The Imperial Guard, often referred to as The Hammer of the Emperor, is a colossal military organization, consisting of many billions of regiments throughout the Imperium of Man and forming the vast bulk of the Imperium's military machine. For every one Space Marine who stands as a shining symbol of the Imperium's might, a billion more ordinary men and women take up arms as part of the Guard to defend humanity. As a matter of fact, there are fewer Marines than planets in the Imperium. It has thus been said that while Space Marines win battles, the Imperial Guard wins wars.
Given the massive nature of the Imperial Guard and the poor connection between worlds, it is no surprise that the organization itself is very diverse, with regiments from across human-controlled space bringing with them a wide variety of combat doctrines and styles. Light infantry, heavy infantry, armour, artillery, penal units, and even horseback-riding calvary, all can be found in the Imperial Guard. It mostly depends on the traditions and industrial capabilities of the world in question: for example, Armageddon Steel Legions are heavily mechanized because Armageddon is a heavily industrialised planet that produces Chimeras.
In many cases, the Guard are treated as expendable tools, an endless tide of bodies to throw at the enemies of humanity, though some regiments and commanders (like Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt of the Tanith First (and Only)) approach combat far differently, with equally impressive results. However, there are some similarities and unified ideals that exist across the Guard, including the use of political commissars for the maintenance of order and discipline.
In Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, the remaining Imperial Guard forces on Forge World Graia assist Captain Titus of the Ultramarines in repelling the Ork invaders. In the expansion, Chaos Unleashed they are the one of the main enemies of the playable Chaos Space Marines in Exterminatus mode.
The origins of the Imperial Guard go back to the Great Crusade, the 200-year expansion war in the 30th millennium when the Emperor of Man was reuniting mankind. Although the Emperor had his early Space Marine Legions to spearhead his invasion, the Astartes had not the numbers to claim and hold it all. Thus a larger force was needed to garrison conquered worlds, build massive sieges, and the like. This force was called the Imperial Army.
The earliest precursor of the Guard was formed on Terra itself during the homeworld's Unification Wars by preserving some of the older military units, even though battlefields were dominated by early Space Marines. When new worlds were conquered, troops would be recruited from the population of each world; originally for defending agaist other invaders and to prevent rebellions. However, when the Imperium expanded, these armies were soon needed on the front as well. This was the founding of the Imperial Army, at that time placed under the command of the Space Marine Legions.
When the Horus Heresy struck and nine Space Marine Legions turned traitor, some of the Imperial Army units continued following orders from the Traitor Legions, turning on the loyalist army in civil war. Some ambitious commanders ignored the conflict altogether and set out to build their private empires.
After the civil war and the retreat of the Traitor Legios – along with a number of Traitor Regiments – the Imperial Army was reorganized, much like the Space Marine Legions. Steps were taken to decrease the power of individual officers in case of future traitors. The space navy was separated from the army, so that army officers could no longer command transportation for ground troops. Thus two new forces were created; the Imperial Guard and the Imperial Navy.
Excluding the lack of an integrated naval force, the Imperial Guard works much the same way as the old Imperial Army. Troops are still recruited from Imperial worlds and either placed in the planetary defense force or sent wherever needed.
Imperial Guard troops are organized into largely autonomous and varied Regiments. These are composed of troops recruited at the same time from the same world, commanded by their own officers and supported by their own non-combat personnel. Once a Regiment is formed and sent away, it is usually not reinforced. If it takes many casualties, it may be merged with another crippled Regiment, or it may be completely destroyed. Either way, Regiments are not intended to be permanent; once one is used up, the Imperium can always create more.
There is no standard template for an Imperial Guard Regiment. As the population level, industrial capacity, military tradition and other factors make each world unique, so are their Regiments. There is variance in the size, equipment, training and command structure, and the effectiveness is equally varied: the Tanith First and Only, for example, effectively countered Chaos Forces while being "just" highly skilled light infantry.
Although there is variance, the Regiment is usually commanded by a Colonel. Majors, Captains and Lieutenants act as intermediary officers while Sergeants lead combat squads. A battlegroup formed of several Regiments is commanded by a General. From here, it is a complex path with many steps up to the highest level of command: the Departmento Munitorum, which is led by three of the High Lords of Terra – the Chancellor of the Estate Imperium, the Master of the Administratum and the Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard.
Commissars operate virtually outside the hierarchy, maintaining order by their sheer presence. Their prefered punishment is execution on spot, and commissars can execute servicemen of any rank. They usually do not take charge, but when they do, they fight with astonishing zeal. They usually do not retain the position, although some, like Ibram Gaunt, did and made the best of it.
Notable Imperial GuardsmenEdit
Cadian 203rd regimentEdit
- 2nd Lieutenant Miranda Nero
- Corporal Antioch
- Cruddace, Robin. Warhammer 40,000. Codex: Imperial Guard. Nottingham: Games Workshop, 2008. Print.