Former RAF air traffic controller becomes only sixth ever female Beefeater at Tower of London

  • Video report by Helen Steel

A former RAF servicewoman has become only the sixth female Beefeater to take up post at the Tower of London in more than 500 years.

Lisa Garland, a former air traffic controller from Halifax, West Yorkshire, said her appointment as a Yeoman Warder "feels very surreal".

She joins the 33 other Beefeaters who live and work at the Tower, alongside their families.

Lisa takes up the role after spending 22 years in the RAF, reaching the rank of Flight Sergeant.

She served across the UK as well as in the Balkans and Afghanistan, and on an operational tour in Cyprus.

She has said she was "still pinching" herself after becoming only the sixth female Yeoman Warder since the role was created by King Henry VII in 1485.

Lisa Garland and fellow new recruit Ryan Barnett from Yeovil in Somerset. Credit: Sophie Lemagnen

What is a Beefeater and how do you qualify to become one?

The origins of the Yeoman Warder can be traced back to the band of warders, who guarded the Tower of London and its prisoners from the reign of William the Conqueror.

Henry VII created the Yeoman Body as an extension of his personal protection. To this day they hold a traditional ceremonial role as Extraordinary Members of The King’s Bodyguard.

Their iconic uniform features a large royal crown in red, below which is the cypher of the reigning monarch "CIIIR", in recognition of King Charles III.

No one is exactly sure of the origins of the nickname "Beefeater".

The most likely explanation is that the Yeoman Warders were given a daily ration of meat, reflected by records which show that even in 1813 the daily ration for the 30 men on duty was 18lbs of mutton, 16lbs of veal - and 24lbs of beef.

Today they help to bring the history of the Tower of London to life for the millions of people that visit every year.

Anyone applying to be a Beefeater - formally known as Yeoman Warder of His Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London - must have served at least 22 years in the armed forces.

They must also hold the Long Service and Good Conduct medal, and have reached a certain rank in their service, before being selected for interview and a rigorous selection process.

In the coming months Lisa will spend months learning word-for-word "the story" - the script of the famous Yeoman Warder Tour - before being allowed to lead tours of the Tower of London.

She will also learn the 21 separate duties conducted by the Yeoman Warders each day, including the Ceremony of the Keys: the ancient closing ceremony that has taken place every single night for at least 700 years.

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