The Battle Of Butte Hold
The Battle of Butte Hold: A turning point or a tragic failure?
A thesis exploring the impact of Butte Hold in the Clan Invasion
Written by Andre Kempf
Perhaps the bloodiest fighting in the war, occurred in the system of Butte Hold. Once considered a nest of pirates and malcontents, of little overall consequence; this system become the key point on which both the Wolven and Lyran strategic plans rested. This dusty desert planet would exchange hands so frequently that mercenary units began referring to it as ‘‘Steiner's Asshole’’, a reference to both its inhospitable nature and to the high casualty counts sustained in the fighting.
The fighting started on the 24th of May, 3041; when solahma units under the command of Star Colonel Damien simultaneously assaulted every major pirate enclave on planet. The few ships that managed to escape the system, reported strange aerospace fighters and heavily armed dropships, that disabled or destroyed any who opposed them. Within 48 hours, all fighting had ceased with Clan units crushing the last pirate holdouts on the 26th of May. Left to garrison a worthless dustball with little expectation of combat, the Colonel was reportedly frustrated with his assignment; though his luck would soon change.
The first Lyran units would enter the system on the 3rd of July. A small detachment of mercenaries had been sent to investigate the missing pirates and were caught unprepared, when Wolf dropships disabled their jumpship and elementals swarmed the ship. The disappearance of the mercenaries, worried Lyran intelligence, though it wasn't until the 9th of September, that the LIC was able to piece together the fragmentary evidence from the periphery regions. A taskforce (see Taskforce Thorben) comprised of the 4th Lyran Regulars and the 5th Lyran Guards, supplemented by Loki field operatives and hired mercenaries would be sent to hit Butte Hold. Similar task forces would hit Bensinger, New Ålborg and Crellacor in a near simultaneous push.
Fortunately for the Lyrans, spoiling raids by the Greater Valkyrate and Elysian Fields would divert front-line clan units away from these worlds. As such most of the worlds targeted, were secured quickly and with minimal casualties. The Solahma units fought bravely, but lacked the air support or the necessary orbital support needed to stop the Lyran juggernaut. However the bulk of the Solahma and second line units were kept in reserve around Butte Hold. Taskforce Thorben would encounter significant resistance upon arrival in-system and were forced to abandon their jumpships; and conduct high burn manoeuvrers to evade the clan naval assets waiting at the jump point.
Less than 70% of the taskforce would survive to make planetfall, with the majority of losses stemming from interceptions by enemy naval assets. Others would be lost during the deceleration phase, either picked off by ground based weapons or patrolling aerospace fighters. In one unfortunate incident, the dropship Dark Water would lose control of its engines seconds before deceleration. The resulting 20km crater on the planets northern continent, is still the single largest tourist attraction in the planets recorded history.
The elements that made planetfall included nearly all the attached Loki units and the majority of the taskforce’s heavy mechs. With Solahma units closing in, the taskforce sacrificed themselves in a pitched battle; so that the Loki agents could slip away and achieve the real goal of the mission. It took the Solahma and second line units 52 hours to annihilate the taskforce, though they sustained heavy casualties in doing so. The Loki agents would later link up with several surviving lances of the 4th, after raiding the Wolf command post for intelligence and stealing a pristine Warhammer IIC. However the action that would have the biggest impact, was the placement of a Davy Crockett warhead near the command post. On a 2 hour timer, the 0.5 kiloton warhead’s detonation would claim the lives of Star Colonel Damian and his command staff and the lives of his senior Star Captains. The chaos allowed the surviving taskforce members to seize a Clan dropship, though they were shot down before they could leave the atmosphere.
Over the next 5 years, a succession of mercenary units would be lost during fighting, along with 4 full regiments of Lyran troops, an unknown number of Loki agents and the loss of 3 warships. Clan losses are unknown, however the strategic importance of the system; ensured that fresh reinforcements were constantly arriving in system and that the familiar rules of war would be relaxed on both sides. Numerous war crimes would be committed by both sides, from the orbital bombardment of troop formations, to the nerve gassing of an entire wolf field barracks or the torture of prisoners by clan ‘‘doctors’’. Even 50 years later, vast swathes of the planet are uninhabitable or contaminated due to excessive WMD deployment and scavengers still pick over the wrecked war machines of Clan and Lyran alike.
The losses became so large, that Melissa Steiner would declare Butte Hold to be a modern Stalingrad and publicly pledged to do whatever it took to turn the tide of the wolf advance. Many historians debate if the defence of Butte Hold was the key turning point it appears to be; the most commonly cited alternatives are the raid of Dichell in 3044 or the assassination of Galaxy Commander……..