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Barrayaran Imperial Military Service

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In Lois McMaster Bujold's sci-fi series, The Vorkosigan Saga, the Barrayaran Imperial Military Service is the national military force of the planet of Barrayar.

History and organisation[edit]

The service appears to have originated from the feudal armies of Barrayar during the Time of Isolation, until their dissolution by the reforming emperor Dorcas Vorbarra. Originally, the Service's officer corps was dominated by the Barrayaran aristocracy; its class-based militarism was reminiscent of nineteenth-century Prussia or of Meiji-era Japan. However, the Emperor Gregor Vorbarra, and his Prime Minister Lord Aral Vorkosigan, reformed the admissions process, creating a modern Service Academy with competitive admission from all classes.


The Barrayaran uniform consists of four different sets. Ranging from informal to formal: Black fatigues, a Green Undress uniform, a Green Dress Uniform and a Parade Red and Blue uniform. Fatigues and Undress Greens are generally worn during regular duty, while dress Greens are for meetings with superior officers and Red and Blues for formal functions. Except for fatigues, the uniforms are accompanied by black cavalry boots, evidence that the military is descended from a cavalry-based ground force.


Space and Ground Force Officers[edit]

Rank is indicated by a set of collar tabs. The color of the tab represents the rank.

Officer Ranks and Insignia
Collar Tab Color Space Forces Rank Ground Forces Rank
Yellow Admiral General
???? Vice Admiral ????
???? Commodore ????
???? Captain Colonel
???? Commander Major
Blue Lieutenant Commander Captain
Red Lieutenant Lieutenant
Pale Blue Ensign Ensign

The flag officer rank of Vice Admiral is mentioned in Memory as Captain Illyan's pay grade as head of ImpSec. Whether this rank has the same or different insignia as Admiral is not mentioned.

Enlisted Ranks[edit]

The only enlisted ranks mentioned in the books are Private, Corporal and Sergeant. There is no descriptions of enlisted rank insignia, nor are we told whether Space and Ground forces share rank names and/or insignia. That Sergeant Bothari, for example, is apparently a Space Force non-commissioned officer may suggest that both services do share enlisted ranks.

Imperial Security[edit]

Imperial Security, while a quasi-separate branch of Barrayaran military service, draws its personnel indiscriminately from both the Space and Ground Forces, and ImpSec personnel retain their service-of-origin rank progression. Responsibility within ImpSec depends more upon assignment than upon rank, with for instance, Captain Illyan being Chief of Imperial Security but commanding men well above him in nominal rank (generals and admirals). As Emperor Gregor pointed out when offering to medically retired Miles Vorkosigan the command of ImpSec, the post is traditionally held by a serving officer, but the Emperor can appoint whomever he chooses, regardless of military status.

Other Insignia[edit]

Other insignia indicate branch of service as, for example, the Imperial Security silver Eye of Horus pins. Pins are worn in a set and are individually custom-made with a unique serial number on the back.


By definition, the Imperial Military is under the overall command of the reigning Emperor or Regent as commander-in-chief. Consequently, in his role as the Emperor's Voice, any Barrayaran Imperial Auditor can command military forces as he sees fit. Only the Emperor (or Regent) and possibly other Auditors as a group could override him. Otherwise, the hierarchy of command is very similar to current military forces, in that officers command the enlisted men. Ranks are very similar to American/British military ranks.


Lois McMaster Bujold, The Warrior's Apprentice, Memory, Komarr

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