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Airfix 54mm French Cuirassier & Polish Lancer



By Bob Pearson



While on holiday some twenty-plus years ago a boy of 11 or 12 came across the Airfix 54mm Napoleonic era figure kits of the French grenadier of the Guard, Scottish Highlander and American Minuteman. I was hooked!! In fact I still have the Grenadier and Minuteman (or, rather, my mom has them), However one disappointment at the time was the knowledge that there was also some mounted figures in the series that never made it to my local hobby shop (mail order hobby shops were unknown in those days).

Fast forward to last month when a thirty-something male was on a month long trip across North America (I had a great time BTW), while talking to one shop owner about various new and old kits I mentioned the old 54mm Aifix figures ... said owner disappeared into the back and returned with a catalog showing the long-wanted mounted figures were about to be re-issued. .... HEAVEN !!!

A few days later, there, on the shelf, were two of the four figures from the ad. Minutes later I had the Polish Lancer and French Cuirassier in my possession .. still lacking are the Scots Grey and Life Guard. But they will be mine ... Bwahahahahahahahahhaaha. Since getting the two mounted figures I have also acquired the Grenadier and Highlander in a trade from a fellow WW1 list member. Ain't life grand?

A little history (?)

As it is over twenty years since I was seriously interested in the Napoleonic era (and all my cool new reference books are still on order), here goes with a little history off the top of my head .. some short pudgy guy decided to rule the world. . .. the other nations gathered together to stop him . . since there weren't any tanks or aircraft at the time, some other mode of reconnaissance was needed. . the cavalry came to mind. One thing man discovered long ago was that horsies are bigger than us .. hence we get hurt when they charge at us .. put a man on top of the horse and we get hurt even more. Give him a long stick .. etc, etc ....

Okay, seriously. The success of Lancers at some earlier battle prompted Napoleon to add them to his own army. The kit depicts a Lancer from the 1st squadron of the Old Guard. At Waterloo these were the only lancers in blue uniforms, the others wore red uniforms.

The other kit is of a French Cuirassier from the 7th Regiment. These were originally a regiment of heavy Cavalry, but they added the cuirass between 1802-1804.

Sorry. .. that's all I got from the kit instructions.

The kit(s)

French Cuirassier

Both kits come in very colourful boxes. the front of each has a stirring illustration of the figure doing some feat of derring-do, while the back has details of the uniforms and horses for painting. Opening the box reveals the kits to be in a cellophane bag with one (or two) pages of instructions included.

The kits consist of two sprues plus separate body halves for the horse, and a thin styrene sheet for the various belts and straps required.

The French Cuirassier is superbly detailed. Minor cleanup of mold lines is mandatory, but once done the parts fit together with minimal putty required. The Polish Lancer needs a little more care in affixing the top and bottom body halves, some reshaping was required for me to attain an adequate join. Both heads are nicely done. One thing that may be an idea is to replace, or thin down the Cuirassier's chin strap – I chose to do the latter. The hair and plumes can have additiional scribing done to better represent hair and feathers.

Each horse is in six parts. . body halves, head, ears, mane and tail. Both horses went together easily enough, but both needed lots of cleanup of mold lines and putty. The various items that go on the horse will need their edges thinned to look realistic, but this should be easy enough.

The next step is going to be the various belts and straps. Airfix provides a thin styrene sheet to make these out of using the template provided. However I recommend trying to modify their shapes to better fit the figures. Rather than make each belt as a straight piece, give it a curve in the center to drape over the shoulder.


Polish Lancer



The real fun will be in the painting. I am waiting on some volumes in the Osprey Men at Arms series to help me here. Airfix provides painting guides, but more information is always welcome ... besides you can't have too many books (unless your name is Brad – WW1 list members will understand this).


Despite the silly nature of this review, I really am impressed with these two kits .. especially considering their age. The Cuirassier in particular is very well done. The downside is either the Cuirassier (and his horse) is a giant, or the Lancer (and his horse) are a little height-challenged. Put the two side by side, and the Lancer stands about shoulder height to the Cuirassier. Other than that I look forward to painting these two. .. and finding the remaining figures once again

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