+ inload: Honour Markings of the XIII Legion +

+ Few Ultramarines lack courage, bravery or tenacity. Nevertheless, not every Ultramarine is cut out to be an officer. Without the required intellect, initiative and charisma, a soldier is destined to remain in the ranks. Even a promising legionary may not yet have the experience – or simply have missed the chance to prove himself worthy.

+ Nevertheless, exceptional men – and every Astartes is remarkable amongst baseline humanity – distinguish themselves in many ways, and as such, the Legiones Astartes maintain scores, if not hundreds, of commendations, honorifics and tokens of favour. Some of these are general; such that a Marine from the vaunted First could easily gain the measure of an Iron Warrior bearing the Laurem Confortare. Others are specific to a particular Legion, or even a company of that Legion. The aforementioned Dark Angel might favourably compare his Exterius Significorum to the IV Legionary's honour, even if his counterpart would likely have little knowledge of the obscure medal. +

+ The Thirteenth Legion is known – both favourably and otherwise – for its pragmatic and practical approach to warfare. Nevertheless, the command circle of the early Legion embraced the value of reward and recognition; giving rise to over two centuries of traditions. On finding their Primarch, the Legion's early honours were combined with a whole new cultural milieu – that of Macragge; and later still with the traditions of the Five Hundred Worlds.

+ A common honorific is the use of chequers as decoration; which is known to date back at least to the earliest days of the Unification Wars, and likely pre-dates the Legions entirely. Issued as a mark of praise from an officer, the honoured Legionary is granted the right to have an artificer decorate a piece of his armour. The precise piece is sometimes specific significant – a chequered helm might indicate significant initiative, for example, while a chequered forearm might represent skill at arms – but is equally likely to be left up to the officer or the Legionary in question. 

+ In the example above, the Legionary has a row of chequers running up the centre of his left leg. Given the other details of his armour, and the date of the vid-pict, it seems likely this is simply personal choice. +

+ Ritual and history +

Most Astartes are naturally ambitious and competitive – it is part of what makes them such a successful force. For some Legions, this drive saw them develop complex pre- and post-battle rital, which included the decoration of their armour and wargear. Fashion is not something that one associates with the grim-faced ranks of the Legiones Astartes – particularly when one considers their length of service and lifespan, but they remain partially human, with the very human need to record deeds and events: personal victories, mementoes of fallen comrades, or defeated enemies. Combining competition and ritual invites comparison between companies or even Legions, and for these reasons, Legion honorifics – both in form and function – altered greatly over the nearly three centuries of the Great Crusade. +

The colour of the chequers has historically been of significance, though in the latter days of the Great Crusade, this was muddied considerably. At certain periods, the colours referred to the deed itself – as shown to the left, where this early Legion Master bears red and white patterning as part of his personal heraldry both on his power fist, and on the hood of his hunting falcon. Red and white represented blood and bone – a typically brutal reminder of the Legion's attitude in the early days of Unification and Crusade. +

+ These later examples date from the mid years of the Great Crusade, by which point the Legionary's left pauldron served like the heraldic shields of pre-Imperial history, bearing a record of the bearer's deeds, achievements and personality. The chequers' significance became extremely intricate and complex. Diagonal strips of chequers might mark a Legionary's birthworld or place of significance – blue and white being representative of Macragge itself. However, in panels or fields, they might represent something entirely different. For example, the field of red, white and black at the top left represented various virtues the Legionary had displayed (or hoped to cultivate). 

+ These decorative signs of virtue led to personality cults within the Legion, and huge amounts of discussion and competition between the human armsmen and serfs in their creativity – to say nothing of the artificers. These led to some of the most recognisable works in the Legion's cultural history, which were later standardised into forms such as the Aquila helm, the Praetor helm, and the dress cavalry helms (generally reserved for officers or honour guard)


+ By the closing years of the Great Crusade, immediately prior to the Heresy, the Ultramarines had largely rejected the flamboyance of personal heraldry, though some – such as the Captain shown to the left – chose to keep their hard-earned honours clearly visible. 

+ In the specific case of this Captain, he is believed to be a Terran veteran. His personal heraldry of quartered white and blue reflected an archaic form of rank markings, in which Commanders were marked out with a quartered white and blue field surmounted by three stars. Whether this is a deliberate flouting of the later guidelines, or simply a demonstration of the difficulty of communicating a change of orders across a galaxy, is unknown.

+ The image of the sergeant shown to the right clearly dates from a later point; possibly during the Heresy itself. Here, the chequers have become restricted to the squad banner. Note his helmet crest – standard across much of the Legion for sergeants at this point – which bears the red, white and black of the three Virtues of Macragge. 

+ Personal heraldry has been struck off  the pauldron, and decoration has become more subtle. Note the Pteruges that help mark him as a sergeant when unhelmed; the sculptural artificer work on his greaves (uncoloured, as had become the fashion); and the key pattern across his chest plate, a common flourish.

+ The more spartan form of decoration granted the Legion a much more uniform appearance, and it originated from Guilliman's first notes on what would become the Codex Astartes. Interestingly, there seems no directive from the Primarch at any point on this change – nut nevertheless the stripping back of personal deeds in favour of a united front seems to have been taken up by the troops over a few short years. Perhaps the Primarch's belief that the Ultramarines' role would change from conquerors to governors inspired a maturation in the Legion's mindset; inspiring fewer thoughts of personal glory and more of duty and honour for the people of the Imperium. +

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