"The men and women of the Imperial Guard sacrifice more and gain less than perhaps any other arm of the Imperial Armed Forces."
- — Commissar Ibram Gaunt
Ibram Gaunt, also known as the "People's Hero," is an Imperial commissar and the commanding officer of the Tanith First and Only regiment of the Astra Militarum, better known as "Gaunt's Ghosts." He later became a Lord Militant, before being appointed the First Lord Executor Militant of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade by Warmaster Macaroth, its second leader.
Gaunt is most notable for leading his regiment in the Sabbat Worlds Crusade which had consumed much of the Sabbat Worlds Sector in the Segmentum Pacificus from 755.M41 onwards. A political favourite of the Imperial Warmaster Slaydo who first commanded the Crusade, Gaunt was given the unusual honour of a regimental command rank of colonel alongside his commissar duties on the order of the Warmaster as Slaydo lay on his deathbed.
Gaunt was ordered to assume command of three full Imperial Guard regiments drawn from the heavily forested backwater Agri-world of Tanith. However, just as he was to take up the position, Tanith was assaulted from orbit by a Chaos Warfleet which destroyed the Tanith Second and Third Regiments, leaving the Tanith First as the only survivors. Gaunt forced the personnel of the Tanith First to evacuate and prevented them from dying with their world in a futile gesture of defiance.
The men and women of the lost forest world who comprised the Tanith First-and-Only were under-strength, poorly-equipped and lacked effective leadership. Through the efforts of Colonel-Commissar Gaunt, the Tanith First was transformed from a rag-tag unit that most expected would dissolve in its first combat into one of the most effective and decorated units of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Gaunt would personally lead the Tanith First into combat on multiple occasions, including serving as an honour guard for the reborn Imperial Saint Sabbat herself.
From 781 to 791.M41, Gaunt and his Ghosts were lost in the Warp following a deviant Warp jump; when they reemerged into realspace, Gaunt found himself a celebrated Imperial hero who had been "posthumously" promoted to Lord Militant for his successful strategy of false flag operations which weakened the two main warlords of the Archenemy in the Sabbat Worlds, saving the Crusade. Returning to the Imperial front lines, Gaunt was immediately officially promoted to the new rank on the Forge World of Urdesh by a group of thirty Astra Militarum Marshalls and Lords Militant.
Ibram Gaunt remains one of the most celebrated heroes of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, and is exemplary of Imperial military and moral leadership without recourse to the authoritarian terror tactics that have darkened the reputation of most Imperial Commissars.
Ibram Gaunt was born on the world of Manzipor, the son of the executive officer of the Jantine Patricians regiment of the Astra Militarum. Like almost all Imperial Commissars, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt is an orphan, the son of an Imperial Guard officer killed heroically in battle defending the Imperium from Orks. He was raised and indoctrinated on the Schola Progenium world of Ignatius Cardinal, where he was occasionally visited by his "uncle," General Aldo Dercius of the Jantine Patricians, the commander of that regiment and a close friend of his father. Gaunt learned from Dercius that his father had been an Astra Militarum hero, but had died in battle with the Greenskins. Yet the exact circumstances surrounding the death of Gaunt's father remained hidden from him.
As a Cadet-Commissar he served under Commissar-General Delane Oktar of the Hyrkan Regiments, gaining the full rank of Commissar on Oktar's deathbed after the Commissar-General was poisoned by Orks on the world of Gylatus Decimus. Gaunt then served as a political officer with the Hyrkan 8th, from the regiment's foundation to its victory on Balhaut, a world reclaimed by the Imperium during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. After this victory, Gaunt was granted the additional rank of Colonel, along with command of the three new regiments raised from the world of Tanith.
While serving with the Hyrkans as a cadet, Gaunt encountered a captive girl who had been touched by the Warp, and upon questioning the rogue psyker, he discovered the fate of his father: the elder Gaunt had served on a mission to an enemy-held world, but had been abandoned by the cowardice of General Dercius and left to die.
When circumstance brought Gaunt and his "uncle" together in the field, Gaunt, now a fully-fledged Commissar with the Hyrkans, revealed this knowledge to Dercius, and challenged him to an honour duel using Chainswords. While he succeeded in killing Dercius, and avenging his father, Gaunt suffered near-mortal injuries from his "uncle"'s blade and forever after possessed a jagged scar across his stomach. This event earned him the hatred of the Jantine Patrician regiments for some years after.
As the Commissar of the Hyrkan 8th, Gaunt's actions brought him to the Warmaster's attention. As a result, he was present at the conclave of high Astra Militarum officers when the Warmaster Slaydo announced that he had been named the commanding officer of the newborn Sabbat Worlds Crusade by the High Lords of Terra to retake the Sabbat Worlds Sector from the Forces of Chaos. Gaunt was also one of the few officers invited to attend a private banquet with Slaydo held just before the great victory on Balhaut. During the banquet, Slaydo shared his reverence for Saint Sabbat, and made each of his guests swear a blood oath to protect the reborn Living Saint at all costs.
Following his vengeance against Aldo Dercius, Gaunt served as the ranking Officio Prefectus agent for the 8th Hyrkans, and played a crucial part in the battle for the world of Balhaut during where he led his men alongside the Warmaster Slaydo in the centre of the Imperial front, in the mudlakes. In the battle, Gaunt's finest hour to that time, the 8th Hyrkans took on and destroyed the Forces of Chaos' assault carriers. They stormed the Oligarchy Gate, the first Imperial unit to do so, and destroyed the Tower of the Plutocrat, ultimately winning the battle and earning the Hyrkans a place in the annals of Imperial glory.
This great victory finally opened up a corridor into the benighted sector for the Crusade to advance against the Archenemy. But the triumph came at the cost of Slaydo's life, who had been mortally wounded during the fighting. As he lay dying, Slaydo gave the young Commissar another deathbed promotion, this time to the rare rank of Colonel-Commissar, allowing him to command three full regiments of the Imperial Guard. As a further extraordinary reward, Slaydo granted Gaunt's regiments the Right of Settlement, the opportunity to retire from the Emperor's service and settle the first world that they conquered in the sector. This would prove a great incentive for the men and women of Tanith after the destruction of their homeworld.
Tanith First and Only
During the founding of the First, Second and Third Tanith Regiments, Tanith fell to a surprise Chaos attack. Gaunt ordered the forces of Tanith to retreat, depriving them of the chance to fight and die for their homeworld. The retreat was costly; from three entire regiments there were less than four thousand survivors, and not a single officer of the three regiments made it off Tanith.
While waiting for orders, Gaunt was instrumental in the reorganisation of the survivors, reorganizing the men into the Tanith First-and-Only, and promoting the non-commissioned officers and soldiers who had shown initiative and leadership during the retreat and subsequent reorganization to officer positions. The Tanith were ordered to the world of Blackshard, and during their successful first engagement were dubbed "Gaunt's Ghosts", a moniker that would stick with the regiment for the duration of its existence.
Gaunt is considered to be an unconventional but effective leader, slowly winning the devotion and respect of the soldiers who initially hated him for letting their homeworld fall to Chaos without a fight. He is feared among the upper echelons of the Imperium almost as much as he is feared by the forces of Chaos, as he is a model for honour and defiance of corruption in all forms. He is respected by many soldiers and commanders because he leads from the front, attacking the enemy alongside his men. He gained great respect with his men and the new recruits for the Tanith First-and-Only when he killed the Chaos warlord Heritor Asphodel during the battle for Verghast. However, some would consider his unorthodox approach and rank problematic, as in many ways he fails in his duty as a commissar. His ability as a leader is never questioned, indeed he has been approached for promotion several times, but to assist his duties as a Commissar, Victor Hark was introduced to the regiment.
After a standard year on the frontline trenches of the world of Fortis Binary, the Ghosts were used as an arrowhead unit for a deep counterattack following an assault by the Shriven, former Imperial workers who had been corrupted by Chaos and transformed into mutants. Leading from the front personally, Gaunt achieved even greater success then he had imagined, as a gruelling battle led to him breaking through the Chaos lines with a great portion of his men intact, finding themselves in abandoned dugouts and industrial areas. They were quickly pinned down with no hope of retreat by a carpet bombardment which greatly bemused the men. Having encountered a series of drumming machines in factories, Gaunt pulled his men away from the main approaches, where they linked up with a similarly-sized force of Vitrian Dragoons under the command Colonel Zoren. It was there that Gaunt noticed an explosion from an industrial area further along the line that was not a result of the bombardment. Surmising that this was the work of his own men, Gaunt established contact with the saboteurs, who turned out to be another Tanith section led by Corbec. After Gaunt berated Corbec for his lack of discipline, the Tanith forces joined together and eventually penetrated the Shriven's stronghold and destroy its garrison's ammunition stores. Eventually, the Ghosts joined with other Imperial forces to sabotage a Chaos ritual intended to turn the soldiers of the Imperial offensive into Daemonhosts and Fortis Binary finally fell to the forces of the Crusade.
Eventually, the Tanith First-and-Only had been fighting in the Sabbat Worlds Crusade for approximately ten standard years. They had seen combat on several worlds, including Fortis Binary, Menazoid Epsilon, Monthax, Verghast, Phantine, Hagia, Herodor and Ancreon Sextus. However, due to the inevitable casualties, and the lack of a homeworld from which to draw new recruits, the regiment is constantly dwindling in size. This fate was held back for a time by the mass-recruitment of survivors from the hive-city of Vervunhive, on Verghast, but even with these reinforcements, it was only a matter of time before the Ghosts shrunk below the size of a viable military force. To solve this problem, the Tanith First was disbanded and folded into the 81st Belladon Recon under Colonel Wilder to form the "Eighty-first First."
Eventually, the Commissariat's suspicion and unease with Gaunt's unorthodox command approach reached a boiling point after his return from his Vermilion-level mission (coded EZ for Extremely Hazardous) on Gereon. Afraid that he and his team were "tainted" during their extended stay on a Chaos-held world, and because the Tanith First was folded into the Belladon 81st and technically did not exist any more, the Imperial command decided to strip Gaunt of his command position and revert him back to his original Commissar status. Gaunt eventually managed to regain command of the Eighty-first First, but only after Colonel Wilder of the Belladon 81st granted him field command before sacrificing himself in a heroic rearguard action. Gaunt's hold on this field command remained uncertain.
Gaunt later returned to Gereon, bringing with him the Imperial liberation forces and finally freeing Gereon from the rule of Chaos. He was ordered to establish contact with the Gereon resistance, given his prior experience with them. To do so he had to go into the Untill again, discovering on the way that Mkvenner was dead, being reunited with surgeon Ana Curth and chopping off Larkin's foot with his Power Sword. It eventually transpired that the Inquisition wanted him to broker contact with the Partisans in order to exploit the fauna and flora of the Untill in the search of a cure for Chaos corruption. Gaunt told the Inquisitor that it is only through "The Armour of Contempt" that any may resist the temptations of Chaos.
During the defence of the Hinzerhaus on Jago, Gaunt was captured by the Blood Pact and presumed dead, leading Major Elim Rawne to take command of the Ghosts. Gaunt was recovered by Mkoll and Eszrah ap Niht on the Deada Waeg while they destroyed a Blood Pact command camp, though he had been blinded by the forces of the Arch-Enemy and was close to death due to the torture that he had suffered. He was told by Lord General van Voytz that his new augmetic eyes will be the best possible. Gaunt's only response was to make van Voytz promise never to place his regiment in such an impossible situation again.
During the years of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, Colonel-Commissar Gaunt participated in dozens of other operations and missions than are recorded here. Among them was leading a commando team on Menazoid Epsilon that discovered and destroyed a Standard Template Construct database that had been corrupted by Chaos. This also allowed Gaunt to unwittingly disrupt a plot by Lord General Militant Hechtor Dravere to seize command of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade from Slaydo's successor, the Warmaster Macaroth.
On Monthax, Gaunt and his Tanith troops stood against a numerically far superior Chaos force, and came out victorious with the aid of the Royal Volpone Regiment and an Eldar strike force.
On Verghast, Gaunt took command of all the Imperial forces defending the hive city of Vervunhive when there were no longer any higher-ranking officers present. Gaunt led the strike force that infiltrated Heritor Asphodel's command vehicle and personally slew the leader of the Chaos forces on that world.
Gaunt and the Tanith First-and-Only served as the honour guard that returned the remains of Saint Sabbat to safety on Hagia and succeeded in defeating the Chaos forces that assaulted the planet.
Gaunt is much more compassionate than most Imperial Commissars, and evidences true concern for the well-being of his troops. He tries to lead through displays of virtue, not the imposition of terror. This style has drawn anger and disbelief from some of his superiors in the Officio Prefectus, who prefer that Commissars use the threats of fear and violence to keep Imperial troops in line and devoted to their duty. Gaunt has proven to be a political lightning rod, drawing favour from officers like the Warmaster Slaydo who valued his skill in combat and his determination to do his duty, while drawing the ire of other commanders such as Colonel Flense, Lord General Hechtor Dravere and Lord General Lugo who were constantly maneuvering to enhance their own political status within the Crusade, regardless of the harm to its personnel or the chances for Imperial victory.
Ibram Gaunt's preferred side arm was always a mortal-sized Bolt Pistol. Early in his career, he preferred to use a Chainsword in close combat that had been a gift from his mentor in the Officio Prefectus Commissar-General Delane Oktar, but this weapon was destroyed in combat with a daemon during the Imperial defence of Vervunhive on Verghast. It was replaced by the relic Power Sword known as the Sword of Heironymo Sondar during the final days of the siege of Vervunhive.
- Codex: Astra Militarum (8th Edition), pg. 27
- Codex: Astra Militarum (6th Edition) (Digital Edition), "Regiments of Distinction - Tanith First and Only"
- Codex: Imperial Guard (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex)
- Gaunt's Ghosts Novel Series:
- First and Only (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Ghostmaker (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Necropolis (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Honour Guard (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- The Guns of Tanith (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Straight Silver (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Sabbat Martyr (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Traitor General (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- His Last Command (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- The Armour of Contempt (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Only in Death (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Blood Pact (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Salvation's Reach (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- The Warmaster (Novel) by Dan Abnett