In the last decade of the 18th century the Bavarian army was in poor condition, with demoralised troops in understrength units that were badly trained. When Maximilian IV Joseph succeeded as prince-elector in 1799 he set about improving matters, and in the years that followed the army was reformed along French lines to become the most modern in Germany. After defeat at the Battle of Hohenlinden (1800), Bavaria allied with France and gained much as a result, sending her troops to assist French forces in most campaigns apart from Spain until 1813 when, with Napoleon’s defeat looking increasingly inevitable, she switched sides and joined the Allies.
This is one of several sets of Napoleonic Bavarians to be released by Strelets, and all are similar in terms of dating. The men here wear the square knapsack held by two straps around the shoulders and with a third across the chest, which dates them from 1808. All the other elements of the uniform such as the remarkable Raupenhelm helmet and the cornflower blue coat with the short tails are also correct for this date, and for the rest of the Napoleonic Wars, so this is the period covered by these figures. Everything is correctly done, although the last figure in the second row, which we assume to be an officer, lacks the sash that would normally be an important mark of his rank (or a gorget after 1812). The drummer also lacks the swallows nest epaulettes so widely associated with such men, although it seems regiments differed in how they dressed their drummers, and not all followed this trend. We liked to see the small areas of variety here, such as the fact that some of the men are wearing campaign trousers, which hide their breeches and short gaiters, and the fact that a couple of poses wear not the helmet but the more comfortable forage cap, which is correctly done here, similar to the French model.
The poses largely speak for themselves in our photos, as these ‘order arms’ sets usually do, although we would say that a few of these men seem very relaxed, such as the second man in the lower row, who clearly is not at attention. However the poses are fine, but we were not taken by the first of the ‘command’ figures with his hand in the air for no apparent reason. We assume this is supposed to be an NCO, although the only mark of such a rank – his cane – is absent here. The ‘officer’ figure holds, well, something, but we couldn’t work out what. Much too short and thick to be a cane, and with a strange bulbous end on it, but we don’t know what else it could be. As a result then, we also failed to appreciate this figure.
As with the whole of the Bavarian range the sculpting here is excellent. Lovely lean and elegant figures with all the usual details nice and clear. On this occasion however the mould-making is not quite so good, as our examples had noticeable amounts of flash and a generally rather rough finish round the seam. In places such as the side of the helmet this tends to confuse the detail somewhat, so while the masters on the box look great the actual figures are not so well presented.
We found that a few of the men seem to lean slightly, particularly to their left. This can be corrected by trimming away under the base, and is not so obvious anyway – they all stand perfectly well. These are fusiliers rather than elites (they have no plume on the helmet), but are generally very nicely done, though these sorts of poses are never going to create much excitement. The rough finish to the mould is a bit disappointing, and we would love to know what the figure with no sash but the world’s biggest match* is all about, but with some tidying up these will make very acceptable Bavarian troops on parade.
* Matches as we know them today (giant or otherwise) were not invented until the 1820s!