Tuesday, 16 August 2011

1000 Marines?

Hi all,

I've been playing on the tinterweb this morning whilst having my coffee and I came across the following article

1000 marines

It details the 'full' strength of a typical chapters marines (Ultrasmurfs) and hypothesises that the typical 1000 marines is in fact a lot more.

This article has been viewed 10716 times.
The Thousand Marine Myth

Contrary to the popular belief that a Space Marine Chapter is limited to only 1000 Space Marines it becomes obvious under very little scrutiny that this is not the case at all. This article will use the Ultramarines as the prime example of how a Codex Chapter is actually organised.

Nominal Strength
The 4th Company at full strength

  • Captain Idaeus
  • 1 Chaplain, 1 Apothecary
  • 1 Company Standard Bearer, 5 Veteran Sergeants
  • 6 x 10-strong Tactical Squads
  • 2 x 10-strong Assault Squads
  • 2 x 10-strong Devastator Squads
  • 4 Dreadnoughts
  • 15 Rhinos, 5 Land Speeders
  • 5 Land Speeder Tornadoes
  • 5 Land Speeder Typhoons
  • 25 Bikes, 5 Attack bikes

Note: 4th Company now at full combat strength

At its nominal strength each company contains one hundred Space Marines, this has been stated numerous times in Index Astartes articles and the various Marine codices. With 10 Companies, each with ten squads of ten Marines we have our mythical 1000 Marines. Our best guidelines for the actual figures however are Codex: Space Marines (3rd Ed.) and Index Astartes Vol. I and to a lesser degree Imperial Armour Vol.2: Space Marines & Forces of the Inquisition.

The appendix of Codex: Space Marines shows a snap-shot of the Ultramarines chapter during 745.M41, the most useful listing here is that of the Fourth Company which states "Notes: 4th Company now at full combat strength"1
This implies that not every Company listed in the appendix is at full strength. The Fourth Company is however and is listed in the sidebar to the right:

This enables us to take the Fourth Company as our basis for comparison.

Captain Idaeus, a Chaplain, Apothecary, Company Standard Bearer, 5 Sergeants and 100 marines makes 109 marines.

The Veteran Sergeants would serve various functions throughout the company, perhaps replacing sergeants in ordinary squads. I wondered to myself where the Sergeants that were replaced would go, before I realised that they would likely serve as part of the Captain's Command Squad (perhaps why command squads are allowed bolt pistols and close combat weapons.) That means that if four Veteran Sergeants went to tactical squads, Idaeus' command squad could consist of a Veteran Sergeant, Apothecary, Company Standard Bearer and Four Sergeants... making seven marines. However, that's me rambling.

Battle & Reserve Companies

So, if we take the Fourth Company as our basis, and apply it to the Second, Third, and Fifth companies, the four Battle Companies are made up of a total of 436 marines.

Now, the Reserve Companies.

At full strength, each of the Reserve Companies is made up of ten squads. The Sixth and Seventh have Tactical squads, the Eighth has Assault squads, and the Ninth Devastator squads. Each Company also has a Captain, Chaplain, Apothecary, Standard Bearer and a number of Veteran Sergeants (let's assume 5, as that's what the Fourth Company has at 'full strength') So, 109 in each of these four Companies adds another 436 marines to the chapter, making 872 marines.

Running Total of Ultramarines: 872

The First Company
First Company Strength

  • Captain Invictus
  • 2 Chaplains
  • 1 Apothecary
  • 1 Company Standard Bearer
  • 8 Veteran Sergeants
  • 87 Veteran Space Marines
  • 74 Tactical Dreadnought Suits
  • 3 Dreadnoughts
  • 18 Rhinos
  • 7 Land Raiders

We'll now turn to the First Company, please see the strength listed at right:
Now, the first company in this force disposition is under-strength. As all marines in the first company are veterans (and would have -and still can- served as sergeants in other companies, it must be assumed that all sergeants are 'veteran'. Second edition made reference to the first company, stating that veterans deployed either as ten veteran squads of ten men each, or twenty five-man terminator squads. So it must be assumed that the First Company has 100 battle-ready warriors. (Keep in mind this is in addition to the 45 or so veteran sergeants in other companies.) I cannot be sure whether the two Chaplains would apply to all Codex-adherent Chapters. Cassius isn't mentioned elsewhere, whilst Tigurius is, so perhaps one of these two Chaplains would count as the Master of Sanctity.

Taking the 872 marines so far, and adding 100 veterans, a Captain, Apothecary, Standard Bearer and two Chaplains makes 977. We're now only 23 away from the magic 1000, and we still have a long way to go.

Running Total of Ultramarines: 977

How many Veterans in a Chapter?

In the listing of the Ultramarines Chapter in Codex: Space Marines (3rd Ed.) there are 87 Veteran Marines and 8 Veteran Sergeants in the First Company. That's ninety-five marines plus a Captain, Standard Bearer, two Chaplains and an Apothecary (total 101). Now, I've often heard the argument that Veteran Sergeants are part of the First Company serving in other Companies. Whilst it's undoubtedly true that they've served in the First Company, are qualified in the use of Terminator armour, and bear the Crux Terminatus, they are clearly listed as part of the Company they are assigned to in this disposition chart. They have yellow shoulder pads if they're in the Second Company and so forth, in other words, the Veteran Sergeants in other Companies are in addition to the 100 or more veterans actually in the First Company. To explain further: the 95 veterans are in addition to twenty-five in the other nine Companies. That makes 120 veterans (and that's taking into account casualties taken in this report by companies such as the fifth - if each company had five Veteran Sergeants, as the 4th Co. does, that would be 45 additional veterans!). The reasoning behind this decision is two-fold, I believe. Firstly, it allows other Companies to benefit from the battlefield experience of the Veteran Sergeants. Secondly, it ensures that if the First Company is savaged in a battle such as the one for Macragge's polar fortresses, the Chapter's entire veteran-stock isn't wiped out. There are still Marines with extensive battlefield experience, Terminator training etc. who can be placed back into the First Company. It serves as a useful redundancy, an insurance policy against the worst the galaxy can throw at a Chapter if you will.

The Tenth Company

The Tenth Company is the only Company that has a large amount of lee-way in its strength. The Ultramarines and Astartes Chapters in general do not have a fixed recruitment quota. The haste with which men were turned into Marines was part of the reason why the Legions fell. The size of the Scout Company can vary wildly, perhaps being as small as thirty Neophytes to perhaps as large as 130. The only constants in the Tenth Company are the Captain, Chaplain, Apothecary and a number of Veteran Sergeants (let's assume five, with each sergeant having two squads under his purview). That's eight, to add to our 977 (making 985). The Codex: Space marines (3rd Ed.) organisation chart also makes reference to 'Neophytes' (are they different to Scouts? Perhaps they're recruits with partial training and augmentation?) and 'Recruiting Sergeants'. Seven Recruiting Sergeants are listed, who I presume would lead the squads. So I guess we'd better add that seven to the total. If we also assume 100 scouts - this is a hypothetical Chapter, so let's assume recruitment is good at the moment) we come up with an updated running total:

Running Total of Ultramarines: 1085

HQ and Support Strength
  • Marneus Calgar, Lord Macragge, Master of the Ultramarines
  • Ancient Helveticus, Chapter Standard Bearer
  • 3 Chaplains

  • Chief Librarian Tigurius
  • 4 Epistolaries, 7 Codiciers
  • 12 Lexicaniums, 4 Acolytum

  • Corpus Helis, Chief Apothecary
  • 11 Apothecaries
  • 5 Initiates

  • Fennias Maxiim, Master of the Forge
  • 4 Techmarines Suprema
  • 28 Techmarines
  • 8 Apprenta
Having finished the Companies, we can begin to look upstairs, which is where things become a little clearer for us:

Five members of the HQ element together with 28 Librarians, 17 Apothecaries and 41 Techmarines gives us a total of 91 specialist (or apprentice specialist as these numbers also include trainees for each specialty) Marines, bringing our running total to 1175. It's clear that these supernumeraries are not considered to be part of the Companies by the manner in which the personnel table is laid out. Each is clearly identified as an individual support or command element in its own right and is not associated with any particular Company in any way.

Running Total of Ultramarines: 1176

Fleet Strength

A number of key elements in this section are supposition based on the 'standards of reporting' in this chart together with limited information presented in other pieces of fluff such as Black Library novels with regards to Astartes fleets.

Fleet Command
  • 48 Pilots, Gunnery Officers and Command Crews
  • 18 Navigators
  • 8 Strike Cruisers,
  • 3 Battle Barges
  • 12 Rapid Strike Vessels
  • 32 Thunderhawks

The reference to 'pilots' leads me believe that Thunderhawks have dedicated crew, which I'd understand and which is at least partially backed up in the Space Wolf novels by several scenes where Ragnar reveals he had once wanted to be a Thunderhawk pilot and where he communicates with Thunderhawk crew who are noted as being full Space Wolves. Further, Imperial Armour Vol.2 lists the crew of a Thunderhawk as 3 - Pilot, Navigator & Gunner and lists the crew type as 'Space Marines'4.

I'm assuming the 'Navigators' listed below the Thunderhawk crew in this list are in fact members of the Navis Nobilite assigned to the Chapter to navigate Battle Barges and Strike Cruisers. Thus they will not be added to the total of Astartes warriors. Still, we can add the 48 Thunderhawk crew to our Marine total with reasonable certainty.

Running Total of Ultramarines: 1224

Vehicle Crews

It would be fine to stop here, but then I read in fine print this sentence:

"(Note that vehicles (not bikes) and spacecraft include complete crew components).1"

This got me thinking about all the times you see a blue Ultramarines Rhino with a red crewman. Evidently the crew are drawn from elsewhere in the Chapter other than the 10 Companies. It makes sense when you think about it - it stops Marines being drawn away from their squads for other duties and seriously weakening the actual strength of each Company. Pages 44 & 45 of Insignium Astartes also state that the entire Sixth and Seventh Companies are trained to use, respectively, Bikes and Land Speeders and the text further implies that such vehicles are attached to other Companies complete with their crew drawn from these Companies.2 Again, this strengthens the argument that vehicle crews are not drawn from the Company they serve with. Note that other sources such as the Black Library novel 'Iron Snakes' state that vehicle crew are drawn from the strength of the (in this case) squad they are assigned to3. This may be because the squad is on its own in this story and does not have the resources available to a full Company or due to the myriad differences in doctrine that appear in even ostensibly Codex following Chapters.

However, this does mean we need to factor in crew for all listed vehicles. For this I won't include Land Speeders or Bikes as Insignium Astartes implies the crew for these are drawn from the Reserve Companies.

From the Strategic Disposition, the Fourth Company has fifteen Rhinos. Rhinos are listed as having a crew of one in Imperial Armour Vol.24, that's 15 crewmen in the Fourth Company, and by extrapolation sixty in all four of the Battle Companies at full strength. We add the same strength for the Reserve Companies and that's 120 in the eight main Companies. The First Company is listed as having 18 Rhinos (so 18 crew) and 7 land raiders (or 14 crew - 2 per vehicle4). 138 Rhino crew plus 14 for the Land Raiders makes 152.

Running total of Ultramarines: 1376 Marines

Heading back to the Armoury, we have the vehicles in the sidebar to the right:
  • 14 Predator Destructors
  • 11 Predator Annihilators
  • 8 Vindicators
  • 9 Whirlwinds
  • 14 Rhinos
  • 14 Razorbacks
  • 12 Land Raiders (including Variants)

Crew strengths are from Imperial Armour Vol.24
  • Predator tank, both variants: 2 crew (Commander/Gunner, Driver), total 50 Marines
  • 8 Vindicators: 2 crew (Commander/Gunner, Driver), total 16 Marines
  • 9 Whirlwinds: 2 crew (Commander/Gunner, Driver), total 18 Marines
  • 14 Rhinos: 1 crew (Driver), total 14 Marines
  • 14 Razorbacks: 1 crew (Driver), total 14 Marines
  • 12 Land Raiders: 2 crew (Commander/Gunner, Driver), total 24 Marines

Maximum total of crewmen for Armory vehicles: 136 Marines. Note this figures assumes all these vehicles are used at the same time which seems unlikely, or at the least are each assigned a permanent crew who would be assigned to it even when it was undergoing repairs etc.

Final Total of Ultramarines: 1512

Non-Combatants & Non-Astartes

"Although the Codex describes a number of ranks and responsibilities within the Headquarters staff, only a very few of these officers actually accompany the Chapter to war. Many are noncombatants of advanced years whose roles are to recruit and train new members or administrate the Chapter. Some ranks described by the Codex include the Chapter's Ancient (or Standard Bearer), the Master's Secretarius, the Lord of the Household, the Chapter's Armourer, the Commander of the Fleet, Victuallers, the Commander of the Arsenal, Commander of Recruits and Commander of the Watch."1
This means it is likely that there are older or disabled Marines stomping around helping the Chapter, for example it is presumed that the Captain of each Astartes vessel is one of these disabled vets who has been grafted to his ship with Mind Impulse Units and other arcane technologies. Although there are no numbers to extrapolate from a reasonable estimate might be between 20 and 40 of these 'non-combatant Marines' exist in most Chapters providing services ranging from captaining Astartes vessels to training to logistical support to simply shuffling papers. However it is to be imagined that in the worst case even these warriors would draw bolter and chainsword from the armoury and join the defence of the Chapter if required.

Also to be considered are the sizeable numbers of Chapter serfs and starship crews when considering the precise weight of numbers a Marine Chapter can bring to bear, particularly in self defence.
The major contributors to this article were Commissar Molotov and the Emperor's Champion. SCC, Sigismund Himself and the Ultramarine forum members also contributed

The Grey Areas

In no way is this assessment of a Chapter's strength definitive, numerous grey areas exist, some of the major ones are listed below:
  • The Chapter disposition given in Codex: Space Marines1 gives separate strengths for the Librarium, Armoury and so forth but not for the Chaplaincy, this lays some doubts over the precise number of Chaplains (and hence Marines) in a Codex Chapter. Also not noted are apprentice Chaplains though some older fluff5 indicates that Chaplain trainees act simply as regular Battle-Brothers on the field and thus may not be annotated as trainees in such a chart.
  • Are acolytes and apprenta as listed in the Librarium and Armoury Astartes Marines as well? Or are they senior Chapter serfs?
  • Dreadnoughts: Do they count as 'Marines'? The crew of a Dreadnought is listed as 'Space Marine' in Imperial Armour Vol.24 so should they be included in the total of Marines?
  • Astartes Fleet Crews: Again we have only hazy data here, it may be that each Astartes vessel has several Marines on board as crew acting in senior roles as Captain, Chief Engineer and so forth. Anecdotal evidence in the Space Wolf novels, most particularly 'Wolf's Honour' shows most of these tasks are performed by Chapter serfs but no definitive evidence exists either way.
  • Vehicle crew: Areas of doubt have already been explained in the vehicle crew section.
  • Detached Marines: Marines may be detached to serve with the Inquisition, primarily the Deathwatch, but also with Rogue Traders and other Imperial forces. Are such Marines included in the mythical 1000?

Best Guess

The final number of Marines in a Chapter is impossible to determine, it is our best guess that the number of Marines in a full strength Codex Chapter is in the region of 1400-1600 warriors, far in excess of the mythical 1000 so often quoted both in the fluff and in the 40K community. Hopefully this article has gone some way to showing a more realistic assessment of the strength of the Astartes.

Related Topics

Behind the Astartes: The Support of the Space Marines
Units of the Astartes
Masters of the Chapter

Editor's Note
It should be noted that this article contains a large degree of supposition and many of its elements are underpinned by educated guesswork rather than hard fact. As such this article should not be considered as 'factual' or 'canon' in the strictest sense of the word. However many of the extrapolations and considerations in this article seem reasonable to a large part of the WH40K community and this article presents an excellent starting point for any discussion on 'How many Marines are there in a Chapter?'.
- Ed.

  • 1Codex: Space Marines (3rd Ed.)
  • Insignium Astartes2
  • Iron Snakes (Black Library Novel)3
  • Imperial Armour Volume 24
  • 'Chaplains & Commissars' from the WH40K Compendium (Red)5
  • Codex: Space Marines (4th Ed.)

Its quite an interesting read and when you compare it to other chapters fluff e.g. Salamanders (who are meant to be a smaller chapter) and Black Templars (who are meant to be on par with the legions of old for fighting strength) it makes you think!!

Just how many Space Marines are there in the galaxy??? 

If you take it as gospal that there are approx 1000 chapters with approx 1000 marines each you get the golden number of 1000000 space marines.  The article puts forward the theory that the codex astartes poster boys are approx 1500 marines strong.  As they are the 'template' for most other chapters to follow, that would put the approx 1000 chapters at 1500 strong so the galaxy would have 1500000 Space Marines.

Now we know that not all chapters are organised like the standard 10 companies e.g. Space Wolves, Salamanders, Black Templars.  This means that the number of Space Marines in the Galaxy could well exceed 1500000.  There are chapters that are declared lost e.g. Fire Hawks, Raptors, Brazen Skulls.  These chapters could just be operating outside of Imperial contact or travelling through the warp which has a distorting effect on time e.g the Tiger Claws.  This means there could be closer to 2000000 Space Marines as any 'missing or lost' chapters would then be replaced with a new one - based on the Ultramarine chapter template which could have upto 1500 space marines.

Thats it, my brain is hurting from thinking, all comments welcome


  1. are these stickers ?
    please describe about Marines ?

  2. What is it you would like to know about marines?

  3. i heard they smell like salt-water taffy.

  4. necroing this but anyway... the "reserve companies" are the ones usually assigned to crew the vehicles... and you have way too many scouts considered, just assume most chapters keep like 3 or 4 aspirants for each "recruiting trip"... so it comes closer to the 1000 marines limit