It is the largest of such formations within a Chapter, and a single company of Astartes is still a potent force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, fully able to engage and destroy the enemies of Mankind without any external support.
The Space Marine Legions, also known as the Legiones Astartes in High Gothic, were the original unit formations of the Space Marines created during the First Founding by the Emperor of Mankind on Terra in the late 30th Millennium. A Space Marine Legion was a frontline force of shock-infantry comprising tens of thousands of Astartes warriors armed and equipped with the finest wargear the Imperium could supply.
A Space Marine Legion, unlike the 1,000-warrior Chapters of the present-day Adeptus Astartes created after the Second Founding, could number anywhere from 10,000 to more than 250,000 Space Marines. The Legions were massive armies, and the size of each could vary tremendously. A precise, pre-set formation was never truly achieved or maintained. Even during the Great Crusade some Legions were very large, while others were not. The size of each Legion was fluid, with the numbers of combat-ready Astartes dependent on the number of new recruits, the inevitable battle-losses, the availability of potential recruits, and the administrative skills of the Legion's primarch and his officers.
Much of the discipline and organisation of the early Astartes Legions owed greatly to the ancient and proven Terran patterns of strategy, hierarchy and functions as laid down in the revered texts of the Principia Belicosa of ancient Roma and the mid-M2 general Krom's fragmentary "New Model" army that had survived in the hands of the tyrants of Old Earth down the blood-stained generations of the Age of Strife.
To these venerable treatises and their ilk the Emperor and His commanders had added their own genius and created a sturdy but adaptable strategic framework that spoke to the fundamental strengths and transhuman abilities of the Legionaries themselves. At the outset of the Great Crusade, in ca. 798.M30, many of these early Legions were organised along the so-called "Terran Pattern" of organisation as formulated by the Imperial Officio Militaris.
By the time of the outbreak of inter-Legionary hostilities during the Isstvan III Atrocity, the command and organisational structure of a Space Marine Legion was often more a mirror of the character and preferences of its primarch and its abiding culture than formal writ. While certain formations and features were common as an outgrowth of practical manners such as deployment and logistics, their organisation and use was far from standardised.
During the Great Crusade there were numerous terms for the internal constituent units of a Space Marine Legion, from largest to smallest: great companies, regiments, chapters, battalions, cohorts, demi-chapters, companies, squads and maniples. Most often, the practical reality of their disposition would vary still more as terminology used within different Legions for equivalent ranks and specialisations bore the mark of the Legion's character rather than the desires of the Imperium's central administrators for a common nomenclature. In some cases this discrepancy increased as local languages and dialects such as Fenrisian or Khal'd had come to replace Imperial Terran (the forerunner of High Gothic).
The heart of most Space Marine Legions during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy was the company, which served as the Legion's principal military division. Made up of a grouping of squads under the leadership of an officer with the rank of captain, the company was the base currency of campaigns and battles. Within some Legions, such as the Sons of Horus, there was no fixed strength for a company. While other Legions codified and enforced strict limits on the size of similar formations, this was not the case amongst the Sons of Horus, which had begun in more regimented form, but had become increasingly ad hoc in structure and disposition over time.
Company strengths as small as 36 and as large as 972 Astartes were recorded by datafactors during the XVIth Legion's action against the Dasim Patrimony, for example. The configuration of squad types within a company varied as widely as its strength. Some were comprised almost exclusively of Legion Tactical Squads with the addition of a few support squads such as Legion Heavy Support Squads and Legion Tactical Support Squads. Others were an eclectic mix based on the varied requirements of different campaigns and the will of their Primarch Horus.
In other Space Marine Legions a company would form part of further layers of hierarchical military organisation, variously referred to as battalions, cohorts, chapters, regiments or by any number of other titles. Horus seems to have preferred to avoid this extra layer of fixed organisation, which eroded over time in the XVIth Legion and was largely academic by the time of their transition to become the Sons of Horus. Instead of a formal structure, Horus would group companies and individual units together as required for the execution of a particular campaign. The commander of such a formation would usually be a senior captain.
If the formation was especially large, then other captains would take on the role of lieutenants to the overall force commander until the completion of the campaign. These formations rarely had formal titles, but the Sons of Horus commonly referred to formations intended to prosecute a rapid assault as "speartips."
In eschewing formality and fixed structure above the basic level of the company, Horus demonstrated his pragmatism and his preference for waging war with careful precision. Within the Luna Wolves and the Sons of Horus, squads also commonly had their own honorific or epithetic titles rather than simple numerations: the Illuminators Prime, Death Makers, Jerrok's Reavers, the First Sons, and similar appellations, while some were named for the sergeant or chieftain that led them if their leader's own reputation was strong enough alone.
Many of these titles betrayed the culture of Cthonian gang honours and the tradition of reputation and internecine warfare from which they had sprung. This culture had grown steadily stronger over the years within the rank-and-file of the XVIth Legion's intake of neophytes from Horus' homeworld rather than Terra.
In the wake of the calamity that was the Horus Heresy, the foundations of the present-day Imperium were laid down. The first High Lords of Terra established the structure by which the Adeptus Terra operated, and described the feudal responsibilities and duties of the planetary governors. One of the most important accomplishments was the reorganisation of the Imperium's military forces.
This was undertaken almost single-handedly by the primarch of the Ultramarines Legion, Roboute Guilliman, named the lord commander of the Imperium and the Imperial Regent in the wake of the Siege of Terra, who with his characteristic speed and efficiency codified the structure of the Astra Militarum, the Navis Imperialis, and the newborn Adeptus Astartes.
Of all of his works, the most influential is the Codex Astartes, the great prescriptive tome that lays down the basic organisational and tactical rules for a Space Marine Chapter. The Codex Astartes decreed that Space Marines would be created and trained over a relatively lengthy and controlled period of time, largely due to the fact that the easy corruption of so many Space Marines during the Heresy was believed to be the result of the accelerated means used to both create and train the Astartes of the late Great Crusade period.
The Chapters that rigidly follow the word of the Codex Astartes are sometimes referred to as "Codex Chapters" or "Codex-compliant Chapters." These Space Marines adhere to the Codex as the model for their organisation, identification markings and tactical doctrine. Of all the Codex Chapters, the most famous is the Ultramarines, the Chapter of Roboute Guilliman himself. Most Chapters, however, do not adhere so rigidly to the Codex patterns laid down for organisation, tactical roles, or other processes. Many Chapters are organised largely according to the Codex, but are further shaped by the culture of their homeworld and the personality of their primarch. The Blood Angels and Dark Angels are prime examples of these.
A small number of Chapters are vastly different from the Codex, and owe little or nothing to its prescriptions at all. The most famous of these non-Codex Chapters are the Space Wolves, whose strong-willed Primarch Leman Russ moulded his Chapter very much in his own image, irrespective of other influences. The Adeptus Terra has never decreed it necessary to enforce the Codex absolutely. Indeed, it is doubtful whether it could if it so chose.
Each standard Codex Astartes-compliant Space Marine Chapter is composed of 10 companies: The 1st Company, which includes the Veteran Space Marines of the Chapter, the 4 Battle Companies (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th) composed of already battle-hardened Astartes, 4 Reserve Companies (6th, 7th, 8th and 9th) grouping those battle-brothers who are still in some way learning to master all the tools of war, and the 10th Company containing all the Scout Marines who are still in the process of becoming full Astartes.
In theory, each of the ten companies is self-sufficient in terms of personnel and materiel, and able to operate on its own. When faced with a call to war most Chapter Masters tend to assign a single Battle Company to deal with the problem and supplement that company with smaller elements from the 1st Company, Reserve Companies and/or Scout Company, depending on the foe they are facing. This way of waging war has proven its worth in countless engagements since the end of the Horus Heresy and the Second Founding reforms instigated by Roboute Guilliman.
Each company has roughly 100 Space Marines plus support staff (except the Scout Company which has no pre-determined number of warriors or squads). Veteran Companies have 100 Veteran Astartes who can go to battle in either standard power armour or Terminator Armour. Thus, Veteran Companies can have up to 20 5-man Terminator Squads, 10 10-man Veteran Squads, or some combination of both.
Reserve Companies have ten 10-warrior squads, all of the same type. The first 2 Reserve Companies contain 10 10-warrior Tactical Squads. The third Reserve Company has 10 10-warrior Assault Squads. The fourth Reserve Company has 10 10-warrior Devastator Squads.
Scout Companies have variable numbers of Scout Squads and squad sizes. Each company usually includes officers (captains, Chaplains, Apothecaries, and Ancients), as well as Dreadnoughts, Rhinos, Attack Bikes, Land Speeders, and Land Raiders.
Other officers, such as Librarians, Techmarines, etc. and vehicles -- Predators, Whirlwinds, Vindicators, etc. -- are held by the company command, which is not an independent fighting unit. When its members and vehicles fight, they do so alongside those of the company.
The above scheme of Space Marine company organisation has been heavily revised in the years since the birth of the Great Rift at the dawn of the Era Indomitus, the alterations made to the Codex Astartes by the resurrected Primarch Roboute Guilliman and the introduction of the Primaris Space Marines into the Adeptus Astartes.
As before, the organisation of a Space Marine Chapter in the wake of the Ultima Founding of the Primaris Marines comprises 1,000 battle-brothers.
In comparison to the teeming multitudes of the Emperor's original Space Marine Legions this is few indeed, yet history has proven time and time again that such an elite gathering of martial strength can conquer star systems and even alter the fate of the galaxy itself.
After the resurrection of Roboute Guilliman in ca. 999.M41 and his restoration as the ruling lord commander of the Imperium and Imperial Regent, the Codex Astartes was revised for the new era of the Dark Imperium that began with the birth of the Great Rift and the demands of the Indomitus Crusade.
Under the revised organisational scheme, each of the ten companies of a Chapter still boasts one hundred warriors, led by a captain -- a veteran of countless wars -- and now often two lieutenants as sub-company leaders. A company is still organised into ten squads of ten Space Marines, each led by a sergeant.
The strategic deployment, disposition and leadership of these companies is regulated by the Chapter Command, while their armoured support requirements are fulfilled by the Armoury.
However, the guidelines in Guilliman's updated Codex provide for up to twenty squads of five battle-brothers. Furthermore, recent precepts allow for each Battle Company to be reinforced with auxiliary warriors. These additional squads are reassigned from the Reserve Companies.
Of the ten companies, the 1st still consists of the Chapter's most experienced Veterans, and is therefore the most powerful. The Veterans of the 1st Company are still trained to fight in Terminator Armour. It is extremely rare for the Veteran Company to be deployed en masse -- its units normally take to the field alongside the Chapter's Battle Companies.
The revised Codex Astartes decrees that the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Companies are still designated as Battle Companies, each nominally broken into two demi-companies of roughly equal size and composition. These generally carry the weight of a Chapter's combat duties. Battle Companies consist of at least six battleline squads, two close support squads and two fire support squads.
Battle Companies provide their commanding officers with a flexible force that can respond to rapidly shifting tactical objectives at a moment's notice.
Squads within Battle Companies may be broken down and deployed across a variety of roles should it be required; for example, were six battle-brothers to take to the field as Aggressors, the remaining four warriors of their squad might find roles piloting Invictor warsuits, driving the strike force's Rhino APCs and the like. Or Assault Squads, a type of close support squad, may be deployed as Bike Squads or Land Speeder crews and, just as with their fire support brethren known as Devastators, may take to battle as Centurion warsuit pilots.
Many Space Marine strike forces are constructed around squads drawn from a single Battle Company, heavily reinforced by elements of the Veteran, Scout and Reserve Companies.
The Reserve Companies are entirely composed of squads of the same designation. They normally act in support of the Battle Companies and provide a source of replacements for any casualties suffered by the frontline formations.
Their main function is to reinforce the Battle Companies, providing a source of replacements for any casualties suffered on the front line and thus ensuring the Adeptus Astartes retain their effectiveness in protracted or bloody campaigns.
Furthermore, the Codex now allows for each Battle Company to be bolstered with additional squads reassigned from the Reserve Companies; the presence of these warriors can take a company's numbers temporarily above the traditional limit of 100 Astartes, lending them the additional strength to overcome especially challenging foes.
The 8th Company is the Close Support Company and is most often used in an invasion role, or wherever a strong, hand-to-hand fighting force is needed.
The 9th Company is the Fire Support Company and is the most heavily equipped company in the Chapter, and its heavy cannon-toting Astartes provide unparalleled fire support to their more lightly-equipped comrades.
It is also not uncommon for the Reserve Companies to form hard-hitting specialised forces in their own right. They may be deployed to seize or defend important objectives in larger conflicts, the concentrated firepower of so many fire support battle-brothers or the line-breaking fury of massed close support warriors proving the decisive factor in many such engagements.
The specialised nature of each of the Reserve Companies sees them deployed in quite specific circumstances. The battleline warriors of the 6th and 7th Companies will often act as crews for large, independent formations of the various armoured vehicles deployed by the Chapter, allowing commanders to field entire companies of anti-grav skimmers, battle tanks or other swift assault vehicles.
The highly mobile nature of the 8th Company's close support squads -- often equipped with Jump Packs or embarked aboard transport vehicles -- sees them used in a rapid assault role, as well as wherever a strong hand-to-hand fighting force is needed.
The 9th Company, being the most heavily equipped in the Chapter, is used to bolster defensive lines and strongholds, as well as provide long-range support.
In most Chapters, Space Marines progress through the Reserve Companies -- from the 9th through to the 6th. During his time in the Reserve Companies, a battle-brother will prove his mettle while learning new methods of warfare.
The Chapter's 10th Company is still its Scout Company. The majority of its members are neophyte Scout Marines -- those whose combat training, physical transformation and cultural indoctrination into the Chapter is still incomplete -- but the company now also contains a standing force of ten Vanguard Space Marine squads.
These warriors can be called upon to conduct a variety of stealth operations behind enemy lines.
The revised Codex Astartes dictates no formal size for a Scout Company as the rate of recruitment is not fixed, meaning that some Chapters will be able to field comparatively large 10th Company formations while others must husband their limited resources carefully.
All companies, except the Scout Company, maintain a small fleet of Rhino, Razorback and Repulsor armoured transports. The Veteran 1st Company also has a permanent complement of Land Raiders of different patterns and Stormraven gunships for carrying Terminators into the heart of battle.
A Chapter's other armoured vehicles form a pool, maintained by the Armoury, that company captains can draw upon. Many companies also include a number of Dreadnoughts of different patterns, including the Primaris Marines' Redemptor Dreadnought.
Every company has its own Dreadnoughts; after being interred in the metal sarcophagus, it is customary for a fallen Space Marine to fall under the care and maintenance of the Chapter Armoury, but to remain a part of the company in which he served. Not only are these venerable and mighty warriors valuable battlefield assets for the devastation they can wreak upon the foe, but they are also the living embodiment of their company's history and traditions. Each Dreadnought has its battle honours inscribed into the very metal of its encasement by the Chapter's artificers to celebrate the many brave actions in which it took part.
Whilst each company has a number of its own transport vehicles, the majority of vehicles in a Chapter are maintained by its Armoury. When the need arises these armoured fighting vehicles are deployed as massed spearheads -- wholly independent from the companies and commanded by a senior officer -- or requisitioned individually by a captain to support their company.
In the latter case, the vehicles are given badges appropriate to the company they will serve and are assigned a simple numerical designator. This number is repeated on the crews' badges, if the vehicle is not manned by a Techmarine novitiate from the Armoury.
Upon its creation, a Space Marine battle tank is given a name that reflects its role as a protector of the Chapter's brethren. From that point onwards, the vehicle is as much a part of the Chapter as the Space Marines themselves, and over the years its many deeds will be celebrated as greatly as those of the Chapter's flesh and blood heroes.
A Chapter also includes a number of officers and specialists who exist outside of the formal organisation of the companies. These individuals are known as the headquarters or command staff, and they will often stride out to lead a strike force in battle, or provide essential battlefield support, spiritual leadership, psychic capability and destructive combat prowess.
Included amongst their rarefied ranks are the psychically-empowered Librarians of the Librarius, the bellicose Chaplains of the Reclusiam, Apothecaries from the Apothecarion, standard-bearing Ancients and the mechanically adept Techmarines and their servitors.
Although the Codex Astartes describes a number of ranks and responsibilities held by the headquarters staff, only those officers with an active martial role actually accompany the Chapter to war. There are relatively few senior officers with noncombatant roles -- such as recruiting and training new members or administrating the Chapter -- as most of these types of duties are performed by Human Chapter serfs.
In addition to their rank, captains of the Chapter are still often assigned Space Marine Master titles which include other functional responsibilities. These include such positions as the Lord of the Household, the Chapter Master's Secretarius, the Master of the Fleet, the Chief Victualler, the Master of the Arsenal, the Master of Recruits and the Master of the Watch.
Over all of these mighty warriors still presides the Chapter Master, elevated from the greatest of the Chapter's captains. He alone is responsible for the deeds of the Chapter, and answers directly to the Administratum.
Chapter Masters may select an Honour Guard that are in addition to the company roll, although not all Chapter Masters choose to do so.
Vanguard Space Marines are reconnaissance and infiltration experts, equipped to operate alone in enemy territory for extended periods of time and intensively trained in shadow warfare tactics and sabotage techniques. Vanguard strike forces are tasked with achieving full-spectrum superiority over the foe.
Every facet of the opposition's war machine must be dismantled, from supply routes and infrastructure to communications and logistics. Morale must be utterly sapped through non-stop harassment by terror troops and assassination of key individuals. The ultimate goal of this relentless campaign is to leave the foe crippled and helpless before the advance of the main Space Marine battleline.
Every newly recruited and created Primaris Space Marine spends time in the 10th Company learning the full range of Vanguard combat techniques, from the mobile fire support duties of the Suppressors and the expert sniper-combat of the Eliminators, to the terror raids of the Reivers and the point-blank gunfighting of the Incursors.
The Primaris battle-brothers keep their Vanguard skills honed even after they move on to other companies, meaning that at a moment's notice they can don any of the various types of Mark X Phobos Power Armour and go to battle as Vanguard Space Marines. Even Veterans of the 1st Company can swiftly reprise such duties, combining the benefits of their vast wealth of combat experience with the specialised and wholly lethal infiltration-and-sabotage tools of the Vanguard.
When a full-sized Vanguard force deploys into battle they often do so with armoured support from Invictor Tactical Warsuits and Impulsor transports, not to mention the leadership of captains, Librarians and the like also armed and armoured for stealth warfare.
An elite, fast-moving, silent-striking force of this sort can secure victories through ambush, sabotage and assassination that a far larger army could never achieve through brute force alone.
Terminator Strike Forces
Individual squads of Terminators are most often deployed as ultra-elite support for the Battle Companies. However, there are times when a Chapter will mass the majority -- and in exceptionally rare cases, even the entirety -- of its Terminator-armoured brethren and send them into battle as an utterly devastating strike force.
This occurs most commonly when an infantry assault is required against a confined and inimical location. Clearing xenos infestations out of vast space hulks, striking at the heart of heretical fortresses and staging boarding actions against super-heavy enemy war engines are all examples of duties that Terminator forces excel at.
Equally, some Chapters may furnish their Terminator Squads with transport in the form of gunships and battle tanks, and field them as swift and utterly unstoppable assault forces. The risks involved in such an action are high, for every suit of Terminator battle-plate is an irreplaceable relic, and those who wear it to battle are scarcely less valuable -- should such a force suffer heavy losses or, worse, be annihilated, their Chapter may never truly recover.
Yet it is a risk often worth taking; a hundred Terminator-armoured Space Marines supported by Land Raiders and Stormravens possess more than enough martial might to lay low the most monstrous of foes, or conquer an entire world in the Emperor's name.
The Codex Astartes makes provision for every Space Marine Chapter to maintain its own combat-capable fleet. Indeed, some Chapters are entirely fleet-based, roaming the galaxy aboard armadas of voidcraft that between them serve the same functions as other Chapters' fortress-monasteries.
Many Chapters, especially the older and more established amongst them, also retain a handful of battle barges; these potent voidcraft are every bit as formidable as Imperial Navy battleships, and often serve as the storied flagships of each Chapter's fleet.
It is in the launch bays of such warships that the Chapter's Drop Pods and Boarding Torpedoes wait to bear the warriors of the Chapter into war. Their launch decks, meanwhile, house squadron after squadron of fightercraft and gunships ready to swarm out and defend their parent craft or support ground forces in battle.
- Codex: Space Marines (6th Edition), pp. 24-25
- Codex: Space Marines (8th Edition) (Revised Codex), pp. 6-21, 184-185
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