Some of these honours exist across all of the Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes, while others are found only within individual Chapters.
Honour badges are used by Space Marines to recognise battle prowess and to designate specialists, such as Apothecaries and Techmarines. Each honour badge has its own customs of display, but are typically worn, painted or embossed on the recipient's power armour.
Some honours, such as the Iron Halo and Imperial Laurel, are commonly displayed on Space Marine standards, particularly Chapter banners.
This page presents some of the most notable honours, decorations and campaign badges available to the Space Marines.
Honours and Badges
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.
This device is the Marksman's Honour. Acts of remarkably accurate shooting or consistent performance with targetting of Astartes weapons are honoured with this award.
The Codex Astartes insists that those warriors who prove their accuracy in combat should be singled out so that their skill may be instantly commanded when necessary.
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 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.
A traditional honour 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.
The Imperialis was originally the campaign badge used by the Loyalist Space Marine Legions during the Horus Heresy. Over time it has evolved into the "honour of righteous victory" and is awarded to any Space Marine who has participated in an honoured victory for his Chapter.
Instead of being presented as a medal or badge, it is most commonly carved into the deserving Space Marine's chest plate, replacing the armour's standard Imperial Aquila symbol (if the Astartes is wearing Mark VI, Mark VII, VIII or X Power Armour).
It can also be seen engraved on the weapons of Astartes who have earned the badge, and also on banners or atop their heraldry finnials.
It is intended to represent both the Imperium of Man as a whole with the wings of the Aquila and the Emperor's sacrifice for humanity at the end of the Horus Heresy, which is embodied by the skull icon.
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, knee plates and even on Bolter cases or vehicles.
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.
The symbol has various forms and designs but all versions are carved from great chunks of stone.
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 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 Terran 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 a Chapter's ancient practices. Some tattoos may even be vestiges of pre-Space Marine tribal markings or hive city gang affiliations.
Space Marines are recruited from hundreds of different human cultures across the galaxy so it is no surprise to see this diversity reflected in some Astartes retaining the tattoos, scarification or warpaint of their homeworld's dominant peoples.
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 cities and forges.
The Raptor Imperialis was the first symbol used to represent the Imperium of Man during the Unification Wars.
During the Great Crusade, after the adoption of the Imperial Aquila, it marked out a Terran-born veteran Space Marine who had once fought alongside the Emperor Himself.
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
- 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
- Personal Heraldry - Every Ultramarines can ultimately develop his own heraldic crest if he survivies long enough to wrack up a string of impressive deeds.
Army Campaign Badges
Space Marines often find themselves going into battle alongside other Imperial forces. The massed ranks of the Astra Militarum 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 commanding 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 Astra Militarum 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.
- 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
- Insignium Astartes, pg. 62
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), pp. 18-19, 22
- Space Marine (Novel) by Ian Watson, pg. 143
- Warhammer 40,000 Compilation (1st Edition), pg. 30
- White Dwarf 73 (2015), "Forge World - Sigismund, First Captain of the Imperial Fists"
- The Horus Heresy Book One - Betrayal (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pg. 177