The principle of awarding badges for battle honors has always played a large role in fighting forces both as a means of recognizing the achievements of individual troopers as well as building esprit de corps.
Among Space Marine Chapters it has become vital in serving to reinforce the bonds of kinship and common purpose shown by the chapter’s warriors. Space Marines are awarded badges of distinction for all manners of heroic deeds or worthy actions. Specially trained marines called Artificers affix these markings to an individual marine’s power armor. Some honors are merely painted onto the armor while others are elaborate carvings, but all are highly regarded by the recipient and his battle-brothers.
The Iron Skull
The Iron Skull is a traditional badge of ancient origin. The classical convention is to represent the Iron Skull as a red device. It is the codex insignia for a sergeant and is displayed on the shoulder armor and/or the helmet of a Space Marine of this rank. It is awarded for leadership.
A marine who bears this honor has literally “won his laurels”. Acts of valor leading to great victory are deeds rewarded with the Imperial Laurel. The wreath is often worn as a crown or sculpted onto the marine’s helmet. The Wreathed Skull is a common form of this honor. The Codex Astartes requires that the company standard be borne into battle by proven warriors who have won the Imperial Laurel.
The purity seal is a blessing more than an honor per sé. Before a campaign, the chaplains of the chapter pass through the ranks to bless and pray for the troops. Certain individuals are singled out special blessings recorded on parchment streamers and affixed to their armor with great wax seals. Often the very receiving of such a blessing may itself be marked by adopting of a solid electrum casting of the seal permanently attached to a marine’s armor or wargear.
The Iron Halo
A marine who demonstrates exceptional initiative will be awarded the Iron Halo. This simple badge dates back to the earliest days of the Imperium. Often painted onto a marine’s armor as a red badge, the Iron Halo is the Codex Astartes insignia for an officer. It is displayed on the shoulder armor and/or helmet of the marine as a mark of his rank.
The Marksman’s Honor
This device recognizes acts of remarkably accurate shooting or consistently high performance with targeting. The Codex Astartes recognizes exceptional marksmen so that their skills may be called upon at need. The badge itself is constructed by encasing bolter case shells fired by the Primarch or founding chapter master in gold.
The Honorifica Imperialis
The Honorifica is a winged skull badge that dates back to the Horus Heresy. It was originally adopted as the campaign badge of the loyalist chapters during the civil war. Since then it has become the symbol of righteous victory. Most often the chest armor of the recipient is carved with the winged skull but it can also appear on banners and finials.
The Skull and Motto
In addition to the specific badge of the Iron Skull, there are many other icons and emblems which incorporate the skull motif. As honors, these have a multitude of uses and meanings. Often combined with a simple motto, these skull honors can be seen on shoulder pads, helmets, kneepads, and even on bolter cases and vehicles.
The Prime Helix
The Prime Helix is the emblem of an Apothecary. The bright red design represents both the gene-seed itself and to some extent the sacrifice every marine is prepared to make both for his chapter and for mankind.
The Red Helix is also the standard Imperial marking for medical installations, Imperial Guard medics, and ambulances.
The Machina Opus
This honor is the mark of the Tech-Adept. It is awarded to each techmarine as he completes his training with the Adeptus Mechanicus. Bearers of the Machina Opus are accorded great respect by the Tech-Priests and they alone are allowed free passage through the Ring of Iron and into the great workshops of the Adeptus Mechanicus on Mars.
The Crux Terminatus (Terminator Honors)
Perhaps the most famous of all Space Marine icons, the Crux Terminatus is awarded only to veteran marines. Only marines who have won this honor are issued terminator armor. The honor has various forms and designs, but all versions are carved from great slabs of adamantium. Within each of these badges is bound a tiny fragment of the armor worn by the Emperor during his climactic battle with the traitorous Warmaster Horus over 10,000 years ago. Sergeants and captains bear modified versions of the design to signify their rank and authority. Smaller representations of the crux are frequently worn by veterans when they fight in standard power armor. These small, metallic icons are hung from banner tops, weapons, and belts.