Ever wonder where the inspiration for all those Imperial Guard Regiments came from? Read on!
The Imperial Guard, or Astra Militarium to newcomers, is a cornerstone of both 40K and the Imperium. The many-storied regiments of the Guard have held the line since the Heresy, and make up the most considerable portion of the bulwark of Humanity. One of the great things about the Guard, both in fluff and from a hobby perspective, is the vast variety of guard Regiments you can make. The Guard comes from many worlds, and the most famous of these have left their mark on 40K.
Many of these famous regiments have some cool real-world inspirations. Today I want to take a look at where the ideas for some of the most famous regiments came from. I’m going to be focusing on some of the older fluff, such as the 2nd Edition Guard Codex. Also, inspiration comes from many places, these are going to be my best guesses, but there could well be other sources for these regiments. I simply can’t cover every regiment, as there are so very many, but I’ll cover what I can. Anyway, let’s dig in.
Catachan Jungle Fighters
Catachans have two main, closely related sources of inspiration. The first is American and allied troops from the Vietnam War. From their look to their chosen battlefield to their attitude, these guys fit in with the image. This image is however very heavily colored by war and action movies of the 80s and early 90s. That’s where the 2nd big inspiration comes in. Catachans also draw a ton of inspiration from action movies, often featuring Jungle combat, either in Vietnam (or its surroundings) or Central America. In particular, you can see a ton of influence from movies like Rambo and Predator.
Cadians, which have over time have come to be short of a default unit, are a little harder to pin down that Catachans. In some ways, they are your basic “army men.” They seem to draw a fair bit of inspiration from the militaries of the Allies and NATO in WWII and the Cold War. Though I’d say the clearest inspiration for their early look is the Colonial Marines from the Aliens franchise, with the helmets, in particular, looking very similar. Culturally the Cadians seem to draw inspiration from highly militarized societies like Sparta and Nazi Germany. In particular, the use of the Whiteshields – youth fighting formations is a reminiscence of the Nazis, as it is highly descriptive of a highly industrialized world.
This one is pretty easy. Valhallans are clearly based on Russian WWII troops fighting in the winter. Everything from their looks to their tactics of mass wave assaults, to their name, screams Soviet Russia. They’ve got a bit of some of the Scandinavian countries mixed in as well, but it’s not hard to see where these guys come from.
Tallarn Desert Raiders
For the Desert Raiders, I think you can find two main real-world sources of inspiration. The first would be Arab insurgents fighting in the Arab Revolt during World War One. The Tallarn’s share a pretty close look and feel to the Arab fighters in this war, and their homeworld is not unlike the homelands of the Arab fighters. The Arab Revolt, of course, has ties to England through the exploits of the famed Lawrence of Arabia, among others. It would have been well known the designers at GW when they were coming up with regiments. In fact, I’d not be surprised if the 1962 Lawrence of Arabia film didn’t provide inspiration.
The second source of inspiration I think, is the Afghan Mujahideen from the Soviet-Afghan war. The Mujahideen share some similarities with the Arab insurgents and the Tallarans, all being desert warriors that excel in hit and run tactics. Additionally, I would not be surprised if the idea of the Tallara being a world almost destroyed by a massive tank battle was based on reports on the devastation of Afghanistan by the Soviet invasion. Since the Soviet-Afghan war lasted until 1989, it would have been well known to the designers at GW in the late 80s and early 90s and clearly could have influenced them.
The Praetorian Guard may have the clearest inspiration of any Regiment. The Name is a direct reference to the old Roman elite unit and bodyguard/assassin of the Emperors. Aside from that, they have nothing to do with the Romans. The Praetorian Guard are directly modeled on 19th Century British Colonial forces, in particular, those that fought in the Zulu War. In fact, if you want to really get down to it, they are based on the Company B of the 24th Regiment of Foot during the battle of Rorke’s Drift.
The Praetorian’s were originally converted from Mordain’s for a diorama at Games Day Canadian in 1997. The battle is known as Battle of Big Toof River, or sometimes as Ord Drift, invoked the Zulu’s wars. The Praetorians were so popular that GW released them as a kit, the Praetorian XXIV (24), a direct reference to the 24th Regiment of Foot and thus a legend was born.
Death Korps of Krieg
The Death Korps of Krieg, a fan favorite, are heavily inspired by World War One Imperial Germans. From the names to the excessive use of Ks, to the weapons and overall look they draw a ton of inspiration from the Kaiser’s troops. Interestingly enough, the Krieg troops also clearly draw inspiration from their French counterparts in WWI. The helmet worn by most Krieg Troops looks far closer to the French Adrian Helmet than the German Pickelhaube or Stahlhelm. Also, the blue long coats are very reminiscent of French winter uniforms – what might have been worn in the trench fighting around Verdun. Thus it’s clear the Krieg are a mix of WWI French and Germans, stuck forever in the brutal life of trench fighters.
Alright folks, that’s just a few of the many Guard Regiments. Let us know your favorite inspiration for any regiments I didn’t cover, down in the comments!