The Imperial Guard regiment known as the Tanith First and Only, officially called the Tanith 1st Regiment but better known as "Gaunt's Ghosts", is a regiment that was raised from the world of Tanith in the Sabbat Worlds Sector. The regiment has been heavily engaged in the combat to retake the Sabbat Worlds from the Forces of Chaos during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. The regiment's nickname originally came about as a result of the name of their commanding officer, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt, and the disenfranchised status of the original Tanith soldiers after their homeworld was destroyed. It has proved to be a nickname of some further application, as the Verghastite personnel influx into the regiment also considered themselves 'ghosts' due to the destruction of their home city, and the regiment as a whole is noted for its stealth and reconnaissance abilities being almost uncanny in nature.
Originally, there were three Tanith regiments raised for the Imperial Guard: the Tanith 1st, 2nd and 3rd - 6,000 men and a small number of vehicles and artillery pieces. When Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt was sent to Tanith to oversee the founding of these regiments, he was not impressed by the appearance of the men, initially describing them as "a scrawny, scruffy mob of soft-voiced woodsmen". His opinion of them changes quickly after seeing them in combat. He impatiently orders the regiments to begin boarding the troop carriers that will take them to the troop starships waiting to ferry them to their first warzones - a fortunate move which gets enough men off-world before a Chaos warfleet strikes Tanith the same night. He confirms after leaving Tanith that this act salvages three and a half thousand men of the original three regiments and the majority of their equipment. It is unclear which regiments actually were saved from the fires of Tanith, but the remaining men are formed into the Tanith First Regiment, which is soon named the "Tanith First-and-Only". On the regiment's first battlefield on the world of Blackshard, Hlaine Larkin coins the nickname "Gaunt's Ghosts". The term Ghosts has two meanings: the first is that Corbec tells Gaunt that his decision to abandon Tanith "made ghosts of them, hollow echoes". The second is that because of their exceptional stealth and scouting skills, they are ghost-like on the battlefield. The Tanith First excels at reconnaissance work as the Tanith never get lost, and using camo-cloaks they can move quickly and stealthily through most types of terrain.
The Ghosts' eventually garnered a strong reputation after a number of actions during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, in particular the defences of Vervunhive, the Beati's Shrine on Hagia and her apparent person on Herodor. Unfortunately, this success did not come without its drawbacks and the Ghosts suffered heavy casualties on a number of occasions. However, two large personnel intakes during the regiment's history (one from the citizenry of Vervunhive, the other from combination with the 81st Belladon Recon Regiment) managed to offset these losses.
The troopers of the Tanith First are unparalleled scouts, marksmen, masters of stealth tactics, and excellent light infantry. They are said to possess an unerring sense of direction, traits developed for survival on a planet where the forests actually move to conceal the path taken. The Verghastite and Belladon members of the regiment claim no such uncanny abilities, but are also proven light infantry specialists, with Verghastite hive city backgrounds in particular complementing the talents of the Tanith woodsmen. The First and Only excels in stealth infiltration missions, but has proven particularly tenacious in defensive operations in urban terrain. Even amongst such light infiltration infantry as the Tanith, there is always room for the truly elite. In the Ghosts these take on two forms: The aptly named Scouts, lead by Mkoll, who specialise in reconnaissance and covert operations. The other elite organisation within the Ghosts are the Sniper division. There tends to be an over-representation of Verghastites excelling as snipers while the Tanith natives dominate in the scouts.
The Tanith uniform is black, with optional helmets for standard troopers and forage caps for the regiment's elite scout platoon. Camouflage Cloaks (made of the special synthetic material called cameleoline) are standard issue. The cloaks change their colour depending on the location of the wearer. Every soldier has a long, double-edged bayonet/combat blade the Tanith call Straight Silver. Their favoured special weapons include long-las sniper rifles and flame throwers, and portable Missile Launchers the Tanith nickname "tread fethers". The cap badge for the Tanith is a wreath-surrounded skull with three daggers behind it; each dagger representing one of the original Tanith regiments. On the badge is the inscription "For Tanith, For the Emperor". After the destruction of the Tanith 2nd and 3rd Regiments, the Tanith snapped off the two outside daggers on their cap badges. The Verghastite cap badge is an axe-rake to symbolise their former hive's mining and industrial background. These pins and other badges that indicate rank or specialisation are dulled down with soot or boot-black to aid in stealth operations.
Weapons and Equipment
The Tanith are noted as being adept at using the Flamer and Missile Launcher (though the type of Missile Launcher they favour appears to be a cut-down rocket-tube referred to informally as a "tread-fether") and also regularly deploy Autocannons. In place of the standard-issue Imperial Guard combat knives, the Tanith Regiment makes use of 30-centimeter-long, straight-edged silver-plated daggers, known by the troopers as their "Straight Silver", which is also what officers shout as the order to fix bayonettes. The Tanith make use of Mark 3 Lasguns: the Tanith troopers of the regiment wield Lasguns with nalwood stocks and furnishings, while the Verghastites use Lasguns with fold-down wire stocks. Snipers make use of needle-las sniper rifles, and usually prefer the powerful, single-fire "Hotshot" charge packs. For stealth purposes, the Tanith Regiment's fatigues and combat armour are black and grey in color, and each trooper is also issued a Camouflage Cloak. As with any regiment, individual soldiers also have private stockpiles of trophy weapons claimed on the field of battle that they may use in a tight spot.
The Tanith First and Only are best known for their participation in the Imperium's Sabbat Worlds Crusade against the Forces of Chaos in the Sabbat Worlds Sector, which began in 755.M41. During the Crusade, the Ghosts' expertise in covert operations was instrumental in the liberation of a number of worlds. However, rivalries with other, more illustrious regiments (in particular, the Jantine Patricians and the Volpone Bluebloods) often put the Ghosts at risk. The regiment took heavy losses in its early actions, including the loss of three hundred Guardsmen during a friendly fire "incident" at Voltis Watergate. Heavy casualties were also incurred during the effort to recapture the Mechanicum's Forge World of Fortis Binary, so much so that by the time of the Ghosts' deployment on Monthax, they numbered only 1,500 Guardsmen. The casualties taken at Monthax and later the hive world of Verghast were replaced by recruits taken from the destroyed Vervunhive, at which time female soldiers first joined the Tanith.
After Tanith was destroyed by the attack of a Chaos warfleet, the Tanith First-and-Only had no homeworld from which to draw new recruits to replace losses. Instead, new Ghosts were adopted into the regiment as the Crusade progressed. At the end of the siege of Vervunhive, the megacity was left in ruins and the disillusioned citizens of Verghast were given the opportunity to join the Imperial Guard under the Act of Consolation. This resulted in an influx of Verghastite soldiers into the Tanith First, which brought females into the regiment. Several of these women became some of the regiment's best snipers. While Colonel Gaunt is on Gereon and the Tanith First is left without a senior commander, the regiment is merged with a Belladon covert unit called the 81st Belladon Regiment and becomes the 81st/1st Recon. Following Colonel Wilder's death and Gaunt's return to command, the regiment resumes the name the Tanith First-and-Only. It is worth noting that following the merger with the 81st Belladon, the Tanith First's organisational structure changes; companies using alphabetical call-signs replace the previous numerical platoons. There eventually were three cultural divisions within the regiment: Tanith, Verghastite and Belladon; led by Majors Rawne, Kolea and Baskevyl, respectively, (each was native to the world of the part of the regiment he commanded).
Ten years after their founding of the regiment, the Tanith 1st had been involved in numerous campaigns during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Casualties weakened the regiment to the point where they were merged into another regiment, the 81st Belladon Recon, to form the 81st/1st Recon. Gaunt and a small team of Tanith soldiers had previously been sent on a high-risk covert mission, and upon their unexpected return found the regiment as they knew it gone. Most notably, it was now commanded by Colonel Lucian Wilder. Gaunt eventually managed to regain command of the 81st/1st, but only after Wilder granted him field command before sacrificing himself in a heroic rearguard action. Gaunt managed to keep his command, and renamed the unit the Tanith First-and-Only. He then led the newly reformed unit to help liberate the Chaos-held world of Gereon.
The tenth year of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade was the first time the Tanith had been called upon by the Imperium to levy Imperial Guard regiments to support the Crusade. The majority of the men who joined the Imperial Guard were militia-men, although some former criminals were present, and it can be assumed that other non-military members of the population were included. The soldiers were organised into three two-thousand man regiments; the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of Tanith. A small number of artillery and armour units were also created, although they were intended for supporting roles. Following the reformation of the Hyrkan 8th, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt was assigned to lead the three regiments.
During the Founding of the three regiments, a Chaos warfleet scattered from the recent Imperial victory at Balhaut managed to evade the Imperial Navy picket and head towards Tanith. Gaunt decided to abandon the world, trying to salvage as many fighting troops in the process instead of wasting them all in an effort to hold Tanith. The regiments are hastily loaded onto troop transports and shuttled to carrier-ships in orbit, but the Chaos attack occurs earlier than predicted. Of the six thousand men, less than four thousand are saved. The vast majority of the heavy equipment, along with the entire officer corps, is lost when Chaos makes planetfall. Gaunt survived, being one of the last members of the regiment to make it off-planet, and he reorganised the survivors into a single infantry regiment, the Tanith 1st, also known as the First-and-Only and more colloquially known as Gaunt's Ghosts. It is known that "Mad" Hlaine Larkin was the first to coin the term.
The troops of the Tanith 1st are unparalleled scouts, marksmen, masters of stealth tactics, and excellent light infantry, and are said to possess an unerring sense of direction, traits developed for survival on a planet where the forests actually move to conceal the path taken.
The regiment took heavy losses in its early actions, including the loss of three hundred during a friendly fire incident on Voltemand. Heavy casualties were also incurred during the effort to recapture the Forge World of Fortis Binary, so much so that by the time of the Ghosts' deployment on Monthax, they numbered less than 2,000 Guardsmen. The casualties taken at Monthax and later Verghast were replaced by recruits taken from the destroyed Vervunhive, at which time female soldiers first joined the Tanith. The soldiers from Vervunhive use a different pin, adorned with the axe rake that Vervunhivers used in mining before their hive city was destroyed.
Ten years later, the Tanith had been involved in numerous campaigns for the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. After Colonel Gaunt and some hand-picked specialists were dispatched on a "suicidal" mission to Gereon, a world held by the Forces of Chaos, the Ghosts were merged with another recon regiment, the 81st Belladon, to form the 81st/1st Recon Regiment. Eighteen months after making planetfall on Gereon, Gaunt's mission team was retrieved by Crusade forces. After Inquisitorial scrutiny, the team members were sent back to the newly formed 81st/1st Regiment, while Gaunt himself was stripped of command rank and sent to be the senior political officer of the Fortis Binars serving at Sparshead Mons. Shortly after taking his position with the Binars, Gaunt begins suspecting that the potentially sacred sites that the Imperial Guard is fighting over may actually be Chaos artefacts. With evidence mounting, he contacts his Gereon team and determines that the artefacts are in fact, enormous Chaos traps. Gaunt is eventually reunited with his Ghosts, and his evidence prompts the withdrawal of the Imperial forces from the Mons. Caught in a desperate rearguard action, and with time counting down to an orbital bombardment by the Imperial Navy, Gaunt's Ghosts are hard pressed to escape utter destruction. Only the valiant sacrifice of Colonel Wilder, the 81st/1st Regiment's new commander, his commissar, and the Belladon 1st company allows the 81st/1st as a whole to escape. Following his actions, Gaunt is again granted command of the Tanith, along with their Verghastite and Belladon compatriots. The regiment was reorganised so that the Tanith, Verghastites and Belladons were fully integrated with each other within the regiment. Additionally, each group of men and women was represented by an officer directly below Gaunt; Major Rawne of Tanith, Major Kolea of Verghast, and Major Baskevyl of Belladon.
Since its founding, the Tanith First-and-Only has served in the following campaigns and warzones, in approximate chronological order:
- Ramillies 268-43
- Typhon VIII
- Spurtis Elipse
- Fortis Binary
- Menazoid Epsilon
- Oskray Hive (Sapiencia)
- Verghast - The campaign on Verghast was one of the more notable engagements Gaunt's Ghosts took part in. The regiment's time on Verghast saw them defending the hive city of Vervunhive from their Chaos-corrupted rivals in the neighbouring hive of Ferrozoica. Following the destruction of the Chaos forces and Vervunhive's subsequent dissolution, many of the natives of Verghast who had fought alongside the Ghosts as part of the Scratch Companies formally joined the regiment.
- Hagia - On Hagia, the sacred homeworld of Saint Sabbat herself, Gaunt's Ghosts nearly found themselves disbanded after a trap sprung by the Forces of Chaos resulted in the destruction of the planet's Doctrinopolis, signalling a massive Chaotic retaliation warfleet to move in on the world in the process. Assigned to retrieve the sacred remains of the Saint from her mountain tomb, the regiment was able to both fend off a massive assault by the Infardi Chaos Cultists of Pater Sin and activate the powerful psychic device in the Saint's tomb, which scattered the incoming Chaos warfleet through the Warp and ultimately saved the planet from invasion and conquest by the servants of the Ruinous Powers.
- Phantine - On the world of Phantine, a number of Gaunt's Ghosts took part in Operation Larisel, an airborne operation that deployed specially selected fire-teams into the city of Ouranberg to seek out and assassinate Sagittar Slaith, the Chaos warlord in command of the Blood Pact forces holding the city. This mission took place at the same time as the main Imperial assault on the world in which the rest of the Tanith First was deployed.
- Aexe Cardinal - Deployed as part of a brigade-strength force to the planet of Aexe Cardinal, the Ghosts quickly became embroiled in the brutal trench warfare that had defined the local defence. This was also the first conflict which the Ghosts did not help end decisively; while they made some gains against the Chaos-corrupted Shadik Republic, they were ordered to take ship for Heredor even as the war on Aexe continued to rage on.
- Herodor - When the recently resurrected Saint Sabbat asked that the First-and-Only serve as her bodyguards, the Ghosts found themselves embroiled in a brutal city-fight against a massive Chaotic host attempting to kill her and thus shatter the morale of the Imperial Crusade in the Sabbat Worlds. Ultimately, the regiment was victorious, fending off both the armies of the Blood Pact and nine assassins serving Chaos to protect the Saint, allowing her to kill the Chaos Magister Innokenti. With this victory, the Chaos Archon Urlock Gaur lost one of his greatest lieutenants, and the Crusade was able to take the Fortress World of Morlond and open up a second front in the Crusade against the Forces of Chaos in the Sabbat Worlds. It should be noted that it was on Herodor that Colonel Colm Corbec fell, shot and killed by the Chaos-corrupted Verghastite Lijah Cuu who had been a member of the regiment.
- Ancreon Sextus - The Tanith 1st Regiment was deployed to Ancreon Sextus as part of the Belladon 81st Reconnaissance Regiment, whilst Gaunt's team was pursuing its own mission on Gereon. The key battle-zones on that world were a series of massive, compartmentalized steppe-cities, which were in reality gateways linked to the Realm of Chaos. Upon discovering the true nature of the steppe-cities as a result of the efforts of Gaunt and the Gereon Twelve, the Imperial forces abandoned their bloody siege-work and destroyed them using an orbital bombardment, which annihilated significant numbers of the enemy and evaded the trap set for the Imperials by the Forces of Chaos.
- Gereon - First visited by a hand-picked team lead by Gaunt, to assassinate the Imperial Guard Traitor General Noches Sturm. That team would return with the rest of the regiment in the later Imperial liberation of Gereon from the Forces of Chaos.
- Jago- The 1st Tanith Regiment suffered upwards of 50% casualties on Jago while defending the right flank of the larger Imperial Sabbat Worlds Crusade army from an assault by the Forces of Chaos.
- Balhaut - While on shore leave on Balhaut, elements of the 1st Tanith Regiment fought off a Blood Pact death squad that had been sent to assassinate Mabbon Etogaur, a former Blood Pact officer who had defected to the Imperial side in the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, before he could reveal any useful intelligence to the Imperial military.
- Salvation's Reach - The Tanith First-and-Only have been away from the front line for too long. Listless, and hungry for action, they are offered a mission that perfectly suits their talents. The objective: the mysterious Salvation’s Reach, a remote and impenetrable stronghold concealing secrets that could change the course of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. But the proposed raid is so hazardous, it is regarded as a suicide mission, and Gaunt's Ghosts may have been in reserve for so long they have lost their edge. Haunted by spectres from the past and stalked by the Forces of Chaos, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and his Ghosts embark upon what could be their finest hour… or their final mission.
- Gaunt's Ghosts (Novel Series) by Dan Abnett