The disaster of the Battle of Jena (1806) and the subsequent terms of the Treaty of Tilsit (1807) greatly reduced the territory of Prussia, the intention being to remove Prussia as a serious opponent to French imperial ambitions. As so often however, such draconian measures had exactly the opposite result to that intended, for it forced the kingdom to institute many reforms to both society and the Army which would allow it to bounce back within a few years to become a major player in the final overthrow of Napoleon. Although the king provided some troops for Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, once the French Army fell apart he was forced by a tide of public patriotism to switch sides, giving vent to the widespread anti-French feeling. Although desperately short of money and resources, Prussia would play a major part in the destruction of Napoleon’s empire, and when he returned in 1815 it would again be central to his second and final defeat.
In the early days of this hobby the role of Prussia was largely ignored by manufacturers, but that has long since changed and today there are many sets of Prussian infantry for the last years of the Napoleonic Wars. This set concentrates on the men lined up at order arms, which is what the majority of these poses are doing. Variation between these poses is subtle, with small differences in uniform or equipment, or in the posture of the man, but the pose itself is properly done. The last two figures in the second row both have their musket held off the ground, so not ‘order arms’, and not even part of the usual drill as far as we are aware. This makes them a bit less useful, since the musket was usually held on the left side of the body. The command figures in the bottom row are also all standing still as if on parade. Neither musician is playing his instrument, and the flag is limp and furled. So clearly not much is going on here, yet all these men could be lined up ready to move into action, or simply about to set off on a march.
The uniform and equipment is all for the period after 1808, when uniforms following the Russian cut were introduced. The shako, double-breasted coat and trousers with gaiters are all correctly shown, as is most of the kit. Most of the men wear an oilskin cover over the shako, as was normal on campaign, but the two that are missing a cover show a cockade on the front rather than a badge, revealing them to be fusiliers rather than musketeers. A couple more have instead the forage cap, which might not be intended campaign wear, but budget constraints and local circumstances mean it would very likely have been seen on the battlefield, so is fine here. The coats are well done, with the short tails, and the musicians have the normal swallows’ nest wings for epaulettes. Both officers have knee-length tails on their coat, as well as a sash wound twice round the waist.
In equipment the men are all very similar. All have a knapsack held by two straps, which are themselves joined by a third across the chest (an 1810 innovation). They have a cartridge pouch on the right hip, and haversack on the left, all rather swamped by the rolled greatcoat with leather restraint worn over the left shoulder. Everyone here has a paired sabre and bayonet scabbard, in the French fashion, which was never issued to musketeers, but may have been carried by some fusiliers, though we would have preferred the single sword (a problem found in previous Strelets sets also). Neither officer has a knapsack, and since this item was compulsory for dismounted officers these men may normally be mounted, although neither have spurs.
Because the muskets are not side-on to the mould they are harder to sculpt, yet look good here. All have the bayonet attached, which is correct as this was largely permanent (since with no bayonet scabbards they had little choice). The one problem with equipment here is the second man in the bottom row, who holds a bugle or trumpet. Musketeer companies did not have such instruments, and while fusiliers and light infantry did have what is often described in English as ‘buglers’, they actually carried what would now be called a horn. So this figure seems to be a Strelets fantasy, and by carving away the instrument you are left with an empty-handed figure of little value. We also find a standard bearer with full flag. Fusilier companies were not issued with flags, and though there were a small number of exceptions, this seems to highlight the confusion of the sculptor between musketeer and fusilier troops.
As with similar sets in the recent Strelets catalogue, these figures are nicely sculpted. They benefit from the relatively simple pose, but the detail is good, clothing texture is realistic and faces are expressive and natural. Cartridge pouches have no badge, which is correct for fusiliers, but painting could create musketeer or grenadier badges as needed. There is very little flash on these figures, and no excess plastic anywhere to mar the sculpts.
While the confusion as to whether these are musketeers or fusiliers may annoy some, and the trumpeter is a waste of a pose, overall this set is very nicely produced, and only needs the above-named mistakes to be corrected to make an excellent array of figures. The idea may be simple, but it has been mostly well-executed here (even if a couple don't know what 'order arms' means!), making a worth-while set.