The majority of ordinary troops in one of Napoleon’s armies were conscripts, with the actual individuals decided by lottery. Inevitably there were many ordinary people who did not share Napoleon’s enthusiasm for military glory, and evasion was widespread, but those who could not escape or pay for a substitute could find themselves in almost any part of Europe, helping to build and maintain the emperor’s empire. Towards the end of the wars the huge losses of men, and the increasingly effective resistance of the rest of Europe, meant it became even more difficult to find new soldiers and to train and equip them. The same however is not true in this hobby, as there are many sets depicting such troops, including some, like this one, showing them simply on the move.
This time the basic pose is of a man walking in casual fashion with his musket hanging from the sling on his right shoulder. With no attempt at formality you would think this would be a pretty easy pose to reproduce, yet most here are not well done. The basic difference between most of them is the position of the left arm, and since every man has his right leg forward, the left arm should also be forward, as this is the basic action of any human being (as nicely illustrated on the box artwork). However here only two figures (on the end of the top two rows) have this pose, and the rest have their arm either behind them or held tightly to the body, which is much easier to sculpt but is not natural. The command figures in the bottom row are also walking forward. The drummer beats his drum, and the flag-bearer holds his unfurled burden high, with the staff pressed firmly against his face. The next figure is hard to understand. Our first thought was he was a fifer, but if so then why is he holding his massively-thick fife vertically and directly in front of his chest? Our second thought was this is an officer, holding his telescope in this strange manner. While the item is more the size of a telescope, this man has no other sign of rank such as epaulettes or a sword. Ultimately this figure is whatever you want it to be, but we cannot be sure what the intention was. Finally we have what is undoubtedly an officer, apparently waving his right hand in the air.
Since every man here wears a greatcoat there is not a lot to say about the uniform, since most of it is hidden. The greatcoat itself is double-breasted, and perfectly reasonable in design, although this did vary at the time. One peculiarity we have seen before from this manufacturer is that some of the skirts have been pinned back in the style that would be adopted later in the century, but seems never to have been done during the Napoleonic period (and so there were no buttons to make this happen). The men all wear the shako, which dates them from 1806, and some of them are covered, which makes sense in foul weather. Legs and feet are mostly hidden or indistinct, but those with skirts buttoned back suggest they wear gaiters to above the knee.
Every man here has a combined sabre and bayonet frog on the left hip, marking them out as either voltigeurs or grenadiers (as the box points out). The other strap holds the usual cartridge pouch on the left side, and every man has a knapsack fastened by two straps. Strangely no man has any form of water bottle, which you would think would be universal even though they had to provide this themselves, and there is no other kit such as kettles etc. The four command figures have no pouches, knapsacks or water carriers at all.
Compared to some of the terrible sculpting of past decades, most new figure sets these days score fairly highly as quality these days is much better. Compared to some of those old sets this one is not too bad, but if just compared to more recent standards then it is really quite poor. The detail is fairly indistinct and many items like the sabre scabbards and very short and chunky. Arms too are short and thick, and hands often lack any attempt at showing fingers. More specifically, the officer has an object next to his sword which is really just a blob, but we are guessing is the handle of a pistol. If so then how is this being held? There is no belt etc., and anyway it just digs deep into the man’s body. Another really awful element is the drum, which is a terrible shape that just merges with the drummer, and has no tension ropes on it. Instead it has a diagonal pattern like nothing we have ever seen, and is very basic indeed.
We have already asked a number of questions of this set, but there are still more to ask. For example, if these men are marching casually, then why does every one of them have their bayonet fixed to the musket? Equally, why is the flag unfurled in such circumstances? Surely it would be cased normally? And perhaps most fundamental of all, why has the sculptor chosen flank company soldiers rather than the more common fusiliers? None of the men have the flanker’s epaulettes which were often attached to the greatcoat, but the second belt will be very hard to hide should you want ordinary fusiliers.
We were not impressed by the poses in so simple a set, nor by the sculpting, which by modern standard is really poor. Stand far enough away from them and they look half-decent, but that is the best way to view these in our opinion.