- "Where they stand, none shall pass."
- — Grand Master Belial
The Deathwing is the elite 1st Company of the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter. While most other Chapters allow their 1st Company squads to take to the field in a variety of configurations as befits the tactical situation, the entire 1st Company of the Dark Angels Chapter consists of dedicated squads of Terminator Armour-clad veterans. This specialty formation is also found amongst those Space Marine Chapters who are Successors of the original Ist Legion, which are collectively known as the Unforgiven. The Deathwing's mission takes precedence over all others, even though they may be called upon to fight a wide range of foes. Members of the Deathwing are indoctrinated into the outermost tiers of the Unforgiven's Inner Circle, and party to the some of the terrible secrets surrounding the existence and nature of the Fallen. Some members of the Deathwing may know the identity of those they fight, while others are unaware they were once loyal Dark Angels, but all members of the Dark Angels 1st Company, and indeed the 1st Company of every Unforgiven Chapter, know that the Fallen are the vilest of heretics and must be persecuted above all others.
The origins of the Deathwing harken back to the early days of the Great Crusade during the 30th Millennium. When the Ist Legion reunified with their missing Primarch Lion El'Jonson upon the verdant Death World of Caliban, he introduced to the Legionaries of The First with the organisational structure he had learned from The Order on Caliban. The Lion's tenets of loyalty, discipline and self-efficiency were incorporated into everything the Legion did. Under the Lion's supervision, the Ist Legion was organised into specialised formations known collectively as the Hexagrammaton, and colloquially as the "Six Wings." These specialised formations existed outside the regular chain-of-command and organisation of the Dark Angels Legion. These formations were an amalgamation of of Terran pre-Principia Belicosa approach and organistaion of the proscribed formations of the early Legiones Astartes and Caliban's knightly orders. Before the creation of the first Space Marine Legions, the Legiones Astartes were organised into a formation known as the "Six Hosts of the Angels of Death," with each of these Hosts having its own specialisation and purpose. Following The First's reunification with their Primarch Lion El'Jonson on Caliban, the Lion incorporated the traditions of the Six Hosts and The Order, thus, the Six Wings were created. The Order of the Deathwing was a specialised formation of Cataphractii Terminator-armoured elite, who specialised in harrowing actions, shock assaults and strategic decapitation strikes.
The Deathwing is one of two of the original formations (the other being the Ravenwing) of the bygone First Legion to have survived into the modern era of the 41st Millennium. The Veteran warriors of the Dark Angels Chapter serve in the 1st Company, which is known as the Deathwing. The Veteran Astartes of this company are arrayed in Terminator Armour or Power Armour as battlefield requirements dictate. However, the Dark Angels are unusual in that they maintain an entire company that is only ever fielded as Terminator Squads. Following the Horus Heresy, when the Space Marine Legions were divided into Chapters, as dictated in the newly authored Codex Astartes by the Ultramarines Primarch Roboute Guilliman, the Legion's Terminator Armour-equipped Assault Company was divided into several units each composed of 100 Astartes and assigned to a Successor Chapter formed from the original Legion.
When a Dark Angel or other Unforgiven Space Marine receives the coveted promotion to the Deathwing Company, he learns the secret truth of the Chapter and its Successors. The Dark Angels Primarch Lion El'Jonson was betrayed at the end of the Horus Heresy by his second-in-command Luther, who slew the Lion in single combat on the Dark Angels' lost homeworld of Caliban before he and those other Dark Angels who had been corrupted by Chaos were transported into the Warp by the will of the Ruinous Powers. These Traitor Marines are known today as the Fallen Angels, and the Dark Angels and all of their Unforgiven kin are sworn to bring every one of the Fallen to repentance or death before they can receive the Emperor's forgiveness.
The 1st Company of the Dark Angels is led by Belial, the current Master of the Deathwing Company. Following a spectacular victory at the world of Piscina IV during the Third War for Armageddon in 999.M41, Belial assumed the mantle of Grand Master of the Deathwing after the violent death of his predecessor aboard the Space Hulk Charnel Shrine. Shortly thereafter, Belial was elected to serve as the Grand Master of the Dark Angels' 1st Company through the unanimous assent of the Masters and Grand Masters of the Chapter. He swiftly earned the approval of the Chapter's Supreme Grand Master himself, as well as the admiration and unswerving loyalty of those under his command.
The Terminators of the Dark Angels originally wore black armour, but it was painted bone white in honour of a battle fought long ago. Legends state that a band of Deathwing returned to the recruiting world of their birth only to find their people enslaved to Genestealer invaders. The brethren repainted their armour, symbolising that they were dead men walking. Fighting hordes of Genestealers, they penetrated the alien lair and, though the battle claimed many of the Terminators' lives, ultimately the world was freed. Since that day, the Deathwing have kept their armour white, in remembrance of the sacrifice of their predecessors. This instructional tale is told by a hooded Sergeant to every Dark Angels Scout upon his elevation to battle-brother. Other oft-repeated tales in the Dark Angels' lore are "The Fall of House Perivigilium," "The Scouring of the Space Hulk Place of Fears," the "Vengeance of Beleaguerest," "The Lion and the Snake of Caliban," and "Whisper in the Gloom." All such Dark Angel legends are told at specific points in a brother's progress through the Chapter's ranks. Some tell of heroes returned from war to find their brothers corrupted. Others speak of self-sacrifice or the refusal to accept surrender. No few touch upon those seeking redemption from dishonourable deeds. Such tales instil in every Dark Angel a zealous drive to right wrongs and seek out enemies, no matter where they might hide.
Deathwing and the Deathwatch
On a few, extremely rare occasions, a member of the Deathwing of the Dark Angels or one of their Successor Chapters takes the Apocryphon Oath and joins the Long Watch, serving with the elite Deathwatch, the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Xenos. In doing so, he sets aside his role as executioner of the Inner Circle, but not entirely, for the Unforgiven never tire in the hunt for the Fallen. The Deathwing Battle-Brother’s oaths to the Inner Circle rarely interfere with his duties to the Deathwatch. In undertaking the Long Watch he is honouring the purpose for which his very Chapter was created—guarding the Imperium from its enemies. However, there may be times when the Battle-Brother receives a sealed, keyed astropathic transmission, or a message is passed to him from another Battle-Brother of the same Chapter. There may be some task he is expected to undertake, or some enemy he must engage even while his Kill-team’s mission is undertaken. It takes great skill on the part of the Deathwing Battle-Brother to ensure his responsibilities do not clash, for were that to happen, the Deathwatch’s entire mission within their assigned sector of the galaxy would be undermined.
Battle-Brothers of the Deathwing are renowned for always taking to the field in their bone-white Terminator Armour. However, the nature of the Deathwatch's vigil influences the tactics and choices of even the most tradition-bound of Astartes, and many Deathwing who have taken the Apocryphon Oath have chosen to set aside their Terminator Armour when its effect upon the mission would be more detrimental than advantageous. These Battle-Brothers honour the traditions of the Deathwing by taking the bone heraldry and broken sword emblem of their company upon the right shoulder of their Power Armour in place of the Dark Angels' Chapter badge. A Deathwing Battle-Brother must choose to wear either his Terminator Armour or his Power Armour at the start of a mission, and cannot change that choice at any point during the mission.
The Deathwing is composed entirely of Veteran Space Marines who serve as the Chapter's Terminators. They are tasked with a mission that takes precedence over all others, even though they may be called upon to fight a wide range of foes. The Deathwing are responsible for crushing all foes of the Unforgiven, and there are no greater enemies than the Fallen. Like the 2nd Company of the Dark Angels and other Unforgiven Chapters, which is known as the Ravenwing and concentrates on mobile warfare using Bike Squads and Land Speeders, the Deathwing does not comply with the organisation of Space Marine Chapters as outlined by the Codex Astartes, though all of the other companies in Unforgiven Chapters generally do so. The organisational structure for the Deathwing Company is as follows:
1st Company, the "Deathwing"
- Belial, Grand Master of the Deathwing, Bearer of the Sword of Silence
- Deathwing Command Squad:
Deathwing Support Assets (Deployed as required. As with Deathwing Squads, actual number are obfuscated to outsiders)
Deathwing Terminator Squads
The battle-brothers of the Deathwing take no pride in their exceptional reputation. They know that their physical and mental fortitude is merely what is necessary to discharge their duties, prizing humble, monastic asceticism and selflessness above all else. Clad in the pale, hulking plates of their Tactical Dreadnought armour, the veteran warriors of the Deathwing march unflinching into the fires of war. They feel no compassion, no remorse and no fear. Their absolute devotion to the Chapter leaves no room for anything but a cold and steely fanaticism, and they would advance willingly into the very maw of the Warp itself were they ordered to do so. Whether fighting in a Deathwing Terminator Squad, or advancing at the side of a Chapter hero as part of his Deathwing Command Squad, these warriors are amongst the greatest in the Imperium.
In battle, these indefatigable warriors blast apart their enemies with Storm Bolters whilst advancing into melee assault range. Deathwing Terminators feature a mix of weaponry, for both long-ranged and close combat oriented roles. Terminators typically begin engagements aboard an orbiting starship, teleporting to the battlefield at a prearranged time, often homing in on a signal from ranging Ravenwing units. By the time foes see the flash signifying the arrival of the Deathwing's Terminators, it is already too late. The Deathwing appear in a blazing hail of gunfire, as if they had begun firing while en route. They live up to their name, arriving like a sword stroke to deliver the deathblow.
The constant regime of ritual, contemplation and self-denial undergone by the Deathwing scours their souls clean of impurities. They are mentally and spiritually armoured against the temptations of the Daemon and the heretic, deaf to their lies and blandishments just as they are to pleas of innocence or cries for mercy. The battle-brothers of the Deathwing -- whether indoctrinated into the Inner Circle or not -- fight in the full knowledge that they are weapons, extensions of their masters' will, and indeed the Imperium has few weapons greater; the 1st Company of the Ist Legion might not bask in their terrifying, glorious reputation, but they always live up to it.
Deathwing Command Squad
The highest-ranking members of the Inner Circle are sometimes accompanied by a Command Squad from the 1st Company. Such a hand-picked formation of the most veteran Deathwing Terminators makes a formidable unit, ideal for a bodyguard or to be assigned special duties by a Librarian or Interrogator-Chaplain. They can be equipped for any role and often include specialists such as Standard Bearers, Apothecaries or even the 1st Company Champion. Belial, the Grand Master of the Deathwing, has personally led many a Command Squad straight into the heart of battle, forging a breach in enemy lines and crushing opposing leaders.
A Deathwing Knight is a fell-handed warrior of the Dark Angels, a member of the elite 1st Company whose glorious deeds on the field of battle are matched only by his unflinching devotion to the Chapter. Deathwing Knights are a truly imposing sight, for in them lives on some semblance of the Lion himself. They embody silent strength and a veiled, yet still palpable nobility. In the stratified Chapter organisation of the Dark Angels and the other Unforgiven, the Deathwing Knights represent the elite -- only the Masters and Grand Masters of the Chapter rank higher, and they are only chosen from among the company of the Deathwing Knights, who are also members of the Chapter's Inner Circle. None but the most fell-handed of warriors from the 1st Company are promoted into the Inner Circle of the Deathwing, and displaying skill in battle is not enough to receive the honour of knighthood. A warrior must be wholly dedicated to the Chapter, and must display an obsessive need to carry on the Chapter's secret crusade to hunt down the remaining Fallen.
When a member of the Deathwing is deemed worthy of the honour, he is brought into the Chamber of Judgments in The Rock to face a series of challenges, each of which has been individualised to test the candidate's strength, resolve and loyalty to the Chapter past any breaking point he may possess. Should the Astartes prevail in these tests, the warrior is granted the title of Knight and passes beneath the shadowed arch at the heart of the Chamber of Judgement. The Watchers in the Dark present to him a Mace of Absolution and a Storm Shield -- both priceless heirlooms from the time of the Great Crusade in the late 30th Millennium that sing with barely suppressed power beyond even the potency of the Astartes who will bear them. It is from amongst the Deathwing Knights that new Company Masters are selected, for there is no finer proving ground than this august brotherhood. The Knights are utterly devoted to the hunt for the Fallen, and it is in the pursuance of this quest that they truly learn its cost. By the time a Deathwing Knight is promoted to the rank of Master, he understands implicitly that no life -- even his own -- is more important than the Dark Angels' never-ending quest for forgiveness.
In battle, the Deathwing Knights are used as a heavy shock force -- they teleport into the fight with Storm Shields locked. With incoming fire ricocheting off them, the Knights march forward to assault the greatest threat with impunity, first slamming into the foe with their Storm Shields before laying into them with their Power Maces and Flails. In the presence of a Heretic, the Knights of the Deathwing power up their ancient weapons to deliver a killing blow of earth-shattering force. The most skilled and veteran of Deathwing Knights are known as Knight Masters. They wield an even more potent ancient Power Weapon known as a Flail of the Unforgiven.
Deathwing Vehicles and Wargear
With their armoured hulls decorated by the Chapter's finest artisans, the Venerable Dreadnoughts of the Dark Angels exude sombre nobility. All were once members of the Deathwing, and their hulls are still painted in the ritual bone white borne by those elite warriors. The Venerable Dreadnoughts of the Dark Angels have fought for many centuries and sometimes longer, in their Chapter's name and they are, without exception, oath-sworn members of the Inner Circle. It is rare, but not unknown, for a battle-brother to learn the secrets of his Chapter only after his interment in a Dreadnought sarcophagus, and the sorrow and wrath of such enlightened revenants is terrible to behold. The dedication of the Dark Angels' Venerable Dreadnoughts to the hunt for the Fallen is fervent in the extreme. After all, where a typical battle-brother may live to see a handful of the Fallen brought to justice, with their exceptionally long lifespans the Venerable Dreadnoughts see hundreds hunted down and captured. Furthermore, over time, the pilots of the Venerable Dreadnoughts accumulate a wealth of wisdom concerning the Fallen -- their habits, their ploys, and the best ways to hunt them. Thus do the leaders of the Chapter come to these ancients for advice on such matters, and perfect the art of the hunt under their guidance. It is difficult to rouse the eldest of these ancient cyborgs, and many legends slumber in The Rock's Halls of Silence, powered down between actions and awoken only in dire need.
The Wardens in White
Below the Rock's vaulted galleries, beyond the Corridors of Shadows and the Portal of Penumbral Sorrow, is the Chamber of Passageways. It is to this domed and mysterious space that each prospective Supreme Grand Master is led by the Keeper of the Keys. As the greatest heroes of the Chapter perform the rituals to send the aspirant on into darkness alone, they are watched over by a pair of silent, ancient guardians. These are the Wardens in White, the two eldest Venerable Dreadnought brothers of the Deathwing. The sarcophagi of these timeless gatekeepers are heavy with oath papers and ornate decoration, and their power plants rumble softly as they loom motionless in the dark. The identities and names they possessed in life are now completely subsumed by secrets. Were any foe to penetrate the Rock's countless defences, it would be the duty of the Wardens in White to form the last line, and to destroy him without hesitation. For this reason, these Dreadnoughts are only taken to war in the very greatest need, and even then only one may leave his post and his duty at any given time.
Like great hunting beasts, the Land Raiders of the Deathwing bear down upon their prey with lethal intent. Painted in white and bearing the insignia of the Deathwing upon their armoured flanks, these mighty tanks are elite specialists in their own right. Only the eldest Land Raiders are selected to serve the Deathwing, vehicles with indefatigable Machine Spirits that detest the works of traitors and heretics. So potent are these mechanised presences that they can effect rudimentary repairs upon their own structures as battle proceeds, shrugging off damage and rerouting power around compromised systems. In this way, enemies who see their shots strike home against weapons or motive units have their cries of triumph cut short as the Land Raider rolls from the blast, scorched but undaunted and with its offensive capabilities still intact. The Deathwing make full use of both the Crusader and Redeemer variant marks of Land Raider, and benefit enormously from the specialist abilities of these armoured behemoths. The Dark Angels' annals are full of accounts of Deathwing Squads delivered into the heart of the foe by thundering Land Raider Crusaders, or supported against overwhelming hordes of xenos or heretics by the sweeping firestorms of the Land Raider Redeemers. Whoever the foe, the Land Raiders of the Deathwing face them with murderous determination.
- Mace of Absolution - Bespiked, glowing with power and emanating an eerie mist from their vents, these ominous weapons are employed by the Deathwing Knights in their endless hunt for the Fallen. In the presence of the most accursed heretics, their power is amplified to awe-inspiring magnitude.
- Flail of the Unforgiven - The leaders of the Deathwing Knights eschew the maces of their fellows in favour of brutal flails. These archaic weapons are carried as a badge of office, and are a reminder to all the Fallen of their ultimate fate at the hands of the Dark Angels.
- Halberd of Caliban - The Company Champion of the Deathwing traditionally carries this massive Power Weapon, reforged from a Blade of Caliban shattered in battle long ago, and incorporating the same grim technologies that power the weapons of the Deathwing Knights.
- Foe-Smiter - This ornate Storm Bolter was wrought by Fedorovich the Great, amongst the foremost weaponsmiths of Mars during the age when the Tech-priests joined with the Emperor's forces to equip his armies for the Great Crusade. It was he who forged so many of the master-crafted weapons still prized by the Imperium today, but even then, the weapon known as Foe-Smiter was considered special. It was presented with honour to the I Legion of the Space Marines, where it was used to great effect by Brother Bartholomew -- the first Grand Master of the Deathwing. To this day, Foe-Smiter can still lay down a cavalcade of fire, and is highly prized by the Dark Angels and by the current Grand Master of the Deathwing, who always wields it.
- Mace of Redemption - The Mace of Redemption is perhaps the greatest of the weapons forged by the Dark Angels to hunt their traitorous comrades. Blessed with incantations of vengeance, the hollow centre of this sacred power maul flares white-hot when it smites a foe. It is said that, with the mace in hand, Supreme Grand Master Raphael struck down the Daemon Prince ruler of the blasphemous world of New Caliban, allowing the arch-heretic to be captured. Of all the Dark Angels who have ever hunted the Fallen, none has bested this heroic deed.
- Monster Slayer of Caliban - This ancient weapon was traditionally bestowed upon the most honourable Knight of the Order before the onset of a long quest into the wilds of Caliban. Its well-honed blade is empowered by a force generator of magnificent strength; however, over the ages, it has grown somewhat temperamental, and the know-how to fix such ancient technology is now beyond the Techmarines of the Dark Angels. It is believed that as long as its owner stays pure of mind, the Monster Slayer of Caliban will strike down even the greatest of foes.
- The Sword of Silence - In times of need, Grand Master Belial wields the famous master-crafted Power Sword known as the Sword of Silence. This sword is one of a triumvirate of legendary swords collectively known as the Heavenfall Blades. These formidable weapons are only carried by the highest-ranking members of the Inner Circle of the Dark Angels. The Chapter's lore states that these blades were forged from the core of a meteorite that struck The Rock in orbit around the Feral World of Al Baradad. The mightiest of these blades is the Sword of Secrets, carried by the Supreme Grand Master of the Chapter, and the current wielder of that sword is Azrael. The blades wielded by the Grand Master of the Deathwing and the Grand Master of the Ravenwing also utilise small amounts of the obsidian taken from that meteorite in their working. It is also said that a small portion of this meteoric substance was dispatched to each of the Dark Angels' Successor Chapters, so that the senior members of the Unforgiven's own Inner Circles would also bear the same heritage forged in steel as those borne by the Masters of the Dark Angels.
Company Combat Doctrine
The Dark Angels are known for their stoic and intractable manner, unflinching against even the mightiest of foes. The Deathwing are paragons of stoicism, unwilling to take even a single step away from the enemy when battle is joined, their prowess honed across countless battlefields so that they can weather any attack. The Deathwing favour rapid teleport attacks, appearing literally from nowhere (often collaborating with the more mobile Ravenwing squadrons on reconnaissance missions to ensure the precision of their teleportation coordinates) to deliver overwhelming force against an unprepared enemy. Teleportation is the easiest way to strike from nowhere in Terminator Armour, but other methods work as effectively for a veteran of countless wars. Once the Ravenwing has located the enemy, the Deathwing are deployed to destroy them so utterly that not a single trace remains. In the case of the Fallen Angels, the Deathwing cast down all of their works and grind them to dust beneath their Ceramite boots, so that none may ever know of the stain cast upon the Unforgiven’s honour by their very existence. The fortunate are destroyed in the unstoppable maelstrom that is a Deathwing assault; the unfortunate are dragged away to the dungeons of The Rock, to suffer the attentions of the Interrogator-Chaplains and to confess their sins in the vain hope of a merciful end.
The Deathwing company badge is a variant of the ancient icon of The Order, the knightly order of Caliban that served as a precursor to the Dark Angels Legion. It is a down-turned broken blade on a red roundel, which symbolises the schism within the Dark Angels Legion that occurred due to Luther's uprising on Caliban during the closing days of the Horus Heresy.
Prior to the Horus Heresy, during the Great Crusade, the Power Armour of the Dark Angels Legion was coloured jet-black. After the Heresy, the bulk of the Chapter began to appear in dark green armour, whilst the 1st and 2nd Companies' panoply remained jet-black in honour of the original Legion colours. The Deathwing Company's Astartes later painted their Terminator Armour in a bone-white colour scheme to remember the lone squad of Dark Angel Terminators who defended a Dark Angels recruitment planet known as Plain's World from a Tyranid Genestealer invasion. These Terminators painted their armour white, the colour of death, as they believed that they would never survive the confrontation. Surprisingly, these Terminators proved successful in reclaiming the world and in doing so saved a crucial part of the Dark Angels' cultural heritage and the genetic diversity of the Chapter. Amongst the Unforgiven Chapters, only the Dark Angels' Deathwing Company Terminators actually continue this tradition. The Deathwing are both the most stubborn and most resilient of the Astartes of the Dark Angels and Unforgiven Chapters, and will often refuse to leave a battlefield even in the face of overwhelming odds, citing the tradition of the Terminators who saved the Dark Angels' recruitment world.
Space Hulk Expansion
Deathwing is also the name of the first expansion produced for the Games Workshop PC game Space Hulk. The expansion is named after the Dark Angels' Deathwing Company. It features rules for solo play of Space Hulk.
- Chapter Approved 2003 - Third Book of the Astronomican, "Dark Angels Update", p. 100
- Citadel Journal 37, "Tacticus Dark Angels", pp. 78-85
- Codex: Dark Angels (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), pp. 3, 10-11, 13-15, 29, 33-34, 36, 40, 42, 52-54, 65, 93 , 109-111m 113-115, 117-120, 142-145, 150-154, 173, 177-178, 190-191, 193-194, 196-200, 213, 215-217, 255-263, 303-306, 312-313, 322
- Codex: Dark Angels (6th Edition), pp. 12, 14, 16, 19-21, 23, 26, 30, 40, 43-45, 56, 62, 64, 66-67, 78-81, 99
- Codex: Dark Angels (4th Edition), pg. 16
- Codex: Dark Angels (3rd Edition), pp. 10, 12-13,
- Codex: Angels of Death (2nd Edition), pp. 30, 37, 40, 73
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 45-46
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pg. 50-53
- Deathwing (Anthology), "Deathwing" by Bryan Ansell & William King
- Deathwing: Rules & Mission (1st Edition)
- Fallen Angel (Novel) by Mike Lee
- Space Hulk: Campaigns (1st Edition)
- Space Hulk: Death Angel - Deathwing Space Marine Pack (CCG)
- Space Hulk: Mission Book (2nd Edition)
- Space Hulk: Rulebook (2nd Edition)
- The Horus Heresy - Book Six: Retribution by Alan Bligh, pg. 73
- Warhammer: Monthly (Promotional), "Deathwing"
- White Dwarf 303 (US), "Index Astartes: Deep Strike", pg. 18
- White Dwarf 161 (US), "Deathwing Terminators", pp. 4-7
- White Dwarf 137 (US), "The Last Stand: Space Hulk Campaign", pp. 42-50
- White Dwarf 133 (US), "Space Hulk: Genestealer Invasion"
- White Dwarf 112 (US), "Terminator: Space Marine Tactical Dreadnought Armour"
- The Unremembered Empire (Novel) by Dan Abnett
- Angels of Caliban (Novel) by Gav Thorpe
- Angels of Darkness (Novel) by Gav Thorpe