Second War for Armageddon
The Second War for Armageddon[Note 1] is the second best known of the three wars of the system. It took place on the Hive World of Armageddon between the mighty Ork Warboss Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka and the forces of the Imperium and included regiments of the Imperial Guard and Space Marines of the Blood Angels, Salamanders and Ultramarines Chapters, along with a large Squat army. It would see the planet being swarmed with green-skinned Orks of five different tribes. The main war lasted for two years, but the actual combat continued for the next twenty years, a colossal effort for just one planet.
Before the Landing
The war may be seen to have begun on Armageddon, but it really began some nine years before. At this time, Ghazghkull was a lowly boy in the Ork armies on the planet of Urk (possibly where part of his name came from).
A Space Marine force, (chapter unknown) raided the planet in the hopes of disrupting the Ork forces there. During the battle, a bolter shell ripped into Ghazghkull's skull, causing massive brain damage and blasting off a good chunk of his cranium. He was luckily (or not) found by a Painboy known as Mad Dok Grotsnik who replaced that part of his cranium with a bionic device. Somehow this device may have enabled Ghazghkull's latent psychic powers, or he may just have been suffering from delusions. But whatever happened, from then on he claimed to be in communication with the Ork gods, Gork and Mork.
Within six years he had risen to control of his tribe as Warboss, and one year later he got his opportunity. The star around which his planet was orbiting was dying. There were severe solar flares causing many deaths from radiation, but fortunately a massive Space Hulk appeared in orbit around the planet. Whether this was dumb luck or a higher power believed him worthy of survival, he managed to convince the other four tribes on the planet to follow him on his great Waaagh! and unite under his rule. While en-route the power systems on the hulk failed several times and the Orks had to fight off hundreds of Daemons, providing them with battle experience.
One month before landing, the arrived space hulk blew away the defences of the Armageddon system, including obsolete orbital satellites and small attack craft. Desperate messages were sent in the hope of acquiring aid. Three Space Marine Chapters began to organize themselves but would not be able to get there before the Orks landed. A month later the Orks disembarked, beginning the major section of the war for Armageddon on the day of the Feast of the Emperor's Ascension, 941.M41.
The War Begins
After the Orks landed, a massive warp storm formed around the Armageddon system, preventing Imperial reinforcements from aiding the beleaguered forces on the planet. The Ork forces split off into their five separate tribes, and two of them were sent north to take hold of Armageddon Prime. Herman von Strab, the Overlord of Armageddon, was ignorant of the threat posed by the Orks. There were several warnings of the upcoming danger, including the Emperor's Tarot cards and freighter captains' warnings of disturbances in the warp, but von Strab ignored them all. Only after the Orks landed did any real distress signal leave the planet, and only due to the foresight of Sebastian Yarrick. Von Strab banished Yarrick to Hades Hive for countermanding his orders, located in Armageddon Secundus.
Von Strab decided he could take on the Orks with the available forces of the planetary PDFs. The populations of Armageddon Prime formed into defensive units and fortified around their Hive homes but were pushed further and further back by the unstoppable Orks. Piecemeal attacks were ordered by von Strab, which only led to the deaths of more humans. Yarrick ordered shuttle runs to help arm the north, the pilots skipping out of the atmosphere and back in again before the Orks could intercept them. Many pilots died as their ships were destroyed, the remains falling back to the planet in flaming chunks.
Von Strab hastily relocated his command centre to Hive Tartarus in Armageddon Secundus, knowing that the north would fall to the Orks no matter what he did. Three of the Ork tribes were unaccounted for but von Strab believed they were being held in reserve. Princeps Prime Kurtiz Mannheim, leader of the Iron Skulls Titan Legion temporarily stationed on Armageddon, advised von Strab to prepare for an attack from these three tribes. Von Strab ignored him, confident that they would never cross the equatorial jungle region at the centre of the peninsula. He would then launch a mighty counter-attack, leading from the fore.
Two days later, the Orks invaded Armageddon Secundus. It was the Season of Shadows and the many volcanoes of Armageddon erupted, sending black clouds high into the sky. Massive armoured columns of Orks charged through the thin Imperial lines, and two tribes moved east of the Palidus Mountains toward Hades Hive and one to the west of the mountains to Port Helsreach. Von Strab ordered his titans, under Mannheim, to attack and wipe out the Orks. Princeps Kurtiz Mannheim, realising his allies would soon be overrun, led the Legio Metalica and its Skitarii escort against a wave of Ork Titan-class threats and six million Ork infantry. After slaying an Ork Gargant in a grueling duel, Mannheim ordered his badly wounded Titan Steel Hammer to self-destruct, his sacrifice killing another two Gargants and burning out the heart out of the Ork offensive in the process.
The Imperial forces now fell back, establishing defensive lines along the many rivers of Armageddon, including the Stygies River in the west and Diabolus River in the east. When the storms abated the Orks drove south, crushing the defences and sweeping into Hive Infernus. Demoralized, the officer in charge of Infernus surrendered without a fight. The refugee columns, hundreds of kilometers long, trekked across the deserts and were harried by Ork biker units, herding them back to Infernus to work as slaves.
The Crux of the War
Soon, Hades Hive was under siege, and the hardest fighting began. Commissar Yarrick was organizing the defences of Hades Hive and he seemed to be everywhere at this time. He would be at the welding shut of the great blast portals and negotiating treaties with the many gangs of Hades Hive. Amazingly he put together a rag-tag army to defend Hades. Thousands of Orks waited for the call to attack while the Gargants pounded the hive with their biggest guns. The people survived on rats and roaches and on reduced power. Few speak of this time other than to praise Yarrick.
It was then that von Strab released his secret battery of ancient virus bombs. His family had had them stocked since the first colonization of Armageddon. They were mounted on antiquated missile systems and hastily pressed into service. Unfortunately, many malfunctioned due to their age: rockets would not fire, detonators would not arm and the virus had decreased in potency over time. The missile wreaked havoc among the Orks, but did not come even close to what was needed to stop their advance. His last scheme failed, Von Strab retired to his bunker to sulk.
To the west in Port Helsreach, the population put up a fierce defence, inspired by the defence of Hades. They were highly organized with street gangs ambushing Orks at every corner and converted Super Heavy Tanks were used to evacuate the population to the ships in dock. There was not enough room so lots were taken, and those who remained knew they would not survive the next attack. Using improvised weapons, suicide bombers got as deep into the Ork lines as they could and then detonated the explosives strapped to their chests. The drivers of the great loading cranes welded themselves into their massive cargo shifting cranes and battled with the gargants. The resistance was so stubborn that even the Ork commanders wondered if it was worth it. The victory for the Orks came in the form of a massive psychic attack, destroying the minds of all the humans left in Port Helsreach, leaving it open for invasion.
Then Ghazghkull himself arrived to co-ordinate the attack on Hades Hive. He tried every strategy he could think of, and was told of by Gork and Mork. He tried dropping elite kommandos onto the spires of the hive, he had great siege weapons built and even retrofitted gargants with earth-moving devices. But for every strategy, Yarrick devised a counter. He had the maintenance crews go into the ventilation shafts, armed with a bolt pistol and knife, and attack the kommandos as they came down. Not one kommando survived. The hive transport infrastructure was used to counter-feint attacks and suicide parties slipped out to destroy the huge siege weaponry.
Meanwhile, as the siege of Hades Hive continued, Ork columns surged south from Port Helsreach and Hive Infernus heading for Hive Acheron. Acheron seemed to be the last bastion of Human resistance, and the Acheronians steeled themselves. As they looked out of their ocular monitors they could see the Orks slowly advancing on their position. The only support they had from von Strab were his well-wishing and twenty of the less-favoured members of his personal guard. The Orks stormed forward and quickly overran the outer hive, beginning the siege of the Hive core. The Hive Governor refused to surrender and made a passionate speech to his people, but it was all for naught. The Orks, confident of victory, charged headlong into the hive. Suddenly, out of nowhere, massive explosions rent holes in the Orks' advanced columns. The vehicles of the Orks were thrown into the air like so much chaff and the inhabitants of Acheron looked on in amazement as the orbital bombardment continued. Ships filled the skies and Imperial Thunderhawks dropped advanced troops off in the path of the Orks. Surprised by this turn of events, the Orks reeled back while the Space Marines continued to deploy. The defenders of the Hive came out to aid the Space Marines. For the first time in the war, the Orks suffered defeat on the battlefield.
The Space Marines quickly set up a base of operations. Von Strab protested at their arrival, saying he had everything under control, but the Chapter Master of the Blood Angels chapter, Commander Dante announced he was taking control of all Imperial forces on the planet. He ordered that Von Strab be put under house arrest awaiting trial for negligence, assassination and murder. Von Strab escaped in a Land Speeder which was later found wrecked, but his body was never recovered.
Meanwhile, back in the north, Ghazghkull was massing more and more forces to assault Hades Hive. Due to the extent of the assault, food eventually ran out in the hive. Food parcels came from north to south, in reverse of how it had originally been. Now all the humans had a feeling of dread and impending doom. Not even Commissar Yarrick could raise their spirits.
Orks on the Defensive
Dante tried a desperate gamble to capture Ghazghkull by dropping in behind the enemy lines and assaulting his headquarters, unfortunately, Ghazghkull was touring the front lines at the time. It did do serious amounts of damage to the Ork spearhead though. In the battle to retake Tartarus Hive, the titanic forces of Orks and Imperial troops clashed in hand to hand combat in what would be some of the bloodiest fighting of the war. Space Marine strike forces constantly harried the Orks inside the Hive. Time after time the Orks attempted a breakout, but were pushed back by the narrowest of margins. In the end, the Orks ran out of food and ammunition and resorted to fight or die tactics, each of them using knives and rocks to attack the Imperial forces. Eventually the Orks were wiped out to the last. It is said that Ghazghkull himself fell, taking a bolter shell to the mechanical brain, but his body was never found.
For all intents and purposes, the war was over. The invaders were forced back after having their leader supposedly killed and half the army wiped out. The surviving Orks were pushed back into the jungles. From the moment Tartarus was relieved by Imperial forces, victory seemed sure, and it was.
Victory in Sight
A relief force was sent north to Hades Hive, including forces of all three of the Space Marine chapters. Unfortunately, just before they got there the Hive was conquered. Only a few of the humans within Hades survived, including the battered Commissar Yarrick, surrounded by dozens of Ork corpses.
In the west, a wave of Ork reinforcements arrived, hoping to push back to Tartarus and break the back of Imperial resistance. The forces defending the western regions had been stripped for the attack on Hades and were easily overrun. Ghazghkull, evidently not dead, led the last ditch attempt to conquer the planet. They pushed through the Skeletus River. For a while it looked like they might succeed, but were eventually pushed back to Armageddon Primus and after another dozen years they were forced to retreat back to their ships and escape the system. Ghazghkull at this point decided to abandon the war effort, using his own Space Hulk as a distraction to slip away.
Wars in the North
While all this was going on in the south, the fighting in Armageddon Prime intensified after the landing of the Space Marines in the south. When the warp storm lifted, a vast contingent of Squats landed to the north under the command of Inquisitor Horst. He had been fighting on the mining world of Golgotha, a Squat world, and when they arrived at Armageddon, they were directed to the North to aid the defences there. After the defeat at Tartarus Hive, Horst led the Squats in a massive push and forced the defeated Orks back to the jungles between the two areas of Armageddon. The Squats made full use of their famed Land Trains against their most hated foe, lumbering across the planet blasting with huge cannons the Orks ahead of them.
As devastating as the Second War for Armageddon had been, Ghazhgkull survived, and regarded it as little more than a practice run. According to Ghazghkull's Grot Makari, in truth the Warboss had fallen into a malaise due to constant headaches and the meddling of Yarrick, and decided to abandon the world. However decades later, he would return, at the head of an even larger, better armed and better organized Waaagh!.
- Note 1: As most knowledge of the First War for Armageddon was supressed by the Inquisition, many in the Imperium (including the citizens of Armageddon itself) know this conflict as the First War for Armageddon.
- 1: The Art of Adrian Smith, [Needs Citation]
- 2: Codex: Skitarii (7th Edition), pg. 25
- 3: Epic Armageddon Rulebook, pgs. 63-67
- 4: Imperator: Wrath of the Omnissiah (Novel), Chapter 7
- 5: Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh! (Novel) - Chapters 4-5