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Penal Legion

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A Penal Legion in action

Penal Legions are Astra Militarum troop formations composed of criminals.[3]


The Penal Legions are not armies in their own right, but are attached to other regiments and armies in battle, and are useful where greater numbers are necessary to win the day. Their members are considered expendable, as death is the point of serving in a Penal Legion. They are often used to test enemy defences. New troops have their heads shaved and tattooed with unit insignia, and Explosive Collars are put around their necks. The collars are a disciplinary device rather than a means of turning the troops into human bombs; the blast is directed inwards, killing only the wearer. The collars are controlled by personnel accompanying the force, and are detonated only to restore discipline. As well as the collars, Penal troops are sometimes equipped with frenzon dispensers.[1][2]

A Penal Legion[4]

Troops sentenced to the Penal Legions serve for life. Most die in their very first battle, herded into the enemy gunfire and dying by the hundreds. A few, the born killers, somehow beat these merciless odds and survive through numerous battles. In extremely rare cases a penitent might be granted the Emperor's forgiveness in a way other than dying in battle, by performing some incredible act of battlefield valour. These redeemed men then enter the Imperial Guard as regular Guardsmen.[3]

Penal Legion units are formed from convicts, generally from those shipped to one of the Imperium's Penal Worlds, whose populations consist of criminals from throughout the Imperium.[Needs Citation]

Because there are many capital crimes in the Imperium, convicted criminals serve as an inexhaustible supply of recruits for the Penal Legions. For 'petty' crimes that do not warrant immediate execution, miscreants in the Imperium are sometimes shipped to a nearby Penal World. From there some may be formed into Penal Legion units.[Needs Citation]

As mutation is a crime in the Imperium, dangerous mutants such as beastmen, "genetic anarchists" and "mutogene carriers" can also be found among the Penal Legions[3].

The Hardened Veterans of the Savlar Chem Dogs Penal Legions are instead known as "Hardened Criminals".[8]

Notable Penal Legions

Notable Penal Legionnaires


Penal Legionnaire[10]