The Honour Badges of the Space Marines are awarded for all manner of heroic deed or worthy action. The principal of awarding badges for honours won in battle has always placed a major role amongst the various fighting forces of the Imperium of Man. Within the Adeptus Astartes such distinctions have become vital in reinforcing the bonds of kinship and common purpose displayed by a Chapter's Battle-Brothers.
Some honours are simply painted directly onto the recipient's Power Armour, while others take the form of elaborate carvings inscribed into the armour's ceramite plating. Whatever the form, all are highly regarded by the recipient and his fellow Astartes. Each Space Marine Chapter has its own variations of awards, ennoblements and honour badges, according to its history and traditions. The badges displayed below are amongst the most common accolades and see use in almost all Chapters.
Space Marine Honour Badges
- Iron Halo - The simple badge called the Iron Halo has its origins in the earliest days of the Imperium. Often painted onto an Astartes' armour as a red badge, the Iron Halo is the award granted for an exceptional battlefield leader and strategist. This award is given to those Battle-Brothers who demonstrate exceptional initiative. It is displayed on the shoulder armour or behind the helmet of the Astartes who has earned it as a mark of rank.
- Iron Skull - A traditional badge of ancient origin, the Iron Skull is awarded for the display of exceptional leadership in combat. It is the Codex Astartes-required insignia for a Space Marine Sergeant and is often displayed on the shoulder armour or helmet of an Astartes of this rank. The classical convention is to represent the Iron Skull as a red heraldic device.
- Imperial Laurel - Deeds of valour leading to a great victory for the Imperium are rewarded with the Imperial Laurel. A Battle-Brother who bears this honour has literally earned his laurels. The wreath is often worn as a crown or sculpted into the Ceramite of an Astartes's helmet. The Wreathed Skull is also a common form of the same honour. The Codex Astartes demands that Company and Chapter Standards be borne into battle only by Astartes who have been awarded the Imperial Laurel.
- Purity Seal - The Purity Seal is not so much an honour as a blessing given by the Chapter's Chaplains. Before a campaign the Chaplains pass through the ranks chanting litanies and invocations. Honoured individuals are marked by the Chaplains for special blessings recorded on the parchment streamers and affixed to their armour with the great wax seal which are often replaced with a more permanent electrum casting of the seal after the battle.
- Marksman's Honour - The Marksman's Honour is a device used to recognize those Astartes that perform acts of remarkably accurate shooting or consistent performance with their targeting. The Codex Astartes insists that those warriors who prove their combat accuracy should be singled out so that their skill may be instantly commanded. Within certain Chapters it is believed that the Marksman's Honour badges were forged by encasing in gold the Bolter shell cases fired in battle by that Chapter's Primarch.
- The Imperialis - The winged skull badge that is called the Imperialis has its origins in the great Horus Heresy. It was adopted as the campaign badge of the Loyalist Legions during the Imperium-wide conflict that was the heresy. Since then it has become the honour of righteous victory. Most often the chest armour of the recipient is carved into the great winged skull but it can also appear on the banners and finials.
- Skull and Motto - In addition to the specific badge of the Iron Skull, there are many other icons and emblems which incorporate the skull, a common Imperil motif intended to represent the sacrifice made by the Emperor for humanity's sake during the Horus Heresy. As honours these decorations often have a multitude of uses and meanings. Often combined with simple mottoes, the skull honour can be seen on shoulder plates, helmets, kneepads and even on Bolter cases or vehicles.
- Prime Helix - The Prime Helix is the emblem of the Apothecaries of a Chapter. The bright red design represents both the gene-seed itself and, to some extent, the sacrifice every Space Marine is prepared to make to ensure the Chapter's future.
- Machina Opus - The Machina Opus is the mark of a Tech-priest Adept. It is awarded to each Techmarine as he completes his mysterious training with the Adeptus Mechanicus on Mars. Bearers of the Machina Opus are accorded great respect by the Tech-priests and they alone are allowed free passage through the Red Planet's Ring of Iron and into the great workshops of the Martian Hive.
- Crux Terminatus - This is one of the most famous of all Space Marine icons. Only the honoured 1st Company Veterans of a Space Marine Chapter fight in suits of Terminator Armour and wear this badge. The symbol has various forms and designs but all versions are carved from great chunks of stone. Within each badge is bound an infinitesimal fragment of the suit of Power Armour worn by the Emperor during his climatic battle with the arch-traitor Horus over ten millennia ago high above Terra. Sergeants and Captains bear modified versions of the design to signify their rank and authority. Smaller representations of the Crux are frequently worn by the Veterans when they fight in standard Power Armour to display their elite status. These small, metallic icons can be hung from banner tops, weapons and belts.
Service StudsService Studs are small metallic rivets that are attached directly to an Astartes' cranium to record his years of service to his Chapter. A single stud records, 10, 50 or 100 years of service depending on its design and the Chapter traditions. The awarding of service studs is described in the Codex Astartes but is not set out as an official requirement or regulation of the Chapter. In recent centuries the awarding of service studs has been on the decline and fewer Chapters continue the practice.
Tattoos are not official Chapter honours but traditional markings derived from the Chapter's ancient practices. Some tattoos may even be vestiges of pre-Space Marine tribal markings or gang affiliations. Space Marines are recruited from hundreds of different human cultures so it is no surprise to see this reflected in some Astartes retaining the tattoos, scarification or warpaint of their homeworld culture.
Army Campaign Badges
Space Marines often find themselves going into battle alongside other Imperial forces. The massed ranks of the Imperial Guard form the major portion of any allied contingent of Imperial forces and include huge tank divisions as well as enormous numbers of foot soldiers. When an army of the Imperium goes to war it is standard practice for the Imperial Commander or general to choose a symbol to act as a campaign badge in accordance with the regulations set down in the Codex Astartes.
This "field sign" is known as the Army Badge and serves to identify all the troops and equipment that are operating under a single command for a single campaign and helps with recognition of friendly units on the field of battle. The Army Badge is painted on Space Marine Power Armour and Imperial Guard vehicles alike. Each time a Space Marine applies the badge the recipient receives a blessing from the company Chaplain or from an attached member of the Imperial Ecclesiarchy if serving alongside one of the other Imperial armed forces.
The Army Badge is deliberately designed to be quite straightforward and is an instantly recognisable symbol that functions as a battlefield identification. Space Marines generally apply the Army Badge to their right leg greave. The Army Badge is generally used for the duration of a single campaign and is removed or replaced at the successful conclusion of the campaign. If a squad, regiment or indeed an individual warrior has performed exceptionally in the campaign, the Army Badge may be incorporated onto their armour, uniform or heraldry as a permanent honour. This is particularly true of banners and standards and many of the lavish designs seen on Chapter, company and individual Astartes banners are, in part, derived from the Army Badges of previous campaigns.
Other Known Honour Badges
Within the various Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes, there exists a diverse assortment of honour badges, icons, titles and fetishes that are used to recognise Battle-Brothers of a specific Chapter.
- Entry into the Chronicles of the Death-Speakers is considered a high honour in this Chapter.
- Order of Martyrdom
- Enemy of Valour - This is the only known honour to be granted to enemy combatants by a Space Marine Chapter.
- Medallion Immolatus
- Writ Sanguinatus Mori
- Sigil of Prophecy
- Order of the Sundering Star
- Bloody Mantle
- Red Hand
- Order of Guilliman
- Tenebrae Astra
- Order of the Fire of Ry'lan
- Citation for Fortitude
- Laurel of Endurance
- Pennant Specularis
- Aquila - An honour badge proclaiming great wisdom. This badge is a miniature representation of the Emperor's Imperial Eagle.
- Eternium Ultra - There are few such revered relics in Ultramar as these. They mark an Ultramarines Battle-Brother of senior rank and esteemed position.
- Honorifica Valourum - Awarded in recognition of exceptional bravery during a notable battles
- Laurel of Defiance
- Personal Heraldry
- Principex Maxima
- Valour Crest - The right to bear a Valour Crest must be earned through acts of near suicidal bravery; the colours of the crest are often representative of the noble house of Ultramar from which many Ultramarines Aspirants are recruited
- Victorex Alpha - Awarded for exceptional valour
- Codex: Space Marines (6th Edition), pg. 44
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), pg. 22
- Codex: Ultramarines (2nd Edition), pp. 22-23
- Insignium Astartes, pp. 64-65
- Imperial Armour Volume Nine - The Badab War - Part One, pp. 71, 79, 91, 99, 107, 116-117
- Imperial Armour Volume Ten - The Badab War - Part Two, pp. 68, 70, 75, 84-85, 95, 110-112, 133, 139
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (6th Edition), pg. 185