Scottish RAF veteran Tam Reilly is the Tower of London's 414th 'Beefeater'
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Following 35 years service in the Royal Air Force, Dundonian Tam Tam Reilly has swapped uniforms to join the other 32 Yeoman Warders(YW) who live and work within the Tower of London as one of its famous ‘Beefeaters’.
Mr Reilly, 55, joined the Royal Air Force Regiment aged 23 and has since been stationed across the country, most recently serving as a Training Assurance and Training Support Warrant Officer at RAF Honington.
The father-of-two spotted the advert for the coveted role while on a city-break to Bath and immediately decided to apply after being a lifelong history lover.
‘Beefeaters’ descend from the band of warders who guarded the gates and royal prisoners from the Tower of London’s early beginnings. Today, they combine their passion and knowledge to bring the Tower’s history alive for millions of visitors.
No one is exactly sure where the nickname ‘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.
There are two uniforms for the Yeoman Body. The Ceremonial Uniform is worn for state occasions and is predominantly scarlet and gold with red stockings, white ruff and black shoes. Everyday wear is a blue undress uniform, of different weights for summer and winter.
As well as leading tours, presenting talks and lectures, answering questions on the Tower’s past and posing for photographs, Yeoman Warders also hold a traditional ceremonial role as Extraordinary Members of The Queen’s Bodyguard. To qualify, applicants must have served at least 22 years in the armed forces, hold the Long Service and Good Conduct medal, and have reached the rank of Warrant Officer or equivalent, before being selected for interview and a rigorous recruitment process.
YW Reilly is now memorising the script of the famous Yeoman Warder Tour and familiarising himself with duties including the ancient Ceremony of the Keys that has taken place every night at the Tower of London without fail for at least 700 years.
He joins as Historic Royal Palaces – the charity that cares for the Tower of London – prepares to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee . The Tower’s famous moat will form the centrepiece of a stunning new ‘Superbloom’ display, where a vibrant sea of flowers will continuously evolve from June to September, changing colours and patterns throughout the Summer.
YW Reilly said, “I feel truly honoured and humbled to have been chosen to be part of the Yeoman Body.
" After serving for 35 years in the RAF Regiment, I never imagined that I would find a role outside of the military that would come close to giving me the same satisfaction and pride that I had working in my Corps, but landing the position of Yeoman Warder has surpassed this. It’s definitely been surreal stepping outside of my new front door at the Tower of London to be faced with a 50-foot-high defensive wall dating back to the late 13th century but I’m slowly getting used to it.”