‘Grant them, dear Emperor, grant them
In your mercy, dear Emperor, grant them
A life in peace, a life in peace everlasting
everlasting at your side.’
– ‘Requiem Imperator’, from Hymns
Imperialis by the St Tamaran Ecclesiastica Choir
+ Overview +
The Battle of Boreas, also known as the Ardent System Counteroffensive, was one of the last major Red Hand offensives during the Augustine Crusade and took place from late M42.050 to M42.053. The offensive was intended to stop Imperial use of the starport at Gella Major and to open a new front against the Crusade by allowing the traitor forces to encircle and destroy a large portion of the over-extended Crusading forces and thereby force the Crusade to a halt and allow time for Apostate-Warlord Xiah Hesh to consolidate his forces.
The traitors achieved a total surprise attack in the Ardent System due to a combination of Imperial overconfidence, preoccupation with Imperial offensive plans elsewhere and poor Naval reconnaissance due to increasingly unstable warp conditions around the Red Hand region. Imperial forces under General Helkov – who was in the process of rearming and refitting his battlegroup at Gella Major when the attack began – bore the brunt of the offensive and his hastily reconstituted Battlefleet Ardent suffered the highest death ratio during any operation of the war thus far. Most of the fighting took place on the planet Boreas where the fighting would eventually drag on for nearly four years. However, there were numerous smaller-scale battles on the various moons and orbital stations throughout the Ardent System and a large naval engagement around Gella Major towards the end of the campaign.
The battle severely depleted the Red Hands’ naval and ground forces, and they were largely unable to replace them. Hesh’s ground forces – mostly comprised of the veteran and disciplined Hundred Hands units, the Ebon Wing drop regiments and the Gothii war-clans – and, later, void warships (in the concluding stages of the engagement) also sustained significant and irretrievable losses.
+ Commanders and leaders +
General Ukon Helkov, theatre command on Boreas
Admiral Felix Ezra, fleet master, 2nd Army Battlegroup
General Brerotal Obalan, 2nd Army
General Avanna Kursk, 2nd Army
Apostate-Warlord Xiah Hesh
Warlord Bal Skorz
Bra’duk Za ‘The Bloody Fist’
+ Background +
After the breakout from Solace at the end of M42.046 and the Imperial conquests of the Solace and Odessus Systems along the Buir’s Reach corridor towards the Red Hand core systems by M42.050, the Imperial forces had advanced more quickly than Xiah Hesh had anticipated. However, despite these successes, Warmaster Augustus was faced with several military logistics issues:
– Imperial regiments were fatigued by months of continuous combat
– supply lines had become stretched extremely thin
– frontline resources were dangerously depleted
General Helkov and his forces decided to hold the Ardent System with as few troops as possible due to the favorable nature of its planets (mostly inhospitable meaning much less to actively defend) and limited Imperial operational objectives in the area. This relatively ‘safe system’ would grant Helkov a chance to rest and refit his forces before Warmaster Augustus launched a renewed offensive.
Because the Ardent System was considered a ‘quiet system’, considerations of economy of force led it to be used as a training ground for new regiments arriving from Cetus-Scorpii and a rest area for units that had seen hard fighting. The Imperial units deployed in the Ardent System thus were a mixture of inexperienced regiments (such as the raw 245th Elirian regiment and the 322nd Krakovan Guard) and battle-hardened troops sent to that system to recuperate (such as the Cadian 144th regiment and the 7th Ha’quan Jannizars).
+ Imperial Supply Issues +
The speed of the Allied advance since Solace, coupled with an initial lack of deep-void starports capable of attending capital-class warships presented the Imperials with enormous supply problems. Supply convoys from Cetus-Scorpii were unable to meet operational needs. The only deep-void port the Imperials had captured was Forge World Adgitus, but the traitors had thoroughly wrecked and mined the forge world and it’s attached starport before it could be taken. It took many months to rebuild its ship-docking and handling capability. Imperial advance forces had captured Gella Major almost intact but this would still take months before it was fully operational with Imperial Navy dock crews and mechanicum personnel.
These limitations led to differences between Marshal Helkov and some of Augustus’ other top generals over whose battle groups would receive priority access to supplies. By early M42.050, the Imperials had effectively suspended major offensives to improve their supply lines and supply availability at the front.
Helkov (3rd Army) and Bradassar (2nd Army) both pressed for priority delivery of supplies to their respective battlegroups so they could continue their individual lines of advance and maintain pressure on the Red Hand. Helkov won some priority of resources under the promise to capture Gella Major and provide a staging and refitting position from which a further offensive could be launched.
With the Warmaster Augustine’s forces effectively stalled, Apostate-Warlord Xiah Hesh was able to reorganize the disrupted Red Hand forces into a coherent defensive force.
+ Red Hand Plans +
Despite a lull along the front, the traitor situation remained dire. While operations continued throughout M41.049-050, the strategic situation had changed little. The Imperial forces were slowly pushing towards the core systems of the Red Hand Dominate, but no decisive breakthrough was achieved.
Xiah Hesh first outlined his surprise counteroffensive to his astonished warlords late in M42.049. The assault’s ambitious goal was to pierce the thinly held lines of Battlefleet Helkov via the Ardent System by the end of the first month, get the traitor war-fleet through the Ardent by the end of the third month and, seizing Gella Major within four months. What would follow would be a rapid advance through the back-line compliant systems of the Buir’s Reach Corridor. Hesh initially promised his warlords an initial total of 200 warships and approximately 30 million troops pulled from across the front. Hesh promised his warlords that this army, representing a significant military investment from the battered Red Hand Dominate, would be later reinforced further as more troops could be pressed and mobilized from the Core Systems.
Meanwhile, the Imperial Navy had effectively limited the traitor’s void movements to within their own lines leaving the Red Hand forces with little intelligence of Imperial void movements. One of the few advantages held by the traitor forces in M42.050 was that they were no longer defending all of the Red Hand regions. Their front lines had been considerably shortened by Imperial offensives and were much closer to the Red Hand Dominate’s core systems. This drastically reduced their supply problems. Additionally, the traitor war fleet was maintaining a tight perimeter along the front lines and made Imperial reconnaissance into the Red Hand Dominate impossible. This allowed Xiah Hesh to maneuver his own forces right under Warmaster Augustus’ nose. Regardless of these advantages, Imperial tacticians have concluded that the entire Ardent Counteroffensive amounted to a serious gamble that some of the Apostate-Warlord’s more ambitious warlords considered to be a desperate final roll of the dice that, if it failed, may prove to be Hesh’s undoing.
One major special operation was planned for the offensive. It was decided that Bra’Duk Za, the Red Hand commander who led the infamous Gothii Warclans, was to lead a task force of Gothii and Hundred Hands in “Operation Grief”. These soldiers, using the warship Disciple of Xiah, undertook an ambitious raid deep into the Ardent System ahead of the main traitor force and landed, undetected, on the planet Boreas, the closest habitable planet to the Gella Major starport. They had orders to dig in and stall the Imperial response long enough for the rest of the Red Hand forces, commanded by Warlord Bal Skorz, to reach them in time for the final assault on Gella Major. At the same time as the launch of “Operation Grief”, a second force, led by Rokkus Quell ‘The Shadow Clad’ would take a longer route to Gella Major around the far side of the Ardent System and secure the multiple Ardent System Void Stations that the Imperials were using for minor refits of smaller vessels, surveillance and patrol points. These stations were lightly defended but their capture was essential to maintaining the element of surprise for as long as possible and to avoid giving the main Imperial battlegroup at Gella Major forewarning of the advance of Bra’Duk Za and the main assault of Bal Skorz.
+ [END TRANSMISSION] +