The Second War for Armageddon is the second of three massive conflicts between the Imperium of Man and the Ork Warboss Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka that took place between 941.M41 through 943.M41. The war was fought on the Hive World of Armageddon in the Segmentum Solar, where Ghazghkull Thraka launched an Ork WAAAGH! consisting of five separate Ork tribes in an attempt to seize the planet for themselves.
Three Space Marine Chapters were involved, including: the Blood Angels, Salamanders and the Ultramarines, along with dozens of regiments of the Astra Militarum as well as a large contingent of Inquisition forces from the Ordo Xenos composed of Squats. A notable effect of this invasion resulted in Ghazghkull earning the wrath of Commissar Yarrick, who dedicated his efforts after the Second War to hunting down Ghazghkull, with little success.
The main conflict lasted for only two standard years, but continuous combat took place between the Imperial forces and the Orks remaining on the world for another twenty Terran years until 961.M41. This war represented a colossal effort between both races for the control of a single, highly strategic planet. However, it would pale in comparison to the second attempt by Ghazghkull to take the world several solar decades later, unleashing the Third War for Armageddon.
Prior to the Ork Landing
The war may be seem to have begun on Armageddon, but it really began some nine years earlier. At this time, Ghazghkull was a lowly Ork Boyz in the Ork armies on the planet of Urk. A Space Marine force from an unknown Chapter raided the planet in the hopes of disrupting the Ork forces there. During the battle, a Bolter shell ripped into Ghazghkull's skull, causing massive brain damage and blasting off a good chunk of his cranium.
He was luckily (or not) found by a Painboy known as Mad Dok Grotsnik who replaced that part of his cranium with a bionic device. Somehow this device may have enabled Ghazghkull's latent psychic powers, or he may just have been suffering from delusions. But whatever the cause, from then on he claimed to be in communion with the Ork Gods, Gork and Mork. Within six Terran years he had risen to control his tribe as its Warboss, and one year later he got his opportunity to lead a great horde of conquest, for the star around which his planet orbited was dying.
There were severe solar flares causing many Ork deaths from the radiation, but fortunately a massive Space Hulk appeared in orbit around the planet. Whether this was dumb luck or a higher power believed Ghazghkull and his Orks worthy of survival, he managed to convince the other four Ork tribes on the planet to follow him on his great WAAAGH! and unite under his rule.
While en route through the Warp the power systems on the Hulk failed causing its Gellar Field to collapse several times. As a result, the Orks had to fight off hundreds of daemons, providing them with extensive battle experience. One solar month before landing on Armageddon, the Hulk, designated Alveus Alpha Alpha Sextus by Imperial Administratum Adepts, destroyed the defences of the Armageddon System, including its obsolete orbital satellites and small Attack Craft.
Desperate messages were sent by the world of Armageddon's beleaguered defenders in the hope of acquiring aid against the huge Ork horde that was descending upon them. Three Space Marine Chapters began to organize themselves to go to Armageddon's defense but were not able to get to the strategically located Hive world before the Orks landed. A month later, the Orks disembarked as their Space Hulk slammed into the planet, initiating the primary campaign of the Second War for Armageddon on the day of the Feast of the Emperor's Ascension, 941.M41.
The War Begins
After the Orks landed, a massive Warp Storm formed around the Armageddon System, preventing Imperial reinforcements from aiding the beleaguered human forces on the planet. The Ork horde split off into their five separate tribes, and two of them were sent into the planet's northern reaches to take hold of the western half of the world's main sub-continent, a region called Armageddon Prime.
Herman von Strab, the Imperial Planetary Governor and Overlord of Armageddon, was ignorant of the threat posed by the Orks. There were several warnings of the encroaching danger, including readings of the Emperor's Tarot and Chartist Captains' warnings of disturbances in the Warp for several solar months before the Space Hulk's arrival in the Armageddon System, but von Strab ignored them all. Only after the Orks landed did any real astropathic distress signal leave the planet, and only due to the foresight of Astra Militarum Commissar Sebastian Yarrick.
Von Strab banished Yarrick to Hades Hive for countermanding his orders to not request aid from the Imperial authorities, which was located on the sub-continent of Armageddon Secundus, the name of the eastern half of Armageddon's primary continent. Von Strab decided he could take on the Orks with his available forces from the world's Planetary Defence Forces (PDF).
The populations of Armageddon Prime formed into defensive units and fortified around their hive city homes but were pushed further and further back by the unstoppable Orks. Piecemeal attacks were ordered by von Strab which only led to the deaths of more humans. Commissar Yarrick ordered shuttle runs to help arm the north, the pilots skipping out of the atmosphere and back in again before the Orks could intercept them. Many pilots died as their vessels were destroyed, the remains falling back to the planet in flaming chunks.
Von Strab hastily relocated his command centre to Hive Tartarus in Armageddon Secundus, knowing that the north of the world would fall to the Orks no matter what he did. The location of three of the Ork tribes that had invaded the world were unaccounted for but von Strab believed they were being held in reserve by the Warboss.
Princeps Prime Kurtiz Mannheim, the commander of the Adeptus Mechanicus' Legio Metalica Titan Legion that was temporarily stationed on Armageddon, advised von Strab to prepare for an attack from these three tribes. Von Strab ignored him, believing they remained held in reserve, and that they would never cross the equatorial jungle region of the world at the centre of the peninsula that separated Armageddon Prime from Armageddon Secundus. Von Strab then intended to launch a mighty counterattack, leading from the fore and reaping the glory.
The Real Fight Begins
Two solar days later, the Orks invaded Armageddon Secundus just as Mannheim had predicted. It was the Season of Storms and the many volcanoes of Armageddon erupted, sending black clouds high into the sky. Massive armoured columns of Orks charged through the thin Imperial lines, and two tribes moved east of the Palidus Mountains toward Hades Hive and one to the west of the mountains to Hive Helsreach.
Von Strab ordered his Titans, under Mannheim, to attack and wipe out the Orks. Mannheim protested that they should wait and fight a holding action, but von Strab screamed that he needed no help. Mannheim was under an oath to act as von Strab ordered him to, and as such he gathered his Titan Legion and said goodbye to his family.
The great Titans strode forth into the fray, and massacred thousands of Orks, but the huge number of Ork Gargants present at the heart of the WAAAGH! demolished even the powerful Imperial Titans quickly. Mannheim, realising his allies would soon be overrun, led the Legio Metalica and its Skitarii escort against a wave of Ork Titan-class threats and six million Ork infantry. After slaying an Ork Gargant in a grueling duel, Mannheim ordered his badly wounded Titan Steel Hammer to self-destruct, his sacrifice killing another two Gargants and burning out the heart out of the Ork offensive in the process. Mannheim was posthumously awarded the Emperor's Star for his valour.
Without the potent power of the Titan Legion to keep the Ork horde at bay, the Imperial forces now fell back, establishing defensive lines along the many rivers of Armageddon Secundus, including the Stygies River in the west and Diabolus River in the east. When the storms abated the Orks drove south, crushing the defences and sweeping into Hive Infernus. Demoralized, the officer in charge of the defense of Infernus shamefully surrendered without a fight. The refugee columns, hundreds of kilometers long, trekked across the deserts of Armageddon and were harried by Ork biker units, herding them back to Hive Infernus to work as slaves in the Ork warmachine.
The Climax of the War
Soon, Hades Hive was under siege by the Orks, and the hardest fighting began. Commissar Yarrick was organizing the defences of Hades Hive and he seemed to be everywhere at this time. He would help weld shut the great blast portals of the hive city while at the same time negotiate treaties with the many hive gangs of Hades' Underhive. Amazingly, Yarrick succeeded in putting together a rag-tag army to defend Hades. Thousands of Orks waited for the call to attack while their Gargants pounded the hive city with their biggest guns. The people of Hades survived on rats and roaches and on reduced power. Few speak of this time other than to praise Commissar Yarrick.
It was then that von Strab released his secret battery of ancient Virus Bombs. His family had had them stocked for a potentially desperate time since the first colonisation of Armageddon long millennia before during the Dark Age of Technology. They were mounted on antiquated missile systems and hastily pressed into service.
Unfortunately, many malfunctioned due to their age, as the rockets would not fire, detonators would not arm and the virus they contained had decreased in potency over time. The missiles wreaked havoc among the Orks but did not come even close to producing the casualties needed to stop the horde from overrunning the world. Overlord Von Strab retired to his richly appointed bunker to sulk.
To the west of Armageddon Secundus in the port city of Hive Helsreach, the planet's population put up a fierce defence, inspired by the defence of Hades. They were a highly organised irregular force, with street gangs ambushing the Orks at every corner. Converted oil super tanks were used to evacuate the population to the ships waiting in the hive city's dock, known as Grendel's Lock, from where noncombatants could be taken to safety across the Tempest Ocean.
There was not enough room aboard the vessels, so lots were thrown for the places, and those who remained in the city knew they would not survive the next attack. Using improvised weapons, human suicide bombers got as deep into the Ork lines as they could and then detonated the explosives strapped to their chests.
The drivers of the great loading cranes at Hive Helsreach who normally moved cargo off and onto the ships that docked at Grendel's Lock welded themselves into their massive cargo shifting cranes and battled with the Gargants. The resistance was so stubborn that even the Ork commanders wondered if it was worth it. The victory for the Orks came in the form of a massive psychic attack by their Weirdboyz, which destroyed the minds of all the humans left in Hive Helsreach, leaving it open for Ork conquest.
Then the Warboss Ghazghkull himself arrived to coordinate the attack on Hades Hive. He tried every strategy he could think of, and finally claimed that he was told what action to take by the whisperings of the Ork deities, Gork and Mork. He tried dropping elite Ork Kommandos onto the spires of the hive, had great siege weapons built and even retrofitted Gargants with earth-moving devices, all to no avail.
For every strategy Ghazghkull tried, Commissar Yarrick found a defence. He had the Hades maintenance crews go into the hive city's ventilation shafts, armed with a bolt pistol and knife, and attack the Ork Kommandos as they came down. Not one Kommando survived. The hive's transport infrastructure was used to counter feint attacks and suicide bombers slipped out to successfully destroy the huge siege weaponry.
Imperial Reinforcements Arrive
Meanwhile, as the siege of Hades Hive continued, Ork columns surged south from Hive Helsreach and Hive Infernus, heading for Hive Acheron. Acheron seemed to be the last bastion of human resistance on the planet, and the Acheronians steeled themselves.
As they looked out of their ocular monitors they could see the Orks slowly advancing on their position. The only support they had from Overlord von Strab were his happy thoughts and the twenty members of his personal guard whom he most disliked. The Orks stormed forward and quickly overran the outer hive, beginning the siege of the hive city's core. The Hive Governor refused to surrender and made a passionate speech to his people to increase their morale and fighting spirit, but it was all for naught.
The Orks, confident of victory, charged headlong into the hive. Suddenly, out of nowhere, massive explosions rent holes in the Orks' advance columns. The vehicles of the Orks were thrown into the air like so much chaff and the inhabitants of Acheron looked on in amazement as the orbital bombardment continued.
Ships filled the skies and Imperial Thunderhawk gunships dropped Space Marine squads off in the path of the Orks. Surprised by this turn of events, the Orks reeled back while the Space Marines continued to deploy. The defenders of the hive came out to aid the Space Marines. For the first time in the war, the Orks suffered a defeat on the battlefield.
The Space Marines quickly set up a base of operations. Von Strab protested their arrival, saying he had everything under control, but the Force Commander of the Blood Angels Chapter's forces, Commander Dante, announced he was taking control of all Imperial forces on the planet. He ordered that Von Strab be put under house arrest while awaiting trial by the Adeptus Arbites for negligence, assassination and murder.
Von Strab escaped in a Land Speeder which was later found wrecked, but his body was never recovered. Meanwhile, to the north, Warboss Ghazghkull was massing more and more forces to assault Hades Hive. Due to the duration of the Orks' assault, food eventually ran out in the hive. Food parcels came from the north to the south, reversing the previous flow of supplies. Yet the people of Hades Hive suffered from a feeling of dread and impending doom. Not even Commissar Yarrick's herculaean efforts could raise their spirits.
Victory in Sight
Lord Commander Dante tried a desperate gamble to capture Ghazghkull by dropping the Blood Angels in behind enemy lines and assaulting his headquarters; unfortunately, Ghazghkull was touring the front lines at the time. The Space Marines' assault did do serious amounts of damage to the Ork spearhead.
In the battle to retake Tartarus Hive, the titanic forces of Orks and Imperial troops clashed in hand-to-hand combat in what would be some of the bloodiest fighting of the war. Space Marine strike forces constantly harried the Orks inside the Hive. Time after time, the Orks attempted a breakout, but were pushed back by the narrowest of margins.
In the end, the Orks ran out of food and ammunition and resorted to fight or die tactics, each of them using knives and rocks to attack the Imperial forces. Eventually the Orks were wiped out to the last greenskin. It is said that Ghazghkull himself fell, taking a bolter shell to the mechanical portion of his brain, but if so, his body was never found and in truth he had survived the battle to trouble the Imperium yet again.
For all intents and purposes, the Second War for Armageddon was over. The Ork invaders were forced back after having their leader supposedly killed and half their army wiped out. The surviving Orks were pushed back into the jungles, where they slowly devolved into a feral state as their reserves of advanced technology collapsed. From the moment Tartarus was relieved by Imperial forces, victory for the Imperium was at last assured and Armageddon would remain a human-controlled world.
An Imperial relief force was finally sent north to Hades Hive including forces from all three of the Space Marine Chapters that had arrived on the planet. Unfortunately, just before they got there, the Hive was finally overrun by the Orks. Only a few of the humans within Hades survived, including the battered Commissar Yarrick, surrounded by dozens of Ork corpses.
In the west, a wave of Ork reinforcements arrived, hoping to push back to Hive Tartarus and break the back of the renewed Imperial resistance. The forces defending the western regions had been stripped for the attack on Hades and were easily overrun. Ghazghkull, evidently having returned from the dead, led the last ditch attempt by the Orks to conquer the planet.
The Greenskin offensive succeeded in pushing through the Skeletus River defensive cordon. For a while it looked like the Orks might succeed, but they were eventually pushed back to Armageddon Primus through a concentrated effort of the Space Marines. Sporadic fighting continued off and on for another dozen Terran years, but the Orks eventually took such losses that they were forced to retreat back to their newly constructed starships and eventually escape the system in 961.M41.
The War in the North
While the war was reaching its conclusion in the south, the fighting on Armageddon Prime intensified after the landing of the Space Marines in Armageddon Secundus. When the Warp Storm finally lifted, a vast contingent of Squats landed to the north under the command of Inquisitor Horst of the Ordo Xenos. He had been fighting on the mining world of Golgotha, a Squat world, and when they arrived at Armageddon, they were directed to the north to aid the defences there.
After the defeat at Tartarus Hive, Horst led the Squats in a massive push and forced the defeated Orks back to the Equatorial Jungles between the two primary settled regions of Armageddon's main continent. The Squats made full use of their famed Land Trains against their most hated foe, lumbering across the planet blasting their huge cannons at the Orks fleeing ahead of them.
The Second War for Armageddon was over and the Emperor's forces had prevailed, yet the Warboss Ghazghkull harboured nothing else in his heart but a desire for a rematch--a rematch that would come fifty-seven years to the day after the start of the Second War.
Due to the fact that the history of the First War for Armageddon against Chaos has been entirely suppressed by the actions of the Inquisition, most of the Imperium, and the citizens of Armageddon itself, considered this conflict to be the First War for Armageddon, rather than the second.
- Battle for Armageddon (Board Game)
- Codex: Armageddon (3rd Edition), pp. 24-25
- Codex Adeptus Mechanicus - Skitarii (7th Edition), pg. 25
- Third War for Armageddon - World Wide Campaign
- Imperator: Wrath of the Omnissiah (Novel) by Gav Thorpe, Ch. 7