they wore a large gorget, a sash round the waist and a long straight sword. As an officer of the Guard this figure also has an aiguillette, although this is largely hidden behind the sword arm. His sword lacks the guard it should have, so looks wrong, and also the sash has been tied on the right side, which is also wrong as it was always tied on the left.
The drummer has a similar uniform to the troops but with chevrons down each arm and the usual swallows nest wings on each shoulder. He has a long sword but no firearm, and carries the good-looking drum from a belt over the right shoulder which includes the attachment for holding the sticks. The flag-bearer is dressed like the men but he wears gloves, which makes sense.
The sculpting is very nice, with good detail and realistic human proportions. There is quite a lot of flash in places, and a very visible ridge round most of the seams which spoils the look of the figures. In addition one man has lost most of his sabre scabbard, having room for nothing more than a pocket knife in what little remains. Also you will observe a large random lump of plastic between the feet of the flag-bearer, which clearly should not be there, so quality control was not all it might have been. Lastly, all the figures have quite small bases, and for the NCO and the middle figure in the second row this is insufficient as both cannot stand (the former leans to the left and the latter to the right). You can of course bend them so they do stand, at least temporarily, but this remains a poor bit of planning by the designer.
The poses closely match those in the Line Infantry set, and as such are reasonable. The penultimate man in the second row is moving forward while holding his musket upright to his front, which to us looks awkward and unrealistic, and the ‘marching’ man holding his musket low on this right side is a pretty unlikely position too, but the rest are okay. The drummer has been quite successfully done despite being a single piece, and given the limitations of the manufacturing process the position of the hands is not bad.
The flag in this set is much like that in the Line Infantry set, which despite being very limp only measures about 15mm by 12mm when to scale it should be more like 20mm and square! Also the staff, while having a nice and accurate finial, is much too short, a fact the figure attempts to hide by holding it high off the ground.
From 1808 a new style of shako and new kit was issued, so the claimed dates for this set are accurate. However the many small inaccuracies on the command figures are a disappointment here, and while the sculpting is reasonable the amount of flash is quite a lot more than we have come to expect from RedBox recently. Small flags and short staffs may be forced by the limitations of the mould, but leaning figures that cannot stand on their very small bases must count as a basic error that no one wants to find when they open the box. So while you get a generally good selection of poses with some useful command figures, there are other aspects of this set that fail to impress.