The Massacre at Big Toof River was a disastrous battle that occurred during the Montar Campaign on the Imperial world of Montar VII, where two Imperial Guard regiments were completely wiped out after underestimating the size of the Ork forces that they faced.
When an ancient Space Hulk entered the Montar System in the Segmentum Tempestus, little notice was taken at its passing until it disgorged a massive Ork WAAAGH! led by the mighty Greenskin Warlord Bullgarg that launched an assault on the desolate world of Montar VII. Claiming it for his own, Bullgarg was determined to conquer every world within the Montar System and carve out his own Ork empire. The Ork landing did not go unnoticed, and soon the Planetary Governor Kinwa on Montar Prime urgently requested aid from the Imperium to deal with the Orks before they spread mayhem and destruction throughout the star system. Although preliminary reports indicated that the Ork tribe was of no great strength, Lord Kinwa simply did not have the forces to deal with them. The total human and Abhuman population of the entire Montar System numbered less than 700 individuals, and Lord Kinwa's Planetary Defence Force consisted of an under-strength platoon with only 3 heavy weapons and no armoured vehicles! Fortunately for Lord Kinwa, his appeal for help was received and acted upon very quickly, perhaps too quickly as things turned out.
The Montar System lies in the Segmentum Tempestus close to the planet of Tallarn. Imperial Guard forces in this sector were under the control of Lord Commander Sherdan, who had recently completed a successful campaign against a renegade Eldar pirate fleet. The campaign had been a long and bloody one, a running battle fought in half a dozen different star systems and on more than 30 worlds, which had ended with the destruction of the Eldar renegades by the Imperial Navy. Reports of this final battle were coming in when Sherdan received the news of the Ork invasion of Montar VII, and it may be that his elation over the victory against the renegade Eldar clouded his judgement about how he would deal with Warlord Bullgarg. Whatever the reason, Sherdan trusted the preliminary reconnaissance reports and decided to dispatch a small force to deal with the Orks as quickly as possible. The troops that he sent were the veterans of the campaign against the Dark Eldar, the XXIVth Praetorian Guard.
The Praetorian XXIVth had lived up well to the traditions of the fighting reputation of their homeworld, but had suffered very heavy casualties in so doing. Of the 1,500 troops that had left Praetoria, only about 300 now remained. More importantly, all of the regiment's senior officers had been killed. The most senior officer left alive, and acting commander of the regiment, was 21-year-old Captain Gliene of C Company. To overcome these deficiencies for the campaign against Warlord Bullgarg, the XXIVth was hastily reinforced with the survivors of the 135th Tallarn Desert Raiders, which had been all but destroyed in the battles against the Eldar renegades. Crucially, the commander of the Tallarns, Colonel Al' Ter-Ay, was put in overall command of the reinforced Praetorian XXIVth, even though the bulk of the troops in the regiment were Praetorians. It was a command structure that was to have disastrous consequences for the regiment. The XXIVth Praetorian was dispatched immediately to Montar VII with orders from Lord Sherdan to act quickly to eliminate the Ork threat to the star system. Information was still sketchy about the size and strength of the Ork tribe, but the common consensus was that they were fairly few in number, and lacking any heavy support in the form of Gargants or Battle Fortresses. Ork Blood Axes mercenaries, hired as scouts by the Imperial Guard during the campaign, confirmed that although they had never actually met Warlord Bullgarg, the Imperials had nothing to worry about, for Bullgarg was considered a minor threat.
When the Praetorian XXIVth made planetfall on Montar VII, Colonel Al' Ter-Ay lost no time in moving against the Orks. Sub-orbital spy-craft had pinpointed the Ork camp at a location on the Big Toof River. Ork numbers were still unknown, the pall of smog hanging over the settlement making it impossible for the Imperial spy-craft to get any readings on Ork numbers, but worryingly there were signs that the Orks were in the process of constructing Gargants and other large engines of war. Colonel Al' Ter-Ay determined to act swiftly, as instructed by his orders from Lord Sherdan, but he refused to take the advice of Captain Gliene, who suggested using his company's Blood Axes to scout the Ork camp. Al' Ter-Ay didn't trust the Blood Axes one bit, especially in an operation against their own kind, and in any case his orders specifically instructed him to act "with extreme prejudice", and this he was determined to do. Less than twenty-four hours after arriving on the planet, the Praetorians XXIV moved against the Orks.
Al' Ter-Ay split the regiment into three columns. The first of these (Force Kaz-Ter) consisted of the Tallarn Rough Rider companies and all of the Tallarn armoured companies, and was commanded by Captain Am' Kaz-Ter of Tallarn. The second column (Force Gliene) consisted of Company C of the XXIVth Praetorians. The third column (Force Ter-Ay) was commanded by Al' Ter-Ay himself and consisted of Company A and all of the regiment's support weapons. Al'Ter-Ay's plan was to use Force Kaz-Ter to smash into the Ork camp in a devastating surprise attack. As the Imperial tanks piled into the Orks, Force Gliene (all of which were mounted in fast-moving Chimeras) would sweep round the Ork camp, blocking off the Orks' retreat and cutting down those Greenskins that tried to escape. By the time that Al' Ter-Ay and the rest of the regiment's slower-moving troops arrived, all that remained to be done would be to mop up. It was not a bad plan, but it relied on the Orks being too weak to fight back effectively against Force Kaz-Ter. Fatally for the Imperial troops, this was not going to be the case.
As the Imperial troops crested the hills that overlooked the Ork camp, Al'Ter-Ay's plan had already started to fall apart. Force Kaz-Ter had pulled ahead of the rest of the regiment, and started to cross the Big Toof River before Force Gliene could get into position. Captain Am'Kaz' Ter was a brilliant but headstrong commander, who had proven his bravery, if not his common sense, in many battles. Always before when he took a gamble, his luck had paid off. But as the Leman Russ tanks spearheading his attack crossed the Big Toof River, Kaz-Ter's luck finally ran out.
Suddenly from out of the Ork camp there poured dozens of Snakebite Boarboyz, closely followed by hundreds of Ork warriors and their smaller Gretchin cousins. Super-heavy weapon batteries mounted in the watch towers of the Ork town burst into action and started blasting away at the surprised Imperial troops. And then, as this torrent of green-skinned destruction smashed Force Kaz-Ter's front, the reeling Guardsmen were hit by an even heavier volume of fire from the rear. As tanks exploded and men died, the Guardsmen stared in horror and disbelief as the Gargant they had believed still under construction lumbered over the horizon, flanked on either side by huge Battle Fortresses bristling with blazing guns, and supported by Ork Fighta-Bommerz overhead.
Within moments Captain Kaz-Ter was dead, while the panic-stricken survivors of the force that he had led did what they could to escape. Many of the Tallarn Rough Riders attached to the column survived the initial bombardment, and they now tried to escape back over the Big Toof River and away from the Ork settlement. Unfortunately the steep banks on the far side of the river slowed their escape, and within moments the pursuing Snakebite Boarboyz of the Blood Handz tribe caught up with them. The result was a massacre. As was quickly becoming clear, the Imperial force had walked into an ambush masterminded by Warlord Bullgarg, whose scouts had let him know about the arrival of the Imperial Guard from the moment they had landed on the planet. Bullgarg's ambush was hardly original or even well executed, but when combined with Al'Ter-Ay's fatally flawed plan it lead to a disaster for the Praetorian XXIVth. It is estimated that within three minutes of the trap being sprung, Force Kaz-Ter had suffered 85 percent casualties. But the disaster was not over yet, for above the river valley Force Gliene was also under attack.
From the bluff overlooking the river, Captain Gliene could do little to help his comrades below, for almost at the same moment that Kaz-Ter came under attack, his company had been ambushed by a huge force of Ork buggies. The Orks had appeared from nowhere, quickly surrounding the Praetorians and forcing them from their Chimeras. Gliene formed the vehicles into a circle, from behind which the grim red-coated soldiers under his command prepared to sell their lives as dearly as possible. All knew that they were doomed, for having dealt with Force Kaz-Ter, the hundreds of Ork Boyz and the huge war engines that accompanied them were turning their attention to "da 'umies dat were left on da hill".
As the Orks swarmed up the hill the Praetorians hit them with volley after volley of tightly controlled Lasgun fire, while the Multi-lasers of the Chimeras cut bloody swathes through the Ork ranks. Soon the slopes around the Guardsmen were surrounded by hundreds of Ork corpses and blazing buggies. But still the Orks kept on coming, supported by withering fire from the Gargant and Battle Fortresses. Yelling their guttural battle-cries and with a complete disregard for their own safety that impressed even the battle-hardened warriors from the hives of Praetoria, the Ork warriors hurled themselves again and again at the rapidly shrinking circle of Guardsmen, until, finally, there were no humans left alive.
Within an hour of first spotting a massive Ork camp, every single member of Forces Kaz-Ter and Force Gliene, with the exception of one of Company C's Ork Blood Axe mercenaries, was dead. Colonel Ter-Ay had no option but to pull back in the face of the victorious Ork army. Fortunately for the troops under his command the Orks' pursuit was desultory at best -- the Orks were too busy celebrating their victory to be bothered with chasing the few beaten survivors -- and they were able to escape more or less unscathed. Colonel Ter-Ay was never to be given an independent command again. He died 10 years later making a lone attack on a Tyranid Dominatrix. It is said his last words were "Let me go to my fate brothers... I must have peace from the ghosts that haunt me."
Warlord Bullgarg went on to found a successful Ork empire in the Montar System, but then disappeared along with most of his followers on board an Ork Space Hulk. It was assumed that the craft was destroyed in the Warp, but no one can be certain. Lord Sherdan recovered from the setback and went on to reconquer the Montar System from the Orks that had remained after Bullgarg had left. In the forefront of the campaign was the newly raised XXIVth Praetorian Guard.
- UK Games Day '97 Program, "Massacre at Big Toof River"
- White Dwarf 218 (UK), "Massacre at Big Toof River - UK Games Day '97 Display," pp. 66-71
- Massacre At Big Toof River Mega Display