The Deathwatch are the Imperial Hammer against the Xenos – but their origin story is a bit of a fuzzy story. Here are the dueling accounts of the birth of the Deathwatch.
The “Official” Story
Here is the Official Tale of the Deathwatch’s origin:
The seeds of the Deathwatch were first sown during the War of the Beast when a mighty warboss known only as The Beast nearly destroyed the Imperium. During the war, Lord Commander of the Imperium and Chapter Master of the Imperial Fists Koorland realized that small Kill-Teams of Astartes were required to eliminate The Beast and critical strategic assets. Needing experience and knowing that no new Foundings could be created in such a short time, the recruits were to be drawn from a multitude of existing Chapters. Despite the reluctance of the High Lords of Terra to approve the creation of this force, desperation forced their hand. The original recruits were drawn from units of survivors of Koorland’s invasion of Ullanor which saw heavy Astartes losses. Thus standing in vigil of their fallen brothers, the Deathwatch came to be. Their first mission was to eliminate the Ork Attack Moon plaguing Terra. Shortly before the second invasion of Ullanor to try and slay The Beast, Koorland reached a power-sharing agreement with Inquisitorial Representative Wienand to try and avert a crisis with the suspicious High Lords of Terra. It was agreed that the Deathwatch would fall under the purview of the Inquisition but that a Space Marine would serve as a Chapter Master. The first Chapter Master of the Deathwatch, known as the Watch Commander, was Asger Warfist.
The First Chapter Master
Asger Warfist was a Wolf Lord in the Space Wolves Chapter when the Ork forces of The Beast invaded the Imperium. He took part in his Chapter’s battle against the Orks when they invaded an Imperium System near the Eye of Terror and he later successfully led his Great Company in defending the Industrial Moon Fabrikk, when it was invaded. Afterward, he was commanded by his Great Wolf to travel to Terra, after the Space Wolves received word that their aid was requested for a strikeforce; to attack the world Ullanor, which was discovered to be the origin point of The Beast’s invasion force.
He later appeared before Lord Commander Koorland as part of his Chapter’s taskforce on Terra. He reluctantly tolerated the presence of Dark Angels and took part in the invasion of The Beast’s homeworld of Ullanor. Warfist later became one of the first members of the Deathwatch and took part in the destruction of the Attack Moon over Terra.
Shortly before the second invasion of Ullanor to try and once again slay the Beast, Lord Commander Koorland made Asger Warfist the first Chapter Master of the Deathwatch. Warfist fought alongside Koorland as the Lord Commander died against the second “Beast”-class Warboss that revealed himself.
During the third Imperial offensive on Ullanor, Asger Warfist commanded one of the five Imperial attack groups.
An Older Tale
In the dark mists of the Imperium, another tale exists of the Deathwatch’s origin:
Centuries ago, a Conclave of Ordo Xenos Inquisitor Lords, known as the Apocryphon Conclave of Orphite IV – convened with the purpose of formulating a galaxy-wide strategy to combat the many xenos civilizations assailing humankind. Foreseeing an age where humanity would eventually consume the Imperium itself, the conclave sat and debated for many years. Some advocated the annihilation of all xenos, some that certain less-violent civilizations should be “tolerated.” However, a strategy was eventually formed, and the Conclave requested an audience with many assembled Chapter Masters of the Adeptus Astartes. After hearing the Inquisitor’s pleas, the Chapter Masters deliberated for one night before giving their verdict: they and the Inquisitors would together take a solemn oath and form a new Chapter, one drawn entirely from Battle-Brothers from existing chapters. The alliance dubbed it the ‘Deathwatch,’ for it would stand guard against the doom foretold by the conclave.
~Knowledge is power. Loremasters, I leave it to you to decide which lie to believe.