The history of the Black Templars can be traced back to the Imperial Fists defence of the Emperor's Palace during the Horus Heresy. Àfter the Traitor Legions had been defeated it was decided that the loyal Space Marines should be split into smaller Chapters. Rogal Dorn, Primarch of the Imperial Fists, reluctantly agreed and so the Black Templars were created. Since this time the Black Templars have been on the greatest and longest crusade the Imperium has ever known to prove their loyalty to the Emperor. Gav Thorpe delves into the archaic past of the Black Templars.
At the birth of the Imperium, during the Great Crusade, the Warmaster Horus was possessed by the Dark Gods of the Warp and declared himself rightful ruler of the Imperium Along with Horus, nearly half the Space Marine Legions revolted against the Emperor's leadership, and from amongst their ranks arose warriors who were so wholly devoted to the Gods they became Champions - infused with the energy of Chaos, mighty warriors many times more powerful even than a Space Marine. Even as Horus`s forces assaulted the Imperial Palace at the end of the Heresy. Rogal Dorn chose a warrior from amongst the ranks of his Imperial Fists to be the Emperor's Champion, Brother Sigismund, finest of the warriors of Terra, was given the best armour and weapons and swore a holy duty to seek out the Champions of Chaos and slay them. And so he did, counting fully two dozen of the warped creatures in his bloody tally before Horus was defeated and the Traitor Legions lied to the Eye of Terror.
At the end of the Heresy, the Primarch Roboute Guilleman of the Ultramarines Legion devised a military organisation that would spread the power of the Legiones Astartes Imperial Navy and Imperial Army across the galaxy, so no longer would one individual wield the power of an entire Legion again. For the Space Marines, these rules were laid down in the Codex Astartes, a mighty tome that also dealt with unit organisation, markings, tactical doctrine and all other aspects of the Marines' structure. Rogal Dorn, Primarch of the Imperial Fists, responsible for the defence of Terra itself, refused to have his Legion broken down into much smaller Chapters, stating that it was his sacred duty to protect the Emperor and he could not afford to split his forces across the Imperium. Dorn called Guilleman a coward, for his Legion had not participated in the defence of the Imperial Palace, while the Ultramarines' Primarch accused Dorn of being a rebel and a heretic for refusing the dictates within his Codex Astartes.
Dorn would not relent, and neither would Guilleman, Leman Russ of the Space Wolves and Vulkan of the Salamanders agreed with Dorn for they too did not want their Legions scattered to the corners of the galaxy, but Ferrus Mannus, Primarch of the Iron Hands and Corax of the Raven Guard backed the Ultramarines. In the gulf left after the near-death of the Emperor, it seemed the Space Marines were destined ro tear themselves apart in bloody conflict. When the Imperial Fists began to be violently persecuted for their supposed heresies, and the strike ñruiseã Terrible Angel was fired upon by the Imperial Navy, it was almost inevitable that once more internecine war would engulf the Space Marines ànd the Imperium. But, even às the newly formed Chapters and the old Legions were preparing for battle. Dorn relented. He agreed to the formation of two new Chapters from his Legion - the Crimson Fists and the Black Templars would join the Imperial Fists Chapter. He chose Champion Sigismund to lead the Black Templars and the Chapter took upon themselves the black and white panoply of his armour.
Sigismund had been chosen as the Emperor's Champion for his fervent faith in the Emperor and his undying devotion to mankind. Seeing the strife that currently beset the Legions Astartes, and the suspicion in which he and his battle brothers were held, he determined that a gesture of supreme faith was needed. As High Marshal of the Black Templars, Sigismund declared that after leaving Terra, he would prove his loyally, never resting in the prosecution of his duties against the enemies of the Emperor. lt is an oath that every subsequent High Marshal has renewed, and so the greatest and longest Space Marine crusade was begun. It has continued unbroken for ten thousand years.
The Black Templars have no single home world, instead they live in their Crusade fleets, upon many battle barges, strike cruisers and other craft such as training vessels and gigantic forgeships. The Black Templars establish Chapter Keeps on every world they conquer or reclaim for the Emperor. The main purpose of the Chapter Keeps is to recruit new Space Marines from the population, and to act as staging pasts for mustering the Crusades together. These Chapter Keeps are sizeable, with chambers to accommodate two to three Companies of Space Marines, but are far smaller than the fortress Monasteries of other Chapters. However, there have been hundreds of Chapter Keeps established over the millennia, some of which are still standing, others which have fallen into ruin and disrepair and are no longer manned.
The High Marshal himself has his own battle barge, the Eternal Crusader, and he can travel from Crusade to Crusade lending his military genius and spiritual guidance to those under his command. The Eternal Crusader is gigantic, even for a battle barge, having been expanded and refitted over ten thousand years, with extra docking facilities for escort ships, additional launch bays for shuttles and Thunderhawks, as well as accommodation for twice as many Space Marines than a normal battle barge.
The Black Templars have continued in the slyle of their founder, Sigismund, in preferring close combat to ranged warfare. Face-to-face with his enemy, a Space Marine can earn honour and respect and be sure that his foe is truly vanquished.
This is further emphastsed by the fanaticism of Black Templars battle brothers, whose righteous anger makes them impatient and headstrong. They will drive towards the foe relentlessly, their own casualties only serving to spur them on faster, hungry for vengeance on the slayers of their brethren.
As part of their dedication to the Emperor, the Black Templars swear fell oaths of faith and protection. Before a battle, it is customary to renew one of these vows to the Emperor, the type of vow made focusing the thoughts of the Initiates on a particular aspect of their duties, encouraging extreme bravery, ruthlessness or sacred revulsion at the foe.
The Black Templars are a fleet-based Chapter. They are rarely assembled as a Chapter, but instead are divided into a number of Crusades at any one timå. Each Crusade is led by a Marshal, while the High Marshal is responsible for monitoring the progress of all the current Crusades.
There usually numbers three or mare Crusades at any one time - their history shows that during the Treachery of Dalmark there were as many as fourteen Crusades fighting across the Segmentum Solar. The size îf a Crusade can also vary widely, sometimes as few as fifty to one hundred Marines, sometimes the equivalent of several Companies from a Codex Chapter. Only the Black Templars themselves have even the roughest idea how many Black Templars Space Mannes there are, but it is obvious that they are far more numerous man most conventional Chapters, although dispersed over a much wider area. If certain accounts are taken to be true, then they could even be as strong as five to six thousand Battle-Brethren in total, a force which in the present lmperium would be all but unstoppable if ever gathered in a single place.
The larger Crusades are often broken down by their Marshal into Fighting Companies, led by Sword Brethren given the additional honorific of `Castellan`. Whether such Companies exist or not, individual squads are gathered and dispersed in a fairly ad-hoc fashion, and Initiates will fight together regularly out of familiarity and comradeship rather than any imposed organisation.
Another pronounced break from the doctrines of the Codex Astartes by the Black Templars is the manner in which new recruits are trained. The Chapter Keeps recruit a few individual each year who may be suitable to become Space Marines. Those found acceptable by the Chapter Keeps are given the initial implants that wilI eventually change the Neophytes intoo fully-fledged Space Marines. When roughly two dozen recruits are ready for additional bio-engineering and the sort of their training, they are transported to one of the Crusade fleets. Here certain Battle Brothers of the Chapter, or Initiates as they are properly known, will each accept one of the recruits to be their Neophyte. It is the responsibility of the Initiate to train his Neophyte in the art of war and the rituals of the Black Templars, overseen by the Chaplains. During this time the Neophytes will undergo the remaining surgery to implant all of the specialty grown organs that turn them into Space Marines. The Neophytes act as servants to their master, waiting on them at the great banquets and seeing to domestic chores; whilst on the battlefield the Initiate teaches their young pupil through example. This means that the Black Templars have no dedicated Scout Company, instead the Neophytes are spread across the entire Chapler, gaining valuable experience in a wide variety of combat situations and receiving personal attention and tuition from the Initiates.
The greatest warriors of a Crusade are inducted into the Marshal's household, in what would be the equivalent of the 1st Veteran Company of a Codex Chapter. Known as the Sword Brethren. these hardened fighters receive additional training, particularly in the use of Terminator armour, and are no longer responsible for the training of Neophytes. When a Marshal dies, or is elected by the other Marshals to succeed a dead High Marshal, it is one of the Sword Brethren who will take his place. This is decided by ritual combat, during which all who contest the right to lead the Crusade will battle one another with various weapons, as well as pining their strategic and tactical prowess against one another. The winner earns the right to be Marshal, upon approval by the High Marshal (there's has only ever been one incident of the High Marshal not approving), and the Sword Brethren will sweaã new oaths of loyalty.
All Space Marines are renowned for their fervent dedication, but the extremity of the Black Templafs` faith is often described as fanatical even rabid! They lust to crush the enemies of mankind; they have absolutely no tolerance of heretics, mutants, psykers, aliens or any other abomination against the Åmperor. For ten thousand years they have crusaded to prove their loyalty, and this creed has become so embedded in their doctrines that they are utterly ruthless towards anyone or anything perceived as a threat to the Emperor. They will mercilessly wipe out the populations of worlds to expunge the sin of heresy, while the mere presence of a witch on a battlefield drives them into a rage of hate and vengeful bloodletting.
The Btack Templars' gåëå-seed is derived from the Imperial Fists, second only in stability and purity to that of the Ultramarines. It has been supposed by some that slight flaws in the hormonal organs of the Black Templars may make them slightly overactive, thus explaining their reputation for being quick to anger. However, this seems unlikely and the trait is more likely down to the fanatical nature or the Black Temptars creed.
"No Pity! No Remorse! No Fear!"
The Black Templars exemplary record during their engagement of the Ork fleet around Armageddon was shattered when they returned to the space hulk Malevolent Dread. The hulk had already sustained major damage through previous Templar actions through the use of boarding parties and bombardment from the battle barge Light of Purity and High Marshal Helbrecht himself led the attack to destroy the huge vessel once and for all.
Huge craters dominated the surface of the Malevolent Dread where the Templars' bombardment cannon and heavy thermic charges had ravaged the hulk, with the effect that few of the vessel's many weapons batteries were functional. Drawing alongside the hulk, the Light of Purity unleashed an entire Crusade of the Templars upon the Orks within. Terminator squads were teleported directly within the hull of the Malevolent Dread to form a perimeter as large numbers of Marines crossed the void from the battle barge on board Thunderhawks and boarding torpedoes. Their mission was two-fold; first to wipe out as much of the Ork infestation deemed possible within the course of the mission, but also to lay the final set of thermics that would tear the hulk in two within a gigantic combined explosion. Already weakened by the Templar's previous attacks, the Techmarines of the Chapter had predicted the possibility of breaking the hulk apart by the placement of charges in structurally damaged areas.
This was a huge undertaking, for the Malevolent Dread was many times the size of even the Marines' own battle barge and, to the knowledge of all who boarded the hulk, such a mission had never before been attempted.
High Marshal Helbrecht led his Crusade, teleporting on board with his Terminators to begin the first phase of the mission. The Orkish response to the boarders was immediate and the Terminators soon found themselves embroiled in heavy combat. Already the Templars' losses began to mount. Helbrecht, unwilling to risk aborting the mission at this early stage, took direct command of several Terminator squads, leading them forward to blunt several determined Ork assaults. Casualties were high, but Helbrecht fought hard to create enough room near the surface of the hulk to allow the rest of his Crusade to deploy. As Thunderhawks began to dock and boarding torpedoes pierced the skin of the Malevolent Desire, fighting was still intense all around the weak perimeter the Terminators had managed to create and Helbrecht bled from several wounds.
The Terminators continued to hold back Ork attacks, having established crippling fire lanes along the hulk's twisting corridors, as Helbrecht organised his Crusade for the next phase of the mission. Squads were delegated to penetrate further into the hulk with the intention of engaging the main portion of the Ork forces, whilst others were charged with laying the thermics that would lead to the Malevolent Dread's final demise. Helbrecht drew his own command squads to him to lay the most vital charges, those were to start the chain reaction of destruction that would begin the process of tearing the hulk in two from its very centre. He was joined by one other, Initiate Vosper, a Marine who had proved himself in combat countless times and who had earnt the title Emperor's Champion. Saluting Helbrecht with the Crusade's Black Sword, Vosper led the Marines to their target.
The Terminators of the Chapter had managed to hold the Ork hordes away from the rest of the Crusade and now they formed the spear point of the advance. The entire Crusade marched to battle within the dark labyrinthine tunnels that twisted throughout the hulk. Once they left their comparatively safe fire lanes, casualties began to mount once more, but with the whole Crusade supporting them from behind, the Terminators managed to push through the positions the Orks had established to counter the boarding attempt. As the Black Templars moved further into the hulk, squads began to spread out to fulfil their individual objectives and, in doing so, made themselves more vulnerable to sudden Ork assaults.
Helbrecht and Emperor's Champion Vosper cleaved through each Ork attack they faced. At the behest of their cruel leaders, Orks began to throw themselves at the Templars, the sheer weight of their numbers adding much to their confidence. The Marines were soon to arrive at a huge metal walled cavern, formed from the gap left by two ill-fitting and ancient ships that made this part of the hulk. As the Templar squads spread out across the ruined space, the Orks launched their heaviest attack yet.
Nearly a thousand Orks charged madly at the thin Marine line, into the waiting bolter fire of the Templars. The leading Orks fell immediately under the heavy fire, those behind leaping over the bodies of the dead, eager to engage the Marines. A resounding crack echoed around the huge cavern as the Orks smashed into the Marines, the sound of disciplined bolter fire soon giving way to the dreadful cries and shouts of mortal combat. Once engaged in this assault, the Marines lost their advantage but, standing firm under the weight of the aliens, the Templar line held.
Helbrecht and Vosper led the counter attack side by side, their skill in arms unmatched by the Orks that pressed upon them all around. Slowly, the balance of the battle shifted, with Marines reforming behind the two heroes' righteous fury as a mountain of slain Orks began to pile at their feet. Sighting a huge Ork smiting brother Templars in the midst of the fighting, Vosper, the Emperor's Champion, called the alien to account and, placing himself in harm's way, challenged the Ork to single combat. Highly disciplined, the Black Templars did not let up in their own battles, but each whispered a prayer of courage to their Champion, he who was the best of them all, the very embodiment of their Chapter.
The Ork was a powerful brute and a cunning warrior, who met each blow of the Black Sword with its own crude weapon. The Orks close to the warrior began their own chant of support to rival that of the Templars, as it traded blows and ripostes with the Emperor's Champion. Neither landed a blow upon the other but gradually the Templar began to force the alien back with long, powerful strokes of his mighty weapon.
And then the impossible happened. Reeling from a strong overhead swing of the Black Sword, the Ork became enraged and, recovering with inhuman speed, set about the Emperor's Champion with a series of frenzied attacks. The Black Sword leapt to counter every blow until the Ork charged, barrelling into Vosper and knocking him off balance as its crude weapon descended, cleaving the Emperor's Champion's skull in two.
A low moan passed through the Black Templars' ranks as the body of their Champion crashed to the ground, quickly followed by a deafening roar of victory from the Orks. The Templar line faltered as the Orks pushed their advantage and High Marshal Helbrecht strode ahead, desperate to regain the momentum his stunned Marines had lost. As one, the Orks leapt to attack, renewing their assault with redoubled fury. Helbrecht fought back, but was soon borne to the ground by a dozen Orks that had surrounded him. He was pulled clear by his personal command squad with an Ork axe buried deep into his chest armour. All around, Marines were being driven back by Ork mobs until it became clear that they had to retreat.
Many more Marines were mercilessly cut down by pursuing Orks as they withdrew from the hulk to their waiting transports. The teleporter chambers of the Light of Purity were soon overloaded with the strain of bringing so many Marines back to safety, but a great number of squads found themselves cut off from escape as the Orks poured through the Templars' positions. With no effective perimeter and the presence of intense enemy activity, the Chapter could do nothing for these Marines determined to sell their lives at a high price.
When the battle barge Light of Purity pulled away from the hulk, nearly half of Helbrecht's Crusade had been wiped out during the failed mission. The Apothecaries of the Chapter subsequently declared the High Marshal's injuries as critical, but not life threatening, his enhanced Marine body the only thing that stood between himself and the Emperor's ultimate Peace.
THE DONIAN CRUSADE
The Donian Crusade began c.985-M39 to combat the swelling Ork population sweeping through the Donian sector and surrounding wilderness space in the southern Segmenturn Pacificus. The original Marshal, Brother Austein. was killed in fighting on Nickel V and was succeeded by Marshal Wemher c.988. The Crusade lasted for roughly 17 years before the High Marshal declared it successful, Wemher moving to becoming Marshal of the Thangdron Crusade.
Note: The figures here are estimates made at the time the Crusade gathered. There are no records of non-combat personnel such as Servitors, Apprents and so on.
* The Ñrusade was later joined by the strike cruiser Apocalypton and at least 6 more rapid strike vessels. The number of Space Marines on board these vessels is unknown.