Aquila of the Vostok Legion


The Imperial Guard is the primary fighting force of the Imperium, so numerous in size that even the Departmento Munitorum cannot place a figure on the number of Guardsmen under arms at any one time; the daily lists of new recruits and toll of casualties can run into the millions in a single day. It would be infeasible trying to put any exact number on the strength of the Guard; however, it is believed that there must be many billions of Imperial Guardsmen, divided into millions of regiments. This absolute numeracy provides the Guard with its main power; their ability to deploy in numbers that, eventually, result in victory. Attacking in seemingly endless influxes across battle-zones, charging forth under the cover of massive barrages and delivering massed lasgun volleys, in the Guard the individual Human soldier may appear a lost thing, almost forgotten. Yet the actions of these anonymous soldiers daily decide the fate of worlds.1

The Guard forms the very backbone of the Imperium; without it, Mankind would surely perish. Whilst Guardsmen are hardly the equals of Space Marines, fighting neither with the advantages of genetic enhancement or the most powerful personal weaponry, the Guard possesses the courage and the manpower to face and annihilate the enemies of the Emperor across the galaxy.

Origins of the Imperial Guard

The Imperial Guard, as the standing Human armed force of the Imperium, can trace its origin back to the days of the Great Crusade, several millennia ago, when it was a somewhat different organization known as the Imperial Army. Following the events of the Horus Heresy, however, the Imperial Army was split into two organizations; the Imperial Guard, and the Imperial Navy.

Imperial Guard Structure

The Imperial Guard is organized into largely autonomous regiments. These regiments are raised by the worlds of the Imperium that have been classified as fit for such a purpose. These regiments can be sent anywhere in the galaxy, potentially serving in designated combat-zones for years at a time1. It is not considered likely that any Guardsman will return to their world of origin; a fading memory of home is considered one of the average Guardsman's most constant companions.4

Individual regiments are commanded by their own officers, however, when regiments are combined together to form a battle-group, overall command is often placed with a general staff specifically created for the purpose by the Departmento Munitorum.3 Such officers and tacticians are highly trained in their esoteric art of commanding from the rear, and often stand in stark contrast to regimental commanders at the front, who more often than not lead by example.

Command Structure

The Imperial Guard is ultimately run by the Departmento Munitorum, who have three seats on the council of the High Lords of Terra. It provides all the supplies, equipment, training, and also some of the representatives sent to worlds with an Imperial Guard presence. While they do not directly control the prosecution of Imperial military strategy, they have devolved power to different sections of the Imperium, at the planetary level, sub-sector level and sector level. Each world compares the threat posed to them against a previously defined threat-level and if it is deemed dangerous enough, the threat is passed to the sub-sector level and troops from surrounding worlds may be mobilized. If the threat increases further a full scale request to the sector level can see hundreds of worlds mobilizing and converging on one system or group of systems.3

The command structure for the Imperial Guard is relatively complex when compared to other races, but the Imperial Guard is an infinitely bigger organization than most others.

Regimental Structure

The regiment is the primary combat unit of the Imperial Guard. Recruited from a single planet at a single raising, it is founded as a complete entity, complete with its own officer, supply, and support cadres. It should be noted however, that like most everything else in the Guard, the precise details of even these essential elements can vary widely from world to world. Whilst the majority of the regiment, even the non-combatant personnel, will come from their founding world, the Commissars assigned to it are always off-worlders.3

After being raised, the regiment is shipped to its posting; they receive their training during the voyage. Their posting can be directly into the heart of a war-zone, or it may be to garrison or outpost duty.

An Imperial Guard regiment is essentially a temporary unit, unlike the Space Marine chapters. After being formed they normally receive no further reinforcements. It is rarely practical for regiments to receive new recruits from their home-worlds to replace casualties, mainly due to the immense distances between a regiment's home-world and its posting. The costs, risks, and time-lag difficulties involved in transporting relatively few soldiers to reinforce their brethren rarely justify themselves, especially when alternate and more efficient means of reinforcement tend to exist. If on garrison or outpost duty, an Imperial Guard regiment may be able to recruit from the local population. If on active combat duty, two or more under-strength regiments may be merged together in order to create a new regiment at full strength.5 This can result in regiments being bolstered by troopers from their own home-world, such as in the case of the Valhallan 597th Ice Warriors6, or can result in a true mongrel unit, with the Guardsmen included coming from several different worlds (such as the Tanith First and Only).7

If any regiment survives long enough, it can eventually receive reinforcement from children born to the Guardsmen who have been raised inside the regiment and can normally be expected to join it upon reaching the required age. These new recruits, officially designated as "probiters", but more commonly called Whiteshields, are formed into their own platoons where they receive their latter combat training by taking part in actual combat, until they are ready to join the regiment as Guardsmen proper5.

One known notable exception to this reinforcement rule is that of Vostroyan Firstborn regiments; due to the peculiar background of the Vostroyans, their Guard regiments are reinforced in the field by new recruits sent out by their home-world, despite the difficulties involved.8

When reinforcement does not occur, for whatever reason, regiments may find themselves gradually depleted through casualties until they are destroyed in battle or mustered out for meritorious service. The former incidence is much more likely to occur than the latter.

The Regiments of the Imperial Guard

There are countless thousands of regiments spread throughout the galaxy. Some are garrisoning worlds, others are part of campaigns or crusades and some have even been forgotten about by the Departmento Munitorum and Administratum. As such there has never been and never will be an absolutely complete list of regiments available for combat,

The Imperial Guard on the Field of Battle

The Imperial Guard's countless regiments include all manner of infantry, cavalry both mechanized and not, artillery and war engines. Each particular regiment is normally uniform in organization inside itself, and often seem to specialize in one particular form of war. For instance, light infantry regiments can barely demonstrate any motorized transport and certainly possess no weapons that are not man-portable. In contrast, an artillery regiment can contain little else. This ensures that the Imperial Guard are at their strongest when multiple regiments are massed together, and is itself another deliberate stricture to ensure that large-scale rebellion by a military commander is difficult to organise.1

The armory of the Imperial Guard is vast and covers many aspects of the equipment necessary for the survival of a fighting force in many different environments. It ranges from portable Vox-casters, communications units, to medals denoting promotion and excellence in battle.3

For more detail on the arms and equipment of the Imperial Guard, see the following articles:

Despite the technological immensity that the Imperial Guard can deliver to the battlefield, the cold fact of the matter is that the most important resource of the Guard is the seemingly limitless number of bodies it can deploy to contest its objectives. It does not matter the number of casualties it may take to win a battle. the Imperial Guard will devote many thousands of men to overcome a small goal as the Space Marines would devote a few hundred. Obviously, a Guardsman could never possess the battle prowess of a Space Marine, but there are many millions of Guardsmen for every Space Marine.

See also



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