Chief Beefeater retires

Chief Beefeater retires

Chief Yeoman Warder, John Keohane


Tower of London’s Chief ‘Beefeater’ retires after 20 years service

John Keohane MVO BEM, Chief Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London, will be retiring on 31 January 2012 after more than two decades service at Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress. The Chief Yeoman Warder is the most senior member of the Sovereign's Bodyguard based at the Tower of London known as the Body of Yeoman Warders, and commonly called ‘Beefeaters’.

John joined the Body in 1991, shortly after leaving the Royal Corps of Signals; he began as a Yeoman Warder and was promoted to the position of Chief Yeoman Warder in 2004. He is the longest serving Chief Yeoman Warder since 1947 and the second longest serving in history.

Having enlisted in the army in 1964, John saw service in Singapore, Oman, the Falkland Islands, Belgium, Holland and Northern Ireland. He worked up through the ranks to Warrant Officer Class II and was awarded a host of decorations including the British Empire Medal in 1985 and the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1984. John currently lives at the Tower with his wife Ruth, and they have two children, Paula and Andrew and six grandchildren, Charlotte, Rebecca, Jonathon Nathan, Elizabeth and James.

John’s retirement (to Devon) will allow him to spend more time on his hobbies including hill walking, computers, Heritage Steam Railways (once a year, John becomes Sir Topham Hat, the Fat Controller for Thomas the Tank Engine themed trips on the South Devon Railway), and driving the Routemaster Bus (RM 1872) that is owned by the Railway and provides a Heritage Bus Service around Buckfastleigh.

Upon John’s retirement, Yeoman Gaoler Alan Kingshott (the Chief’s deputy) will be promoted to the position of Chief Yeoman Warder. Alan joined the Body of Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London in March 1998, following a distinguished 25-year career in the Royal Hussars. Enlisting as a Boy Soldier in 1968, he progressed through the ranks to become a Warrant Officer, instructing his squadron in tank gunnery. His military life took him to Canada, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Germany and Oman. Nowadays, Alan lives with his wife Patricia in the heart of the Tower of London, is a keen gardener, and enjoys the occasional round of golf with colleagues.

The Chief Yeoman Warder's daily role within the Tower is to manage the Body of Yeoman Warders, ensuring they are trained and equipped to the highest standards required by Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity responsible for the Tower of London; to oversee the duties and responsibilities of the Yeoman Gaoler and the five Yeoman Serjeants; and to liaise directly with the Resident Governor on all matters affecting the traditions and heritage of the Body of Yeoman Warders.

The Body consists of a total of 37 Yeoman Warders who all come from a Military background, have completed a minimum of 22 years in the Armed Forces, having achieved the minimum rank of Warrant Officer, be aged between 40 and 50 years of age on taking up the appointment and be in possession of the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

The ceremonial role of the Chief Yeoman Warder - known up until Victorian times as the Gentleman Porter – involves overseeing the Ceremony of the Keys, the nightly closing down ceremony of the Tower. Every night, with an escort of four soldiers, the outer gates of the Tower are locked and secured for the night, witnessed by up to 80 members of the public who can apply for tickets to watch the event. The ceremony takes place at 10pm on each and every night of the year and has been taking place with the walls of this great fortress for over 700 years.

For more information, images, interviews or filming opportunities, please contact Ruth Howlett or Eloise Maxwell in the Historic Royal Palaces press office - Tel: 020 3166 6166 or email

Notes to Editors

The Tower of London is managed by Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity also responsible for Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We receive no funding from the Government or the Crown, so we depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors. These palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

We believe in four principles. Guardianship: giving these palaces a future as long and valuable as their past. Discovery: encouraging people to make links with their own lives and today’s world. Showmanship: doing everything with panache. Independence: having our own point of view and finding new ways to do our work.

Registered charity number 1068852

Downloadable Resources

Some files are provided in PDF format - you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these files.

  1. Click here to download Acrobat Reader
  2. Alternatively, Adobe offers a service for converting PDFs into HTML or plain text. Access this service here

    Chief 'Beefeater' retires (1)
    (Microsoft Word document, 48KB)

You may also be interested in...