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The Barrayaran Imperial Service, also known as the Barrayaran Imperial Military Service or colloquially as The Service was the national military force of the planet of Barrayar.

History and organization[]

The service appears to have originated from the feudal armies of pre-space age Barrayar, until their dissolution by the reforming emperor Dorca Vorbarra. All officers swore allegiance directly to the Emperor of Barrayar. Originally, the Service's officer corps was dominated by the Barrayaran Vor aristocracy; its class-based militarism was reminiscent of nineteenth-century Prussia or of Meiji-era Japan. However, the Emperor Gregor Vorbarra, and his Lord Regent Aral Vorkosigan, reformed the admissions process, allowing competitive admission from all classes. This unified Imperial Military Service in its modern form (the "New Service") dated from the early years of Vorkosigan's regency. While there were female auxiliary forces, such as the Barrayaran Imperial Service Women's Auxiliary, the regular Barrayaran Imperial Service was exclusively male.
The Emperor was the Commander-in-Chief (replaced by the Regent of Barrayar during his minority). Any Imperial Auditor, using the legal concept of being the "Emperor's Voice", was empowered to issue binding orders to all military forces they deemed fit and necessary to carry out their task; therefore the Imperial Auditor was considered "outside" the chain of command, because he was not strictly part of the Barrayaran Imperial Service, although still in a position of authority. [1]

Known branches[]

  • Space forces[2] – by the time of later books, involved in routine military escort to Komarran trade fleets.
  • Ground forces
  • Corps of Engineers[3]
  • Cavalry[4]
  • Service Security – the military police
  • Ops[5]
  • Military Intelligence[6]
  • Wormhole jump station Logistics[7]
  • Procurement[8]
  • Budget and Accounting[7]

Imperial Security was part of the Barrayaran Imperial Service, although it was separate from the unified structure, having its own medical and support services. Its staffing was partly military, and partly civilian[9].


Barrayaran Imperial Service uniforms consisted 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. Camouflage fatigues could also be worn as appropriate. Fatigues and undress greens were generally worn during regular duty, while dress greens were for meetings with superior officers and red and blues for formal functions. Vor wore a twin sword set with their parade red-and-blues. All the uniforms were accompanied by black cavalry boots, evidence that the military was descended from a cavalry-based ground force. Great coats could be worn with any of them.

Detailed descriptions of the camouflage and black fatigues are not given.

Undress greens: These came with half-boots and a foldable cap that could be kept on the belt when not worn.[10] The jacket had a high collar and long sleeves, the top was a tunic, and the trousers had side-piping and a fly.[11][12][13]

Dress greens: These came with knee-high riding boots. The tunic/shirt was long-sleeved and cream-colored; it came with a high, gold-encrusted collar. They were forest green, and the trousers had red side-piping. They tucked into the riding boots.[14][15][16][17][18]

Parade red-and-blues: These came with long and short swords, the tall boots had tassels, and the collar was very high to the point of choking. The overall effect was described as glittery or gaudy.[19][14]

A set of collar pins indicated what part of the Service the individual served in, and rank was indicated by the color of the collar tabs worn behind the assignment pins. Ops pins were bronze[20], while Imperial Security pins were silver and shaped like an eye of Horus (they were also as difficult to counterfeit as money).[20] Awards given to wear on uniforms included the Barrayaran Imperial Star, in gold, silver, and bronze.[21]

The Emperor of Barrayar wore the Imperial Service uniform without rank insignia.[22]


By definition, the Imperial Military was 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 could command military forces as he saw fit. Only the Emperor (or Regent) and possibly other Auditors as a group could override him. Otherwise, the hierarchy of command was very similar to current military forces, in that officers command the enlisted men.

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

The flag officer rank of vice admiral appeared in Shards of Honor and was mentioned in Memory as Captain Illyan's pay grade as head of ImpSec. Whether this rank had the same or different insignia as Admiral is not mentioned. Admiral Avakli in Memory was a rear admiral. The general rank, like the admiral rank, was likely to be divided into several ranks, and at the lowest level could be equivalent to commodore.

Barrayar's rank system was the product of a merged service, and thus not fully logical in practice. In particular, individuals such as Ivan Vorpatril and Miles Vorkosigan expected to be promoted directly to captain (blue tabs) ten years after being commissioned as ensigns. It is possible that the lieutenant commander and commander ranks were similar to the historic naval "Master and Commander" rank in being related to a particular post (such as that of an executive officer aboard a warship), as opposed to being a substantive permanent rank. The navy rank of lieutenant junior grade and the ground ranks of first lieutenant and lieutenant colonel may have been eliminated when the Service was unified.

Based on time at promotion, Barrayaran captains were more senior than a twentieth century army captain traditionally is, while approximately a grade more junior than twentieth century naval captains. There was also the rank of "Ground-Captain," as seen in A Civil Campaign (identified possibly incorrectly there as being equivalent to Lieutentant Commander).

Enlisted Ranks[]

Attested enlisted ranks and/or ratings included private, yeoman, tech, trooper, corporal and sergeant. Enlisted rank, like officer rank, was signified by collar tabs, although of a separate type.

External links[]


  1. Diplomatic Immunity
  2. Headed by Admiral Knollys in earlier years. See Barrayar chapter 14
  3. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance chapter 23
  4. Including the ceremonial squadron at the Imperial Stables. See A Civil Campaign chapter 6
  5. Headed by Admiral Desplains in later years. See Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
  6. Shards of Honor chapter 17
  7. 7.0 7.1 Captain Vorpatril's Alliance chapter 17
  8. headed by Admiral Hessman for a time. See The Warrior's Apprentice chapter 18
  9. Mirror Dance
  10. The Vor Game chapter 1
  11. Cetaganda chapters 2,7
  12. A Civil Campaign chapter 12
  13. Barrayar chapter 1
  14. 14.0 14.1 Memory chapter 5
  15. The Vor Game chapter 3
  16. The Mountains of Mourning
  17. Mirror Dance chapter 32
  18. Cryoburn chapter 20
  19. Barrayar chapter 3
  20. 20.0 20.1 Memory chapter 6
  21. Memory chapter 15
  22. The Vor Game chapter 7