“Do not underestimate the ork. It is not just its size or bulging muscles that must be feared. If you look into the tiny red eyes beneath its exaggerated brow ridge, you’ll see malevolence—and an instinctive cunning and ferocity—that is as dangerous as the weapons it carries.“—General Tiberius Vectrix, supreme commander of the Hegira Planetary Defense Force.
Day of Carnage
As the fighting continued throughout the day, more reverses were reported all along the outer trench line, and the greenskins slowly forced their way forward toward the inner—and final—line of defense. Forced by circumstance and a grim determination to hold the line, the Imperial High Command ordered the most ruthless of remedies: It ordered every artillery piece in the city to drop their shells right atop the fighting.
What followed was carnage. Tens of thousands of shells obliterated tens of thousands of orks—but also untold thousands of Imperial troops. As horrifying, while men were vaporized with each falling shell, other men faced off in hand-to-hand combat against brutish, blood-frenzied xenos a meter taller than them. Choppas and Power Klaws sliced countless men in half, while xeno arms thicker than men’s calves tore off the arms, legs, and heads of many a screaming soldier.
But stiff resistance slowed the xenos. Officers with bolt or plasma pistols stood behind their fighting men, picking off the larger greenskins with shots to the head. Commissars held some parts of the line wielding chainswords and power swords.
One wounded sergeant inspired his men by seizing a belt of frag grenades and running into a frenzied ork mob, detonating his explosives and obliterating a half dozen of the largest xenos.
All told, nearly 150,000 artillery shells were fired during this portion of the battle, three times the expenditure of shells ever fired in a single day during the moon’s six-year-war.
But the fighting wasn’t over. As the first wave of orks began to waiver, a second wave—estimated at 150,000 greenskins—rushed forward. With the orks now holding large portions of the Imperials’ first line of trenches, the xenos were eager to exploit their progress.
So, the fighting continued. Men screamed in a frenzy as they charged to meet this new wave with bayonets, trench shovels, and bare hands. Yet more artillery rained down. Chimeras and Russ Lemon tanks struggled forward over the churned-up ground, carefully weaving a path amidst the cratered landscape to bring their heavier weapons to bear.
A Valiant Defense
To the unspoken relief of many Imperial officers, few men panicked and fled. True, commissars shot dozens of fleeing soldiers in a bid to intimidate troops to stay and fight. But incidents of cowardice were relatively few and far between. Confronted by the horrors of war, a fury seemed to build in the souls of the troops.
The 728th Cadian Regiment stood like granite against the green tide. Outnumbered by a mob calling itself Dunzur’s Dredmob, the 728th held at bay thousands of xenos through disciplined lasgun volleys and the expenditure of vast quantities of ordinance.
Nothing, however, seemed capable of discouraging the greenskins. A mob identified as Wartfinga’s Whakkas rushed past the 728th’s position and made straight for the inner trench line. The trenches would have fallen, but they held because Imperial commanders poured fresh troops into the fight. Elements of the 002nd Tallarn Regiment advanced with a twice the number of plasma guns authorized by regulations, but these anti-armor weapons were put to good use against the Whakkas, and higher command never asked how those weapons were appropriated.
Nearly 10 kilometers to the east, one of the most stirring battles of the day took place. The Z’Yra Siege Regiment, a militia unit recruited from displaced laborers who’d been forced out of the now-ork-held Z’Yra Mines, earned a unit citation for their counterattack near Redoubt #76.
There, the militia regiment charged headlong into the vanguard of a massive ork mob that was heading straight for the redoubt, the lynchpin of the inner Imperial line of defense. Armed with mining demolitions and wheeled Clearance Incinerators pulled from Goliath industrial vehicles, the militiamen sacrificed themselves to tear the heart out of the xeno vanguard, slowing the greenskin advance until more troops arrived to shore up the defenses.
The fighting continued throughout the night. After 16 hours of fighting, the 31st PDF Regiment collapsed from sheer exhaustion. Caught in the midst of a renewed ork push, the severely depleted regiment could not be rotated out of the front lines, and it was wiped out to the last man.
Despite such horrors, the fighting continued. With only flames and the flash of weaponry to provide light, the nighttime fighting was confused. Ork mobs clashed with one another in the dark, the xenos so battle frenzied that they paid little heed to whether they battled friend or foe—only bloodshed mattered.
Meanwhile, the 93rd PDF Regiment lost 200 men to friendly fire when the 4th Hegira Jaegers saw movement in a trench line designated as ork held, but which had been recaptured by the 93rd only minutes earlier.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog that documents our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.