|Third War for Armageddon|
|Attacker||Orks (Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka)|
|Defender||Space Marines (25+ Chapters), Imperial Guard (massed regiments), Commissar Yarrick, High Marshal Helbrecht of the Black Templars|
The Third War for Armageddon that began in 998.M41 was a massive conflict between the Imperium of Man and the largest Ork WAAAGH! ever raised, led by the Greenskin Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka. The war was fought on the Hive World of Armageddon where Ghazghkull Thraka had launched his first attempt to seize the planet exactly 57 standard years before. The conflict eventually drew in portions of over 25 Space Marine Chapters, dozens of Imperial Guard Regiments, several Titan Legions and caused immense destruction to Armageddon before essentially ending in an extremely narrow Imperial victory, though neither the Imperial nor Ork forces were able to secure complete control over the contested world and fighting is still ongoing in many regions.
Armageddon is an Imperial Hive World in the Armageddon Sector of the Segmentum Solar with an estimated population of between 100,000,000,000 and 500,000,000,000 people. The massive trade and industrial output of Armageddon makes it a vital part of the Imperium, particularly for the tightly settled worlds of the Segmentum Solar, the very heart of human-settled space.
The Third War for Armageddon began exactly 57 standard years to the day after the start of the Second War for Armageddon in 998.M41, and it saw the return of the Ork hordes to Armageddon under the control of the infamous Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka. He brought with him the forces of three other major Ork Warlords, the Great Despot of Dregruk, Urgok the Unstoppable and the Over-Fiend of Octarius. They each commanded vast Greenskin forces, led by many other Ork Warbosses, to create the greatest Ork WAAAGH! ever faced by the Imperium of Man. Ghazghkull proved to be that most dangerous of Ork leaders, one with both drive and actual ability in abundance. A serious head injury in his youth awoke his "visions" from the Ork gods Gork and Mork which led him on a bloody path of conquest unmatched by any Orks in recent Imperial history. He returned to Armageddon for his "rematch" after decades of planning and testing Imperial defences and succeeded in unifying dozens of Ork tribes and even contingents from several different Ork empires, a level of unity among the greenskins that had never been faced by the Imperium before.
The Orks Regroup
Ghazghkull had not been an idle Ork following his defeat in the Second War for Armageddon. Retiring to his stronghold in a network of Ork-controlled star systems in the Golgotha Sector, he carried on with the master plan that had been divinely revealed to him by the Ork Gods Gork and Mork decades before. If the Imperium had made one terrible mistake following the Second War for Armageddon it was to believe that Ghazghkull had actually been defeated. In truth, what the Ork gods had revealed to the Warboss, or at least what he said they revealed, was that in order to truly destroy one's foe, you first had to learn all about him. For Ghazghkull, the Second War had simply been a way to learn how the Imperium would react and defend against a major Ork planetary invasion. In effect, Ghazghkull believed that the first invasion had been nothing more than a test of the Imperium of Man's defences.
In the five decades that followed the Second War for Armageddon, Ghazghkull carried on uninterrupted with his divinely-inspired plan. Having learnt all he needed to know about Imperial tactics and strategy, he began developing the tactics that he felt would lead to his enemies' ultimate defeat. As he did not want to draw attention to himself, these "experiments" were carried out on a much smaller stage than the invasion of Armageddon. From 945 until 959.M41, the Imperium received numerous reports of small Ork raids and attacks against Imperial bases and outposts that were led by Ghazghkull Thraka personally.
In 962.M41, an Imperial military base on the world of Buca III was destroyed by missiles fired from an Ork base hidden within an asteroid. The asteroid entered the star system from deep space and bypassed all the Imperial sensors because of its seemingly inert nature before unleashing its potent missiles at the unsuspecting outpost. In 972.M41, the Imperial Agri-world of Chigon 17 was overrun by a huge force of Orks also allegedly under Warboss Ghazghkull's direct command. Despite the fact that Chigon's Imperial Guard defenders were equipped with tanks and other armored vehicles, they were decisively beaten by the Orks in a lengthy guerilla campaign which rendered the powerful but static Imperial defences wholly useless. In 986.M41 the Imperial Navy battlecruiser Radiant Way and its escorts were lost with all hands in an attack by ork pirates, again led by Ghazghkull. The Imperium responded in force but discovered that all signs of the ork presence had simply disappeared by the time they arrived in that region of space.
Just before the outbreak of the Third War for Armageddon, Ghazghkull allied with the Ork Warlord Nazdreg Ug Urdgrub to launch an assault on the Imperial world of Piscina IV. The Orks used a previously unknown form of teleportation technology that let them maneuver their troops directly onto the planet from a Space Hulk located a large distance away from the planet. The Imperial garrison was taken completely by surprise and only the presence of Space Marines from the Dark Angels Chapter saved Piscina from being overrun by the greenskins.
However, this defeat proved to be of little consequence for Ghazghkull as the completion and testing of his new "tellyporta" by the Ork genius later dubbed "Orkimedes" by the Imperium meant that he was finally ready to unleash his full force against the Imperium. After more than fifty years, Ghazghkull and his Orks intended to have their revenge.
The Reconstruction of Armageddon
Following Ghazghkull's first invasion of Armageddon, a long investigation of the planet's readiness and defences was begun in 948.M41. In light of the strategic value of Armageddon to the Imperium, extensive works were ordered by the Adeptus Terra to secure the Armageddon System against any future attacks. The Imperial Navy's Sector Command was transferred to the Armageddon System and the naval facility of Saint Jowen's Dock was rebuilt and expanded to accommodate all classes of Imperial Navy warships. Three permanently-manned monitoring stations were established in the outer reaches of the star system, named after three of the greatest heroes of the Second War for Armageddon: Mannheim, Dante and Yarrick. Ground-based and orbital defences were rebuilt and heavily reinforced, gravitic minefields were seeded throughout the star system and a substantial increase in the numbers of sublight system defense ships and monitors was ordered.
On Armageddon itself, the long process of reconstructing the hive cities destroyed by Ghazghkull's first invasion was begun. This was a process that was still ongoing over fifty years later. In part, the slowness of reconstruction was caused by the increased number of Planetary Defence Force (PDF) regiments that were raised over this period, despite a lowering of Armageddon's tithe of regiments destined for the Imperial Guard. A military council was appointed by the Administratum to rule over Armageddon and was made up of high-ranking officials of the Imperial Guard, the Imperial Navy, the Departmento Munitorum, the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Ecclesiarchy and the Governor of each of the major hive cities on Armageddon. The council was led by General Kurov of the Imperial Guard, a respected veteran of the Bakkus Crusade. From 949.M41 to 978.M41, General Kurov coordinated a series of xenocidal campaigns conducted throughout the equatorial jungles between Armageddon Prime and Secundus and on the frozen planet of Chosin to eliminate feral Ork infestations which had sprung up in the aftermath of Ghazghkull's invasion. Fifty standard years passed and Armageddon slowly rose from the ashes, its defences stronger and more powerful than ever before. Still, it would not prove to be enough to face the green storm that was coming.
The first sign of that coming conflagration was a series of Ork attacks on the star systems surrounding Armageddon and other Imperial worlds nearby. First, the nearby world of Minerva suffered from the depredations of Ork pirates, then the Agri-world of Ruis was likewise assailed by greenskins. Over a period of months, in spite of the heroic efforts of the Imperial Navy, the number of Imperial merchant starships reaching Armageddon was cut in half. Someone seemed to understand that the Imperial forces in the sector were bound by the need to guard the Armageddon System and were not free to patrol the rest of the sector as freely as they normally would. Almost immediately, the Ork pirate raids grew into assaults on Imperial outposts and then into attacks against lightly-held Imperial colonies. Soon, the first full-scale planetary invasions began. Two dozen Imperial worlds came under attack from Orks in as many hours and the Astropaths of Armageddon received constant reports of yet more Ork invasions and atrocities. Every consultation of the Emperor's Tarot prophesized only enormous amounts of bloodshed to come and the sign of the Beast Resurgent. Rumours spread that Ghazghkull was returning to have his vengeance and soon even the most obstinate Administratum adept could no longer deny that an Ork WAAAGH! of gargantuan proportions was engulfing the entire Armageddon Sector of the Segmentum Solar. After the Imperial Navy's Task Force Trajan was presumed lost battling the Orks in the Desdena System, General Kurov sent an astropathic call for assistance to nearby Imperial Guard Regiments and Space Marine Chapters to come to the defence of Armageddon once more.
Return of the Beast
On the day of the Feast of the Emperor's Ascension in 998.M41, 57 standard years to the day after the first Ork invasion of Armageddon, augur psychic probes registered a massive disruption in the Warp as an Ork fleet emerged back into realspace and Ghazghkull's greenskin horde descended on Armageddon once more. An alert from the Imperial monitor station Dante was cut off in mid-transmission as the Ork starships swept past in their hundreds upon ramshackle hundreds.
The monitor station's final vox reports indicated that an Ork fleet was moving into the Armageddon System, comprising 50 Ork cruisers and over 300 escort vessels, accompanied by at least four Space Hulks. The Imperial forces of Armageddon were placed on full alert and seven Imperial Navy cruiser squadrons, led by the Apocalypse-class battleships His Will and Triumph, departed Saint Jowen's Dock in geostationary orbit of Armageddon within 24 hours of the first reports of the Ork invasion. The Imperial fleet, under the command of Admiral Parol, entered battle five days later, catching the lead elements of the Ork fleet in an ambush around the high-gravity world of Pelucidar.
Sixty Ork attack ships were blasted out of the vacuum by Imperial fire in the initial engagement, without the loss of a single Imperial starship. Then Admiral Parol's vessels were engaged by heavy squadrons of Ork kill kroozers and swarms of fighta-bommerz racing ahead of the main body of the Ork fleet. The Imperial starships fought valiantly, their weapon batteries pounding the crude Ork vessels into scrap, ravening lance beams incinerating wave after wave of the fighta-bommerz.
Nevertheless, the Ork fleet outnumbered the Imperial Navy's defenders of Armageddon by six-to-one and the Imperial starships were gradually pushed back. The Orks made suicidal runs against the Imperial gunners with unbridled ferocity, losing a dozen of their ships in exchange for a single Imperial vessel. At the height of the engagement, Admiral Parol received comm-bursts from the Yarrick and Mannheim monitor stations warning that three more entire Ork fleets were entering the edges of the star system. At the exact same moment, the Triumph was hit by the combined firepower of five Ork kill kroozers and crippled by this heavy fire and massed Ork teleport boarding attacks. Realising that his duty lay in preserving the Imperial fleet for what would be a protracted conflict, Admiral Parol reluctantly gave the order for a general retreat.
The doomed Imperial monitor stations were overwhelmed by the Orks a few hours later. By their last count, the combined Ork fleets entering the Armageddon System numbered in excess of 2,000 starships and at least twelve Space Hulks, the largest number of Space Hulks ever to assail a world of the Imperium in its 10,000 year history. Admiral Parol, his command reduced to just five squadrons of cruisers and a single battleship, could do little more than mount hit-and-run attacks against the massive Ork armadas as they moved in-system. Imperial reinforcements would later arrive and then Parol hoped that the Orks command of space could be challenged with more of a chance for success.
As they waited, Parol's escorts and light cruisers harried the Orks as best they were able, distracting and drawing off their foes into traps and gravitic minefields. To their dismay, the Imperial Navy vessels encountered dozens of crude asteroid fortresses, or "Roks," in the normally vulnerable rear of the Ork fleets. These incredibly heavily armed weapon platforms proved difficult to assault directly, but the very presence of such large numbers of Roks seemed to indicate a complexity of strategic planning among the Orks that had not yet been seen by the Imperium's defenders.
Surprisingly, the Orks did not turn aside to capture the orbital Saint Jowen's Dock. Instead they bombarded it for six days as the Ork fleets moved past, enlivened by repeated attacks from Imperial assault boat squadrons. Ork warriors succeeded in establishing themselves throughout the lower sections of the dock and though the facility remained under Imperial control, it was rendered virtually useless as a dock for warships by damage from the bombardment and constant Ork raids. Only the arrival of two Inquisitorial Ordo Xenos' Deathwatch Space Marine Kill-Teams later in the campaign succeeded in driving the Orks back to the isotope storage pits at the base of the orbital station.
In the final few weeks before the Ork forces landed on Armageddon proper, the planet was in a frenzy of activity. Ancient Imperial Titans powered up their ancient plasma reactors and took up defensive positions around the hive cities, Imperial Guard regiments were mustered and dug in, Space Marines from over twenty Chapters moved into the mountains and wastelands, to prepare to face the Greenskins. Imperial merchant vessels were commandeered and used daily to run supplies and reinforcements to the planet through the besieging Ork fleet, despite the risk. The very last transport to touch down carried a legend to the people of the world, the "Old Man" himself, Imperial Commissar Yarrick. The population cheered as, for the first time in twenty years, Yarrick stepped foot on Armageddon.
The Commissar met with the military council that governed Armageddon that night and advised them on Ghazghkull's most recent tactics and strategies, and warned against underestimating the powerful Ork Warlord's abilities. General Kurov had always been renowned for his judgment of men in battle and he was deeply impressed by Yarrick's drive and intelligence. He requested that Yarrick take over the leadership of the military council for the duration of the crisis and to general relief, the Commissar agreed.
Six weeks after entering the Armageddon System, the vast Ork armada went into battle with the Imperial space stations and weapons platforms in high orbit above the world. Those who had hoped that the powerful orbital defences of Armageddon would keep the Orks at bay were soon proved to be hopelessly in error. The orbital battle raged for three full days and two terrible nights, but by the dawn of the third day, the skies of Armageddon were filled with the trails of Ork landing pods and the incandescent streaks of their attack craft carving runnels through the clouds. Hive Hades, still a ruin following the previous conflict, was the first to fall. In an act of vengeance, Ghazghkull chose not to fight again at Hades. Instead, the entire hive city and its inhabitants were smashed asunder by the colossal impact of giant asteroids dropped from the Orks orbiting Space Hulks. This act of wanton destruction was but a premonition of the monstrous bloodshed that was to come.
As the fires of Hades' destruction lit the eastern horizon, the first Ork drop legions clashed with Imperial defenders near Volcanus, Acheron and Death Mire. Ground-based defence lasers and missile silos took a terrible toll on the Orks as they landed, but the hulking survivors regrouped and assaulted the defences with such ferocity that soon more and more of the greenskin horde was reaching the planet's surface unharmed. Feral Orks swept down from the Pallidus Mountains and out of the world's Equatorial Jungles to join the growing numbers of their more technologically-inclined brethren. Where the Imperial defences proved too strong to be taken by frontal assaults, huge mobs of Orks and their war machines were teleported directly into battle from the Space Hulks waiting above. As the ground defences fell silent on the third day of the Ork landings, Yarrick ordered every remaining aircraft on Armageddon to be thrown into the battle in a desperate attempt to destroy as much of Ghazghkull's ground troops as possible before they reached the surface.
The sodden yellow skies over volcanic Armageddon became interwoven with the twisting trails of thousands of Ork fighta-bommerz and Imperial Thunderbolts and Furies as massive dogfights proceeded with maniacal fury. The Imperial aircraft had the advantage in that they could return to their armoured airbases to refuel and rearm, whereas the Orks had to reserve enough fuel to climb back up to their starships and Space Hulks in orbit. Yet, the Orks soon secured ground bases and the air battle turned against the brave Imperial pilots as the sheer number of Ork aircraft was brought fully to bear upon them.
As the aerial battles reached their climax five days after the Ork landings, Hive Acheron fell to the Orks without warning, captured by treachery from within. Reports spoke of the hive city's power grid being sabotaged and the Orks boiling up from secret access tunnels at the very heart of the great arcology. The instigator of these terrible crimes was revealed to be none other than the infamous war-criminal and former Armageddon Planetary Governor Herman von Strab. He took over the conquered hive city as its new Overlord, announcing that it was his divine right to rule over Armageddon. Ork brute squads stood ready to silence any dissenters who doubted von Strab's new right to rule. Shockingly, much of the old nobility in Acheron welcomed back von Strab as their long-lost prince, choosing to ignore the fact that he had thrown in his lot with some of the most violent xenos known to the Imperium.
At Hive Volcanus, on the same day that Acheron fell to betrayal, massed Ork infantry surged over the twenty square miles of defenses atop Volcanus Mount just beyond the hive city's outer suburbs. Seventeen garrison regiments of Armageddon hive militia were routed and the Orks captured many weapons and Imperial fortifications fully intact. Volcanus itself soon found itself besieged, surrounded by a ring of Orkish power and relentless pounded by captured Imperial macro cannons and barrage bombs.
Outside Death Mire, the defence went better. The Titans of Legios Tempestor and Victorum with their supporting regiments of the Mechanicus' cybernetic Skitarii virtually exterminated the Orks' Blackfire Tribe in a three-day battle across the Plain of Anthrand. But the Ork landers fell from the skies like an endless storm and the fighting spread across Armageddon like a wild fire until every hive city and factory complex was involved. In many places, Ork attacks were beaten off by the bravery and ferocity of Imperial defenders, but again and again the Orks regrouped and attacked once more, stretching the defenders to the limits of their endurance -- and beyond.
As Yarrick had predicted, Ghazghkull's strategies proved effective. The Orks kept an iron grip on Armageddon's airspace, orbital bombardments and fighta-bommerz pounded Imperial forces wherever they tried to form a coherent battleline, pinning them in place while further Ork infantry landings were made to surround them. Where the Orks found themselves outnumbered, they fought with guerilla tactics, striking at their human foes and then withdrawing into the world's harsh ash wastelands before retribution could arrive. Ghazghkull had learned the lessons of Chigon 17 very well and deliberately prepared so that the fighting was scattered and chaotic; precisely the conditions in which Ork warbands thrived and Imperial regiments were denied the support and coordination that humans depended upon to defend effectively. The only Imperial force which consistently defeated the Orks were the Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes. The Space Marines scoured the hinterlands of Armageddon on search and destroy missions to eliminate concentrations of the savage greenskins at every opportunity.
As the battles raged furiously on Armageddon's surface, Ghazghkull unleashed another of his surprises. Dozens of the great Ork Roks encountered by Admiral Parol's starships began to descend from orbit. Slowed by powerful gravitic force fields, retro boosters and modified Ork traktor kannons, the Ork Roks made landings in the verdant Equatorial Jungles and across Armageddon Prime and Secundus. Many were lost to ground fire or "Orky accidents" but each one that survived became a new bastion for the Orks, a rallying-point and a new citadel. As well as their huge guns and missile batteries, the Roks contained giant teleport arrays created by Orkimedes that were similar to those Ghazghkull has used during the Piscina campaign. These were employed to teleport down Ork reinforcements from their orbiting fleet, including Gargants and heavy artillery, in a seemingly endless stream of greenskins. Commissar Yarrick personally led assaults by the Imperial Guard's Cadian Storm Troopers supported by the Titans of Legio Metallica and Legio Ignatum which destroyed several of the Ork fortresses, but bloody battles around many of the others consumed whole regiments in only hours. For the rest of the war, the Space Marines bore the brunt of eliminating the Ork fortresses where they could, with the Salamanders Chapter winning particular honour for their successes against the Roks along the Hemlock River.
Mysteriously, the Orks also made landings in the Fire Wastes and the Dead Lands to the north and south of the main settled continent of Armageddon. Even Yarrick was surprised as these grim lands had always been believed to be uninhabitable and without value. Their value to the Ork Warboss became apparent when weeks later hundreds of tanker-sized Ork submersibles designed by Orkimedes rose from the polluted waters and made landings at Hives Tempestora and Helsreach. The surprise was total and Tempestora fell within days and the dockyards of Helsreach were soon in Greenskin hands. Only a bitter defiance by Hive Helsreach's ganger militias, with supporting companies of Imperial Guard Storm Troopers and Space Marines that had been rushed to the region, prevented the Orks from overrunning the hive city during what became known as the Battle of Helsreach. It was at Hive Helsreach that the Black Templars Chaplain Grimaldus led the defence of the Temple of the Emperor Ascendant, which had stood since Armageddon's colonization (see below).
Fourteen days after the initial Ork landings on the planet, the first major confrontation between Ork and Imperial war engines occurred. A ten-day battle raged over the Diabolus factory complex as the Gargant mobs of Warlord Burzuruk and Warlord Skarfang clashed with the Titans of Legio Crucius. Six Titans and eight Gargants were utterly destroyed in the fighting and others needed many months of repair before they were ready to enter combat again. The Diabolus complex was wrecked by the battle, its great foundries and machine shops blasted apart or crushed underfoot by the giant robotic war machines. In the aftermath of the battle Ork Speed Kults swiftly encircled Hive Infernus, cutting it off from all external aid. Mechanised Imperial counterattacks into the ash wastes met with initial success, but when an entire Imperial Guard regiment of Savlar Chem Dogs was surrounded and wiped out by the Speed Freeks, further attempts by the Imperial defenders of Infernus to break out from Ork encirclement were abandoned.
As the defenders pondered how to lift the greenskin siege, reports came in of a vast Ork horde rounding the Pallidus Mountains from the northeast. Soon the horde was visible from the hive's spires, a great sea of greenskin warriors which seemed to fill the empty expanse of the ash wastes to overflowing. Towering Ork Gargants strode through the tide, like dreadnoughts rolling on a sea of green doom. The war chants of the Orks could be heard from over 20 miles away, the ground shaking with the horde's progress. Even worse, the sea of war banners swaying over the Orks bore the personal glyph of Ghazghkull himself.
As the skies darkened beneath the shadow of Ork Space Hulks high above the hive city and the first orbital bombardments began, the citizens of Infernus knew that doom was upon them. They tried to take inspiration from the legends of Commissar Yarrick during the previous Ork invasion and how he had made the greenskins pay for every inch of ground they took at Hive Hades. Not all were courageous enough to face their fates and thousands fled into the ash wastes to be killed or captured as slaves by Speed Kults which circled the hive city like buzzards.
The Adeptus Arbites Arbitrators within the city soon moved to secure the hive, turning back or outright executing any who failed in their duty to the Emperor. As Ghazghkull's Ork army came within range of the city, the great siege guns that had survived the orbital bombardment pounded them, lobbing thousand pound shells into the mass of greenskins until return fire from the orbiting Space Hulks smashed them apart. In the brief lull that followed, Ghazghkull delivered to the defenders of Infernus a messenger. It was Colonel Gortar of the Chem Dogs, horribly mutilated and missing both his eyes and hands. The message the blind and crippled Colonel bore was a simple one that would be heard many times in the months to come across Armageddon as the war only escalated:
Surrender or Die!
Black Templars Armageddon Crusade
High Marshal (Chapter Master) Helbrecht of the Black Templars Space Marine Chapter and three full Crusades of his Black Templars answered the plea for aid from the besieged world of Armageddon when the Ork Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka returned at the head of the largest Ork WAAAGH! seen in living memory. The surrounding star systems and worlds fell quickly to the swarm of Orks, despite valiant attempts by Battlefleet Armageddon to stop the invasion. The WAAAGH! was simply too massive to halt. The Black Templars fought bloody campaigns throughout the ash wastelands of Armageddon, but it was in space that their greatest contribution was made to the defence of the world. The Three Black Templar Crusades assembled at a Chapter Keep on the world of Fergax, and set course for Segmentum Solar. Upon arriving at the war-torn world of Armageddon, Helbrecht's experience of commanding great fleets made him a natural leader of the assembled Adeptus Astartes starships, while Black Templars Marshals Ricard and Amalrich took their Crusades to the surface of Armageddon. The war in space was bitterly fought, with Helbrecht leading many storming actions aboard Ork Space Hulks. The Imperial Navy fleet under the command of Admiral Parol began to whittle down the massive fleet of Ork starships and Space Hulks, and the reduction of Ork ground reinforcements eventually began to tell on the greenskins' war effort. By the commencement of the Season of Fire where the surface of Armageddon becomes hostile to all life because of extreme volcanism, the fighting between Orks and humans had boiled down to an uneasy stalemate.
Fall of a Champion
The Black Templars' success in blunting the Ork invasion was shattered when Helbrecht’s Crusade returned to the Space Hulk Malevolent Dread. Earlier in the orbital engagements this Hulk had been heavily bombarded by the Black Templars battle barge Light of Purity, and damaged by charges planted by Black Templars boarding parties. Finally. Helbrecht decided to put an end to the Hulk once and for all and gathered his Crusade and all of his Sword Brethren Terminators to launch a massive boarding assault. An assault of this kind had never before been attempted on such a scale, but Helbrecht was determined to put an end to the gargantuan spaceborne monstrosity.
The first stage of the assault was a teleport attack led by the Black Templars Terminators. The Terminators established a perimeter to allow the rest of the Templars' forces to board the Hulk. The Ork response was immediate and the Terminators came under heavy assault. Casualties mounted but Helbrecht was determined to make room for the reinforcements. Thunderhawks and boarding torpedoes made it to the Hulk and joined the fighting at the perimeter. The Terminators held the Orks at bay but it was a tenuous achievement at best.
The second phase of the mission began as the Crusade organized into strike teams to lay the heavy thermal charges that would tear the Malevolent Dread in two. Helbrecht himself would lead the most important team, despite having been wounded several times already, Helbrecht was determined to plant the charges that would initiate the chain reaction and destroy the Hulk once and for all. Along with his command squads and the Templars' Emperor's Champion Vosper, Helbrecht pushed deeper into the Hulk.
The Terminators had held the Orks at bay during the first phase of the battle, and during the second phase they led the advance, forming the spearhead of the Templars' forces as they fought their way through the twisting corridors of the Hulk. Once they abandoned their relatively secure firing lanes, however, casualties began to increase yet again, but with the support of the entire Crusade the Terminators managed to press through the Ork defenses. As more and more strike teams broke off to complete their individual objectives, the Templars forces became ever more vulnerable to sudden ambush and attack.
It was as the Templars broke into a cavernous gap between two of the ill fitting starships that made up the Hulk that the Orks launched their largest assault yet. Over a thousand of the greenskinned monstrosities threw themselves into the bolter fire laid down by the Templars, heedless of their own losses.
An audible crack sounded as the Orks smashed into the Templar line. Their advantage lost, the Templars nevertheless managed to hold the line. Vosper and Helbrecht led the counterattack, scything into the Orks with unmatched skill, building a pile of Ork dead at their feet. Slowly the tide of battle turned as the Templars reformed behind their champions to cut through the Ork horde. As the two mighty warriors slashed their way through the Orks they came upon the largest of the foul creatures, the Space Hulk's Warboss, who tore through the swirling melee, cutting down warrior Battle-Brothers wherever he went. Filled with righteous fury, the Emperor’s Champion Vosper called the massive Ork to account and faced the creature in one-on-one combat. Each Templar whispered a prayer to the Emperor as Vosper and the Ork Warboss crossed blades, praying for their Champion who was the very embodiment of all that their Chapter held dear.
Vosper attacked the Ork warlord with huge two-handed sweeps of the Chapter's famed Black Sword, driving the creature back step by step and slowly gaining the upper hand. But as the Warboss reeled back from a powerful overhand blow it became enraged and recovered with inhuman speed, driving Vosper back and though the Emperor’s Champion met every blow of the Ork’s sword he could not stop the creature from barreling into him. Knocked off balance, Vosper could not stand aside as the Warboss split his skull in two.
Their Champion’s fall was the turning point of the battle. Despite High Marshal Helbrecht’s best efforts, the Templars faltered and the Orks redoubled their efforts. The High Marshal was forced to the ground, swamped by dozens of greenskins. His Command Squad pulled him clear but an Ork Choppa was buried in his chest armour. As the Templars fell back, many were brutally cut down and the casualties for the Chapter went from bad to horrendous. Many groups of Templars found themselves cut off as the teleporter arrays of the Light of Purity overloaded with the strain of teleporting units back on board. Without an effective defensive perimeter there was nothing the Crusade could do to rescue the stranded squads, leaving them to do nothing but try to sell their lives as dearly as possible.
By the time the Light of Purity pulled away from the Space Hulk almost half of Helbrecht’s Crusade had been lost and Helbrecht himself had been critically injured, only his enhanced body keeping him from joining the Emperor.
Finally, with Armageddon's Season of Fire upon the combatants, the fighting on the planet's surface finally stalled as the Orks found it difficult to advance in the face of the world's rampant volcanism. The Space Hulk believed to be the flagship of Ghazghkull Thraka, the Perversion of Pain, departed Armageddon orbit along with the bulk of the remaining spaceborne Ork forces. Swearing a mighty oath to hunt down and slay Ghazghkull before he could threaten the Imperium again, High Marshal Helbrecht took his remaining Crusade forces and pursued the greenskins, but the Black Templar fleet did not leave alone. The Hero of Armageddon, Commissar Yarrick, petitioned High Marshal Helbrecht to allow him to accompany the Black Templars alongside a handpicked force of elite Imperial Guardsmen and as a sign of the esteem in which Helbrecht held Yarrick, the High Marshal granted his request.
Chaplain Grimaldus, Hero of Helsreach
The third Black Templar Crusade on Armageddon was led by Chaplain Grimaldus, who had just recently been raised to the position of Reclusiarch, after the death of his mentor Mordred. Under the direction of the High Marshal, he led over a hundred of his Battle-Brothers into some of the most horrific battles to take place on Armageddon. After a score of successful campaigns, Grimaldus gathered his forces and charged towards Hive Helsreach which was besieged at that time by thousands of Orks who had swarmed up from the icy Dead Lands in the south using Orkimedes submersibles, initiating the terrible Battle of Helsreach. The Black Templars stood their ground at the colossal building known as the Temple of the Emperor Ascendant, a vast basilica dedicated to the Imperial Cult that had stood since the earliest days of Armageddon's colonisation. The Orks attacked with devastating force but Chaplain Grimaldus and his Astartes held out for almost two months. The Orks finally penetrated the Space Marines' defences and stormed the Temple, destroying irreplaceable relics, infuriating the Templars even more. Many of the Hive Militants and Imperial Guardsmen supporting the Space Marines turned to flee, but were rallied by the sound of Chaplain Grimaldus' booming voice echoing through the Temple; "I have dug my grave in this place and I will either triumph, or I will die!"
The battle degenerated into a bloody melee in the heart of the building, ending only when the entire edifice began to crumble, eventually collapsing around the combatants. All were feared lost until a day later, when Chaplain Grimaldus crawled from the ruins, bearing the last relics of the Temple and vowing that all would remember the lives that had been lost in the defense of Armageddon. The Black Templar Apothecaries who examined him later were amazed that Grimaldus had survived, much less found the strength to climb from the ruins. When the war finally ended, the citizens of Hive Helsreach honored him with the title of "Hero of Helsreach."
The Salamanders' Return to Armageddon
When WAAAGH! Ghazghkull descended upon Armageddon in 998.M41, many Space Marine Chapters responded as noted above, including the Black Templars, White Scars, Exorcists, Silver Skulls, Iron Champions, Storm Lords -- the list goes on, their raiment every colour under the Emperor's sun. Yet of all those Chapters that fought in the shadow of Armageddon's smoke-wreathed manufactorums and hive cities, the populace remember none with the same gratitude that they give to the Salamanders.
The Salamanders had been instrumental in Ghazghkull's defeat in the Second War for Armageddon, but victory had cost them dearly. Perhaps it was vengeance that drove the Chapter to make such a generous contribution to the Third War. Whatever the reason, almost the entire Salamanders Chapter was present in the crucial early months of the war. Under the eye of their bold Chapter Master Tu'shan, they fought with determination on the most terrible battlefields. When the din of battle grew quiet and the Ork attacks slowed, the Salamanders did not sit idle, but instead launched several devastating counterattacks against the Roks landed by the Orks along the Hemlock River. Preferring the close-quarter fighting to be had in the maze of crudely carved tunnels that lay within the interior of the Roks to the long-range duels in the desert, the Salamanders made their mark. By the start of the Season of Fire, 9 Roks had been destroyed by the Salamanders' attacks, killing untold thousands of Greenskins.
The glory of such battles was one shared with many other Chapters, and alone it does not explain the fierce loyalty that the Salamanders engendered in the people of Armageddon. The truth of the matter remains that while some Chapters fought for the Emperor, and others for the renown and glory to be earned, Tu'shan and his Salamanders fought each battle to save the lives of the people of Armageddon.
On more than one occasion, Tu'shan threw his Astartes into the most hopeless of battles to rescue embattled civilian enclaves and settlements that other Imperial commanders had been prepared to sacrifice for the sake of the wider war. Indeed it is even rumoured that Master Tu'shan himself came to blows with Captain Vinyar of the Marines Malevolent after it became known that the latter's men had shelled a refugee camp simply because there were Orks within its perimeter. This act alone won Tu'shan and his Chapter much renown, although relations between the Salamanders and the Marines Malevolent have never been quite the same.
The majority of the Salamanders departed Armageddon following the Season of Fire, but the Chapter's work was not done. The two companies of the Chapter that remained behind on the Hive World did so to protect its major population centres from marauding Ork warbands that would never quite be eradicated. The Chapter's Techmarines have been instrumental in repairing and rebuilding the infrastructure required to maintain such a vast amount of people, and it is certain that they have saved many thousands of lives with these vital but often overlooked duties. The people of Armageddon will not soon forget the efforts the Salamanders made in their name. The legend that the Sons of Vulkan have left behind will surely shine all the brighter with every passing year.
The end of the Third War for Armageddon is clouded in mystery. Ultimately the campaign was considered a narrow Imperial victory as the world remained largely under the control of the Imperium. Word later reached Yarrick from the Black Templars Chapter fleet in orbit of Armageddon that Ghazghkull had fled the world once the planet's Season of Fire had begun and bogged down the Orks' offensives, possibly in his command Space Hulk, The Perversion of Pain. With this news, Yarrick gathered together his own forces and gave chase alongside the Black Templars Crusader Fleet, as the Black Templars' High Marshal Helbrecht began a new Crusade to seek out and finally destroy Ghazghkull. In a daring covert operation by the 13th Penal Legion under Colonel Schaeffer, the traitorous former Imperial Governor Herman von Strab was killed in the occupied Hive Acheron when he was tackled over the edge of a balcony by one Lieutenant Kage, both men falling to their deaths. Though the war is officially over, fighting still continues on the planet at present. Though Ghazghkull has left the world, pursued by Commissar Yarrick with a full Black Templars Crusade at his back, the remaining Orks have come to regard Armageddon as a kind of Greenskin Valhalla where they can always come to find a good fight, and the Imperium must still send more troops into the stalemated battle to keep the planet in Imperial hands and prevent the seemingly permanent Ork infestation from becoming a major threat once more.
The state of Armageddon and its surrounding planets is currently dire. Billions of Imperial soldiers and citizens died in the war, and many of the hive cities of Armageddon lie in ruins. The damage done to the world by the Third War for Armageddon is some of the most devastating ever suffered by the people of the Imperium. Dozens of Imperial armies were decimated or destroyed altogether by the ferocious combat, and the damage done to the planet itself may take centuries to repair. Most of the settled planets in the Armageddon System have been ravaged by Ork forces, and with Ghazghkull having fled into deep space, it is likely he will quickly rebuild his forces and carve out a new Ork empire for himself, unless the Black Templars and Yarrick are able to stop him.
Select Imperial Order of Battle
Imperial Guard and Armageddon Planetary Defence Forces
- 4th Armageddon Steel Legion
- 8th Armageddon Super Heavy Tank Company
- 13th Penal Legion, "The Last Chancers"
- 14th Savlar Chem Dogs
- 34th Armageddon Steel Legion
- 34th Armageddon Steel Legion Armoured Division
- 51st Armageddon Steel Legion
- 61st Armageddon Steel Legion
- 69th Armageddon Steel Legion
- 91st Armageddon Steel Legion
- 93rd Armageddon Steel Legion
- 101st Armageddon Steel Legion
- 121st Armageddon Steel Legion
- 121st Armageddon Steel Legion Armoured Division
- 141st Armageddon Steel Legion
- 199th Armageddon Steel Legion Armoured Division
- 273rd Armageddon Steel Legion
- 276th Armageddon Steel Legion
- 703rd Armageddon Steel Legion Storm Trooper Division
- Armageddon Ash Wastes Militia, 5 Regiments
- Armageddon Command Guard, 5 Companies
- Armageddon Hive Militia, 120 Regiments
- Armageddon Jungle Fighters Regime, 1 Regiment
- Armageddon Ork Hunters, 5 Regiments
- Armageddon Steel Legion, 25 Regiments
- Arphista Penal Legion
- Asgardian Rangers, 2 Regiments
- Cadian Shock Troops, 15 Regiments
- Catachan Jungle Fighters, 3 Regiments
- Death Korps of Krieg, 5 Regiments
- Elysian Drop Troopers, 14 Squadrons
- Helsreach Dockers' Union
- Helsreach Ganger Militia
- Jopall Indentured Squadron, 17 Battalions
- Krourk Ogryn Auxilia, 2 Regiments
- Minervan Tank Legion, 3 Legions
- Monglor Ogryn Auxilia, 2 Regiments
- Mordian Iron Guard, 6 Regiments
- Noctan Strike Force, 6 Regiments
- Ocanon Phalanx Troopers, 11 Regiments
- Pyran Dragoons, 10 Regiments
- Savlar Chem-Dogs, 6 Regiments
- Savlar Chem-Riders, 2 Regiments
- Semtexian Bombardiers, 9 Batteries
- Storm Troopers, 18 Companies
- Zouvan Skirmishers, 4 Brigades
- 5082nd Imperial Naval Wing
- 14 Adeptus Astartes Battle Barges
- 103 Adeptus Astartes Strike Cruisers
- Battlefleet Armageddon
- 43 Bomber Strike Wings
- 36 Squadrons of Escorts
- 6 first-line Cruiser Squadrons
- 9 second-line Cruiser Squadrons
- 12 Light Cruiser Squadrons
- 67 Interceptor Strike Wings
- Monitor Station Dante
- Monitor Station Mannheim
- Monitor Station Yarrick
- Archangel - Defiant-class Light Cruiser
- Forebearer - Defiant-class Light Cruiser
- Ex Cathedra - Armageddon-class Battlecruiser
- Hammer of Light - Armageddon-class Battlecruiser
- Thunderchild - Armageddon-class Battlecruiser
- Green Lake - Oberon-class Battleship
- His Will - Apocalypse-class Battleship
- Leonid - Endeavour-class Light Cruiser
- Triumph - Apocalypse-class Battleship
- Inomine Veritas - Emperor-class Battleship
- The Eternal Crusader - Black Templars Flagship (Battle Barge)
- Light of Purity - Black Templars Battle Barge
- Majesty - Black Templars Strike Cruiser
- Night's Vigil - Black Templars Battle Barge
- Sanctis Legate - Endeavour-class Light Cruiser
- Serpentine - Salamanders Battle Barge
- Sword of Voss - Endeavour-class Light Cruiser
- Vulkan's Wrath - Salamanders Strike Cruiser
- Angels of Fire, 7 Companies
- Angels of Redemption, 4 Companies
- Angels of Vigilance, 6 Companies
- Angels Porphyr, 8 Companies
- Black Dragons, 9 Companies
- Black Templars, 3 Crusades
- Blood Angels, 1 Company
- Celebrants, entire Chapter deployed
- Celestial Lions, entire Chapter deployed
- Exorcists, entire Chapter deployed
- Flesh Tearers, 5 Companies
- Immortal Hearts, 1 Company
- Iron Champions, 7 Companies
- Marines Malevolent, 2 Companies
- Mortifactors, entire Chapter deployed
- Omega Marines, entire Chapter deployed
- Raptors, 5 Companies
- Red Scorpions, 1 Company
- Relictors, entire Chapter deployed
- Salamanders, 6 Companies
- Silver Skulls, 7 Companies
- Sons of Guilliman, 6 Companies
- Space Wolves, 5 Great Companies
- Storm Giants, 5 Companies
- Storm Lords, 2 Brotherhoods
- White Scars, 3 Brotherhoods
- Widowmakers, 1 Company
Forces of the Inquisition
Forces of the Adeptus Mechanicus
- Archimedes Rex - Ark Mechanicus-class Battleship
- Centurio Ordinatus, 4 Ordinatii
- Legio Crucius, Demi-Legio
- Legio Ignatum, Legio
- Legio Invigilata, Legio
- Legio Magna, Quarto-Legio
- Legio Metallica, Demi-Legio
- Legio Tempesto, Legio
- Legio Victorum, Legio
- Skitarii, 14 Regiments
Forces of the Ecclesiarchy
Forces of the Adeptus Arbites
- 20 Adeptus Arbites Armageddon Precincts
- 12 Punitive Battalions
Forces of the Departmento Munitorum
- Departmento Munitorum Engineer Corps, 2 Corps
- Departmento Munitorum Pioneer Corps, 1 Corps
Forces of the Officio Assassinorum
- Officio Assassinorum Agents (Numbers Classified)
Forces of the Officio Sabatorum
- 34 Agents of the Sabatorum
Forces of the Templars Psykologis
- 15 Disruption Squads
Select Ork Order of Battle
- Despot Gazgrim's War Horde, 200 Mobs, 18 Gargants
- Black Slayers Tribe, 30 Mobs, 4 Gargants
- Firebellies Tribe, 18 Mobs, 3 Gargants
- Razor Speed Freeks, 21 Kult of Speed Mobs
- Varga's Drop Legion, 24 Mobs
- Warlord Badfang's Battle Forts, 3 Mobs, 16 Battle Fortresses
- Warlord Gorshag's Big Gunz, 7 Artillery Mobs
- Warlord Rukgor's Gargant Big Mob, 5 Mobs, 6 Gargants
- Warlord Thogfang's Gargant Big Mob, 2 Mobs, 7 Gargants
- Great Overlord Ghazghkull's War Horde, 400 Mobs, 18 Gargants
- Blackskull Tribe, 30 Mobs, 3 Gargants
- Burning Death Speed Freeks, 25 Kult of Speed Mobs
- Crooked Moon Tribe, 21 Mobs, 3 Gargants
- Red Fin Tribe, 30 Mobs, 4 Gargants
- Red Wheelz Speed Freeks, 18 Kult of Speed Mobs
- Warlord Burzuruk's Gargant Big Mob, 4 Mobs, 9 Gargants
- Warlord Kroksnik's Death Traks, 4 Mobs, 32 Battle Fortresses
- Warlord Morfang's Gargant Big Mob, 6 Mobs, 7 Gargants
- Warlord Morkbad's Big Gunz, 6 Artillery Mobs
- Warlord Skarfang's Gargant Big Mob, 3 Mobs, 6 Gargants
- Warlord Thugsnik's Big Gunz, 6 Artillery Mobs
The Fire Wastes
- Great Slayer Grimskull's War Horde, 60 Mobs, 8 Gargants
- Slasherzz Speed Freeks, 12 Kult of Speed Mobs
- Stompers Tribe, 16 Mobs, 1 Gargant
- Vultures Tribe, 16 Mobs, 3 Gargants
- Warlord Blargrot's Gargant Big Mob, 4 Mobs, 3 Gargants
- Warlord Rukglum's Big Gunz, 11 Artillery Mobs
- Warlord Skarg's Gargant Big Mob, 4 Mobs, 3 Gargants
The Dead Lands
- Great Fiend Gorssnik Magrash's Wa Horde, 250 Mobs, 160 Battle Fortresses
- Black Cloud Speed Freeks, 20 Kult of Speed Mobs
- Warlord Bogsnik's Blitz Brigade, 12 Mobs, 41 Battle Fotresses
- Warlord Skarsnik's Blitz Brigade, 12 Mobs, 41 Battle Fortresses
- White Lightning Speed Freeks, 31 Kult of Speed Mobs
Ork Fleet Elements
- 12-16 Space Hulks
- 2000-3500 Fighta-Bommer Squadrons
- 2100+ Attack Craft
- 80-100 Roks
- 250-400 Kill Kroozers
- Several thousand Ork Battleships
- Dethdeala - Ork Battleship
- Grimzag's Ammer - Kill Kroozer
- Kroolboy - Battleship
- Skullbanga - Space Hulk
- Codex: Armageddon (3rd Edition) pp. 13-32
- Codex: Black Templars (4th Edition), pp. 20-21
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex) pg. 8
- Codex: Grey Knights (5th Edition), pg. 13
- Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition), pg. 24
- Codex: Orks (4th Edition), pg. 25
- Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition), pp. 20-22
- Epic Armageddon Rulebook, pg. 61
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 176, 193,
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (4th Edition) , pg. 34
- Annihilation Squad (Novel) by Gav Thorpe
- Helsreach (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Last Chancers (Novel Series) by Gav Thorpe
- Third War for Armageddon - World Wide Campaign