View Full Version : Confusing hierarchy of the Great Crusade in the HH books

Captain Stern
22-11-2008, 18:30
Here's basically the picture I've been given after reading the first four in the series, Legion and the Lightning Tower/ Dark King:

Right, so before the Council of Terra was formed Imperial policy was dictated by the War Council, which according to Horus Rising was, and I'm forced to paraphrase, "made up chiefly of the Emperor and the Primarchs" (If memory serves).

Even before he was made Warmaster, Horus was referred to as 'First Primarch' in both Horus Rising and Legion. I don't think it's actually stated anywhere that this meant he had seniority over all other commanders but one could quite reasonably assume that it did. But then I also assumed being a primarch automatically put one above everyone else until Legion showed that this wasn't neccessarily true.

In Horus Rising Abaddon and Maloghurst were the only Luna Wolves officers considered important enough to be allowed places around the "circular dais" of the "strategium". The Lord Commander of the army of Horus' expedition, Varvaras, also had a spot. Does this mean that Abaddon and Maloghurst were of equivelant status to a Lord Commander?

In the same book Eidolon, a senior Emperor's Children "officer", was actually described as a Lord Commander.

In Legion Alpharius, a primarch, got down on his knees to Namatjira, a Lord Commander. When asked "What the hell!?" on his blog Dan Abnett replied, and I paraphrase: "of course he knelt before Namatjira, he's a Lord Commander - a proxy of Horus who in turn is a proxy of the Emperor."

So doesn't this mean that the following might possibly be the case:

At the very least one primarch, Alpharius, is lesser in rank to a number of Lord Commanders (if not every one of them).

Abaddon, Eidolon and other such Space Marines are of a greater rank to at least one of the primarchs, Alpharius and probably others.

Oh and who's considered second in command of the Imperium? Malcador or Horus? Malcador was addressed as "sir" by Rogal Dorn (who's portrayed as a primarch of unique seniority) so he's obviously higher ranked than all the primarchs with the possible exception of Horus. For that matter, is every member of the Council of Terra higher up than the primarchs? Even Horus??

I'm confused, is anyone else?

Lord Malorne
22-11-2008, 18:36
I beleive Abnett was taking another dose of artistic license...

22-11-2008, 20:14
Well, I've got a few thoughts on this, and artistic license or otherwise, I do like things to comprehensively 'fit'.

On Lord Commanders and expedition fleets: Lord Commander is a very general term. Each expedition fleet has a Lord Commander of the Imperial Army who is in charge of the fleet unless an astartes officer (including the primarchs in that definition) is charged with taking control of it. But there's also an astartes lord commander (though other terms are used, such as chapter master or chapter commander): typically in charge of a 'chapter', 'regiment' or 'great company', and they're the senior officers of a legion. Horus was rather unique in his legion's organisation, with only company officers who were directly responsible to him - no lord commander equivalents. The mournival (Abaddon, Aximand, Torgadden and Loken) was purely ornamental in terms of legion hierarchy. They had no real power, but are best described as senior advisers.

Now, here comes the theories based on observations in the books. Way back in the early crusade, the War Council would have put the primarchs found so far to work controlling the expedition fleets, personally or via astartes representatives. Each expedition fleet had an astartes command of some sort. This soon became impractical with the numbers involved, and the fleets gained autonomy with Lord Commanders as separate commands.

Before Ullanor, the War Council dictates the course of the Crusade and the Imperium as a whole. The War Council makes all decisions collectively, ordering around the various expeditions. Each primarch also had the capacity to take command of an expedition fleet. Each commander of an expedition fleet, primarch or lord commander, was essentially on level ground when dealing with one another unless given a mandate by the War Council, although astartes fleet commanders still had the power to requisition a ship for a command.

The primarchs were still chief generals, but had to act collectively to have power over the expedition fleets. It'd be almost feudal between the fleets - one lord commander on another's ground would have to submit to the other's suzerainty in his/her domain.

Horus was still 'First Primarch', but that's more of an honorific than any individual powers over other primarchs. You're still bloody respectful to him, because he can make or break your career as the legend he was, but you don't have to do what he says. Then, we have Ullanor.

After Ullanor, power was fragmented. The War Councils responsibilities were divided up into military (which all went to Horus as Warmaster) and civilian (which all went to the Council of Terra, nominally with the Emperor at its head, but Malcador presiding since the Emperor locked himself away). So, you finally get some sort of semblance of legislative independence from the military in the Imperium, although it does look like the Council of Terra can order the military about. But now, instead of a collective War Council, Horus now has powers over his brothers (however gingerly should he use them). Horus directs everything and approves everything. Horus requisitions what he wants when he wants.

But as to who's second in command of the Imperium as a whole? To pick one person, it would be Malcador, as First Lord of the Council, though the Council of Terra as a whole are in control. But Horus, and Dorn after Horus' betrayal, are still integral to the Imperium. Dorn had a field promotion to acting warmaster, if you will.

Anyway, that's how I see it, based on the Collected Visions and the novels.

22-11-2008, 20:30
What mechanicus said is what i think is most likely. Also people confuse respect and humility for actual authority. While you dont have to refer to people as "sir" or kneel it would be a sign of respect because of the prestige of the person (or their proxy).

22-11-2008, 20:35
You're still bloody respectful to him, because he can make or break your career as the legend he was, but you don't have to do what he says.

Also, he can pick you up and break your back over his knee without breaking a sweat.

22-11-2008, 21:57
What mechanicus said is what i think is most likely. Also people confuse respect and humility for actual authority. While you dont have to refer to people as "sir" or kneel it would be a sign of respect because of the prestige of the person (or their proxy).
One might also remember, in support of the above, how the term "sir" or "ma'am" tend to get used in the American South -- it's a blanket term of politeness that gets used without any real context of respect, humility, or authority.* Heck, it more often seems to be used primarily as a polite gender identifier, acknowledging that the other person is male or female!

* Although, with that said, one can take it to mean that one is respecting the individual as just that -- an individual; worthy of respect in and of themselves even if you do not know them.


Lord Malorne
22-11-2008, 22:30
One might also remember, in support of the above, how the term "sir" or "ma'am" tend to get used in the American South -- it's a blanket term of politeness that gets used without any real context of respect, humility, or authority.* Heck, it more often seems to be used primarily as a polite gender identifier, acknowledging that the other person is male or female!

* Although, with that said, one can take it to mean that one is respecting the individual as just that -- an individual; worthy of respect in and of themselves even if you do not know them.


After reading this I can just imagine a guy on a agri planet doffing his hat to a customer and saying 'Lord Commander'...:p.

23-11-2008, 03:07

<backs away from Lord Malorne wondering what happened to the restraining bolt>



Inquisitor Engel
23-11-2008, 07:23
I've also been wondering about the organization of the legions.

It seems like they all break down into companies (although the number is far greater than 20) but they tend to be called different things, Chapters, Companies, etc. Leaders of these seem to be called either captains, commanders or chaplains (in the case of the Word Bearers).

What the hell is going on? Is there anything remotely close to a standard legion organization? Is the manner in which the Imperial Fists, Dark Angels and Ultramarines function with their Second Founding chapters indicative? (ie, Legion then Chapters THEN companies?)

It doesn't seem like Loken is leading more than 100 or so Marines to battle, so what gives?

23-11-2008, 08:54
I don't recall there being any uniform organisation between pre-heresy Astartes Legions, they were pretty much organised as their Primarch saw fit. Some were probably more similar than others and some were more regimented but it was all down to the Primarch, they're his gene-sons after all! They stay where he puts 'em!

If I remember rightly it's mentioned somewhere (FotE perhaps?) that the Emperor modified 20 regiments of his original armies to become the early Space Marines during the wars on earth and that's where the names and original colours came from (also meaning that all the original marines were Terran), so they were all probably pretty uniform as the that point. After they met up with their Primarchs they all felt a resonance(psychic/ideology/other) with him and were almost compelled to do as they ordered. This influence only grew stronger when the Legions inducted new members from the Primarch's homeworlds with the Primarch not only calling the shots but with almost no resistance from his troops.

So if Vulkan says he wants 7 great companies because his people come from 7 settlements then his Legion leaps to re-organise itself, if he happens to mention a passing liking for the colour lime-green then same deal. This is meant to happen even to marines from Terra who have never even met them or spoken to them. If the Primarch said it, it must be true.

The Astartes Legions pretty much formed the backbone of the Great Crusade fleets split up as they were into Expeditions, probably one per Legion (unless your Legion happens to be particularly small and weedy like the Emperors Children or Thousand Sons) with each Legion commander in charge of a fleet and given the title Lord Commander with absolute control over the Army units, spaceships and of course Space Marines.

Like others have said Primarch isn't a rank but most Primarchs would have taken the rank of Lord Commander of the expedition fleets they joined. Over time (as has been posted) the number of expeditions grew and the Primarchs promoted senior Space Marines to Lord Commanders to lead expeditions containing detachments from their Legions and eventually, as the Astartes were spread thinner, Imperial Army Generals took the title to lead expeditions with no Astartes detachment at all (weather a Space Marine would take orders from one is another matter). This is the case with the Lord Commander in Legion, and also the reason why Alpharius pays him respect. It's Namatjiri's war and Alpharius' forces are there to support him even if he isn't directly under his command.

23-11-2008, 09:06
After reading this I can just imagine a guy on a agri planet doffing his hat to a customer and saying 'Lord Commander'...:p.

"Doffing" his hat makes me think of a Cockney chimney sweep, but the reference to the agriworld makes we wonder if he's sitting on the front verandah playing the banjo (http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/rha/lowres/rhan143l.jpg)? :p

23-11-2008, 10:39
Legion organisation can be variable. As a general rule, I'd presume it goes primarch -> upper level formation (Chapter, Regiment, Great Company, Grand Company, etc) -> lower level formation (Company, typically).

Now, when you hear about the Salamanders, who supposedly had seven companies in a small legion, it's reasonable to expect perhaps a thousand marines per company, perhaps less, perhaps more. Either way, pushing around a thousand marines, or even five hundred, on the battlefield is a bit of a bugger. There'd have to be at least a 'sub-company' formation, even if it wasn't as insular as the ones elsewhere - perhaps the squads cab change 'sub-company' each war, for example.

And you get the same thing with the Death Guard's seven companies. We don't know how big they were, but it gets to a certain point where there will be a subordinate delegated with ordering around some of the other marines.

That's where Horus' legion gets me - if part of the legion operates without the primarch, either he gives a temporary promotion to the captain he feels is most likely to do well in this situation, or there are one hell of a lot of arguments. Especially since each company seems to have something like two hundred astartes.

As for the rest:

The Dark Angels is simple - chapter masters in charge of chapters, and captains in charge of companies.

The Emperor's Children is clear enough - there are lord commanders in charge of chapters, and captains in charge of companies who are each assigned to a chapter.

The Iron Warriors has warsmiths in charge of grand companies, then (IIRC) captains in charge of companies.

The White Scars is unknown in the upper levels (or I can't remember it), but has captains in charge of companies.

Space Wolves has thirteen great companies but I don't know who's in command, or lower levels of that. I would imagine they didn't change too much with the reforms, so probably captains in charge of the great companies, and presumably some lower level formation exists.

The Imperial Fists are largely unknown, but we know that similarly to the Luna Wolves, the company commanders (Sigismund, Archamus, Camba-Diaz) seem to be closer to him than any chapter masters that may exist. Contrast with Fulgrim's legion, where the lord commanders know the primarch much better than the company commanders.

The Night Lords is pretty unknown - we know of captains. That's all.

The Blood Angels have chapter masters in charge of chapters (well, I assume - but you would think they're chapters if there's a chapter master) and captains in charge of comapnies.

The Iron Hands has captains and companies, and we know of no upper level formations.

Angron's World Eaters is, again, pretty unknown. Companies exist, as do captains, but nothing else is yet known.

The Ultramarines presumably have chapter masters with chapters (it's logical, though uncorroborated) and then captains with companies.

The Thousand Sons we're also clueless about, though they might do the same as the Word Bearers, who had chaplains at the same rank as captains (IIRC), with librarians. The chief librarian would therefore be the first captain.

The Word Bearers, as pointed out above, had chaplains as captains. There are chapters as well with chapter masters, although Kor Phaeron was arch-commander and probably still a chapter master.

The Raven Guard I just have no idea about.

The Alpha Legion has captains in charge of companies, but we know of no upper-level formation.

23-11-2008, 11:02
How do you think the Imperial Army is involved in this organisation? Imperial Army Regiments are all pretty individual, even the all-Terran ones before the heresy had their quirks depending on where they're drawn from. The Astartes are clearly a seperate organisation, not like modern day special forces un-relateed to the Army as such but definitely shock troops or grenadier company kind of thing taking the toughest assignments.

Would an Astartes trooper take an order from an Army General or just refer him to his own commanding officer and ignore him? Could that General give an order to the Astartes Captain or just make requests? If there were Space Marines in the force would their commanding officer automatically be the Lord Commander of the Expedition Fleet or just work as an allied force?

It can only get more complicated when you add Navy vessels into the mix.

23-11-2008, 11:23
I thought Imperial Army and Navy were seconded to the Space Marines during the Heresy (I know I read something about both sides raising and squadering armies as the un-augmented humans failed to keep up with the demands of their space marine commanders), wouldn't it have been the same before then as well?

23-11-2008, 11:41
Not neccesarily, during the heresy some Primarchs (loyal and traitor) placed Astartes Commanders directly in charge of Army forces or freshly raised units from Imperial worlds and their vessels to insure their direct authority during the troubled times and as a result many of these units were driven to annihilation as the Astartes Captains tried to make them fight at the Space Marine's pace. Imagine your drill sergeant being 7ft tall and un-thinkingly expecting you to do everything he can do.

Before then the units of the Imperial Expeditions were treated seperately, human Army regiments had human officers (drawn from their own ranks, more likely officer class but from same background) and Astartes units with Space Marine commanders. Each one was attached to a starship with it's own distinct captain, officers and crew who answered to the leader of the expedition fleet who (weather he was a Primarch or only human) would probably have a better understanding of the various units under his command.

23-11-2008, 11:46
Sweet, thanks for clearing that up!

23-11-2008, 11:59
The Astartes as a whole had the power to take over an expedition fleet with the authority of the Warmaster, but no individual battle-brother had the power to tell a lord commander what to do. A captain has the power to requisition a ship for his control in extreme circumstances, but with the power of the warmaster (or war council) an astartes captain or chapter master could take command of an entire expedition fleet, and could appoint who he wanted to watch or command whomsoever he wanted. After Horus' turning, the Warmaster gave mandates out to get as many expedition fleets on his side as possible, and I would imagine Dorn would do something similar on the authority of the Emperor. Or perhaps he was acting Warmaster, and could do it anyway.

The Imperial Army, however, can only make requests to the astartes, officer or battle-brother, whether they are attached or just assisting. Whether they obey or not depends upon the officer and the opinion of the commanding officer. And you're right, the lowest common unit in the Imperial Army is the regiment. Within that, there's a lot of variance. Above that, we only really know of lord commander, though I'm willing to bet there are more subordinates of his who are not in a regiment.

The expedition fleet's Imperial Navy is controlled by a master of the fleet (subordinate to the lord commander of the army), though specially adopted fleets like the Saturnine Fleet evidently kept their own ranks and structure. A ship is controlled by a shipmaster, and with an executive officer below them as well as a helmsman.

An astartes captain in control of a ship is simply a captain, and is placed above the shipmaster in the chain of command. An astartes officer in charge of a fleet is known as fleet captain or fleet commander, and is probably placed likewise above the lord commander of the army, and thus the master of the fleet.

23-11-2008, 14:02
Thanks for that Mechanicus, I guess this discussion really serves to highlight how different the chain of command for 30K and 40K is from recognisable ones once you get past the actual battlefield level of command and into bureaucracy.

It's much less a case of what your rank entitles you but under whose authority you act.

"I answer to the Lord Commander" pales in comparison to "I am under direct mandate of the office of Warmaster!".

Mr Kibbles
27-12-2008, 02:31
Yes this thread sure is useful.

Oh wait in Legion, what are the bashaws position in a Geno five-two chilliad company? Lieutenant? because hetman is obviously captain. Uxors seem to be majors or lieutenant colonels, in command of a battailon, answering to the CO uxor.

Just my two cents.

27-12-2008, 08:53
I think it primarily depends on who is in overall charge of the expedition fleet.

If it's a Space Marine then he's the Lord Commander and everyone joining it later on answers to him even if the human commander has the official title of Lord Commander too.

So even a Primarch would be under the command if he was tasked to join a certain expedition fleet to support them.

Alpharius bending his knee to a mere human could also be explained that he has ulterior motives and the Alpha Legion operates differently to most other legions so he wouldn't see it as below his honor and standing to show deferrence to a human.

Russ on the other hand would probably tell the Lord Commander to go f... himself if he demanded Russ bend his knee :D