Changing of the Guard: Tower of London’s Yeoman Gaoler hands in his infamous axe after 12 years of service following a career spanning half a century in uniform.

16 December 2019

16 December 2019

After an impressive 50 years in uniform, the Tower of London’s Yeoman Gaoler, Bob Loughlin MBE, will be hanging up his infamous axe for the final time this December. The iconic fortress has appointed a new Yeoman Gaoler, Jim Duncan RVM, to take over the reins.

The Yeoman Gaoler is the second in command of the Yeoman Body at the Tower and is responsible for the management of the rest of the Body, which comprises 36 other Yeoman Warders, or ‘Beefeaters’ as they are commonly known. As well as managing day-to-day logistics the Yeoman Gaoler historically used to be in charge of prisoners at the Tower and carries the infamous axe during ceremonial duties. The role of Yeoman Gaoler is highly prestigious and there have been more presidents of the United States and more people in space than have been honoured to undertake the position of Gaoler throughout history.

All of the Yeoman Warders reside at the London landmark and deliver tours explaining the Tower of London’s long history to some of the 3 million people who visit the Tower from across the world each year. To qualify for the role of Yeoman Warder applicants must have served at least 22 years in the armed forces, hold the Long Service and Good Conduct medal and have reached the level of Warrant Officer or equivalent.

Other roles include conducting ceremonial duties such as the Ceremony of the Keys, a closing ceremony that has taken place every night at the Tower of London for at least 700 years, along with the Tower’s Opening Ceremony, State Parades, and the ancient ceremony of the ‘Constable’s Dues.’

YG Loughlin was born in Prestonpans, Scotland and joined the RAF Regiment in 1971 after initially enrolling in the Royal Navy in 1969 aged 15. During his career he served in Dhofar, Northern Ireland, Kuwait, Belize, Afghanistan and the UK. YG Loughlin was awarded a Member of the British Empire Medal by HM The Queen in 2001 for his services. He left the Royal Air Force in 2007 finishing his military career as Warrant Officer to the Chief of the Air Staff. He applied to become a Yeoman Warder in 2007 and was promoted to Yeoman Serjeant in 2009 and ultimately Yeoman Gaoler in 2018. YG Loughlin is now looking forward to his retirement and spending time with his wife, Diana, and family in their home in Suffolk.

Yeoman Gaoler, Bob Loughlin MBE, said: “I feel honoured and proud to have served not only as a Yeoman Gaoler here at the Tower but also to have achieved 50 years in uniform having served with all three military services. Whenever anybody has asked me over the last 12 years if I’m happy I’ve always said ‘Of course, I live in a royal palace!’ not many people can say that, and I feel truly privileged to have worked in a place steeped in history. I’m looking forward to my retirement and whilst I’m hoping to keep busy it will be incredible to look back on what has been an absolutely fantastic experience.”

YG Bob Loughlin is succeeded by his colleague, Yeoman Serjeant Jim Duncan, who will take up the role of Gaoler in mid-December.

YG Duncan was born in Chatham, Kent and enlisted in the army on 17 April 1972 as a boy soldier aged 15. He retired from the army following 40 years of service with the Queens Regiment and the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (PWRR), reaching the rank of Royal Sergeant Major and serving in West Germany, Gibraltar, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Belize and Falkland Islands. He retired from the army to join the Tower as a Yeoman Warder in 2011 and was promoted to Yeoman Serjeant in 2015 after receiving the Royal Victoria Medal for his services to the monarch. When he’s not at the Tower YG Duncan likes to escape to his home in Kent where he spends time with his wife, Eve.

Yeoman Gaoler Jim Duncan RVM, said: “I’m extremely proud to be working here at the Tower of London and to now be taking on the infamous role of Yeoman Gaoler. I’ve got a tough act to follow and some big boots to fill but I’m excited to take on and embellish it in my own way. I’m ready for the new challenge and look forward to upholding the Tower’s ancient traditions and ceremonies.”

Notes to editors

For further information and images, please contact Cat Steventon in the Historic Royal Palaces press office on 0203 166 6302 or email [email protected]

  • No one is exactly sure where the name Beefeater comes from. The most likely explanation is that Yeoman Warders were given a daily ration of meat for their duties. Records show that even in 1813 the daily ration for the thirty men on duty was 24lbs of beef, 18lbs mutton and 16lbs of veal! These days they prefer the title Yeoman Warder. In fact the full and proper title is Yeoman Warder of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary.
  • To qualify as a Yeoman Warder you must be a former long serving Senior Non Commissioned Officer from the Army, Royal Air Force, Royal Marines or Navy.  
  • There are 21 separate duties that the Yeoman Warders conduct each day, such as answering historical questions, helping visitors and having their photograph taken. They also take part in various traditional ceremonies such as the Ceremony of the Keys, which has been conducted each night without fail for at least 700 years.
  • As well as their duties at the Tower, Yeoman Warders also attend the Coronation of the Sovereign, lying-in-state, the Lord Mayor’s Show and other state and charity functions.

 Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.  We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. With the exception of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, 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. Historic Royal Palaces cares for Hillsborough Castle and Gardens under a separate contract with the Northern Ireland Office.