The image of British Infantry in square at Waterloo is a very familiar one, and has been the subject of countless illustrations and models. Yet when this set was first produced the only 1/72 scale plastic figures of these troops were those of Airfix, a less than satisfactory situation. Since then many sets have appeared, so it is no longer the case that the subject has little representation, but with so much more choice available now, does this set from Esci still have much to offer?
Once again Esci started out badly by mixing two troop types in one set, forcing the customer to buy equal quantities of each type even if they did not need them. Many of the chosen poses are also very poor, and some are quite useless. The highlander poses are OK, and include a favourite of Esci - that of the wounded man being helped by another. We felt that including no less than three pipers was rather excessive in a set of 23. The non-kilted infantry are not so good. Take for example the man apparently using his musket as a club. He holds his weapon mid way along the barrel, with much of it pressed against his body, which means he could not swing it at all. Worse yet is the prone man firing. Napoleonic infantry never fired from prone (except, very rarely, some light infantry), so this figure has no place in any scene or wargame. However we liked the authentic inclusion of a drummer boy, though his drum is too small.
The uniform is that used in 1815, as mainly identified by the 'belgic' shako. All the men have 'wings' on their shoulders, marking them as flank companies, and none have the cover on the shako that was probably the norm at Waterloo. The highlanders all have a very full set of feathers on their caps which make them appear something like bearskins, but this can be forgiven as the reality is really difficult to represent at this scale. The kilts of the highlanders having a square check pattern engraved on them, which can aid with the painting of the tartan. Strangely one of these men has been given a diagonal pattern, which only serves to hinder the painting process. Both troop types wear a type of knapsack which was unusual by Waterloo. It is of the 'envelope' type, whereas the rigid black box type should have been modelled. Also none of the figures have any sort of a mess tin, which again is unlikely. Another problem is that few of the poses have a bayonet attached to the musket. When in action it was normal to attach the bayonet, so the many poses here that do not have this are unrepresentative.
In British regiments the colours were carried by an ensign, the lowest form of officer, but the ensign here carries a very small colour on a staff less than 2 metres long. The colour itself has been engraved with the Union flag (and therefore is the King's colour), but all the stripes end in chevrons well short of the edge (which have been overpainted on the above example to correct this). Such a device was never used and is simply the imagination of the sculptor. This sculptor has also taken liberties with the arrangement of equipment on the men, swapping bayonet scabbard between left and right as convenient without thought to the corresponding belts. Finally the bugler is somewhat out of place - such an instrument was generally only used in the light and rifle regiments, although at least one of the Foot Guards did also have a bugler.
The lack of an officer in this set, apart from the lowly ensign, is a serious omission which is presumably attributable to the small number of poses for each type. Though these figures are nicely carved and the detail is sharp and clear, the many mistakes and poor design decisions make this far from an impressive set. With hindsight of the many other sets that have since been made of these figures, it is hard to see much of value in this set. Individuals like the drummer and the highlander pair still have charm, but this is not a set for building an infantry formation.