John Keel

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John Keel
Race human
Occupation Sergeant-at-Arms, Ankh-Morpork City Watch
Physical appearance Wears an eyepatch
Residence Ankh-Morpork
Death Originally died on the barricades during the defense of the People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road, however when S. Vimes travels back in time, Keel is mugged and killed before the revolution.
Marital Status
Books Night Watch
Cameos Thud!

John Keel was a sergeant (possibly sergeant-at-arms) in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch during the last days of the reign of Lord Winder. Keel was a tough man, and an incorruptible copper. Upon his arrival in Ankh-Morpork, he took a young Sam Vimes under his wing and taught him how to be a watchman; according to Vimes, he learned from Keel that, to manage as a watchman, he had to stay alert, think for himself, and not worry about fighting dirty today if it meant that you would be available to fight again tomorrow.

However, in Night Watch, Vimes and Carcer are sent back in time to the day Keel first came to town. Carcer joined with two other thugs and murdered Keel, who in the original timeline had overcome the two.

Keel had a large scar and a damaged eye from this attack, which, mysteriously, Vimes acquired after falling back in time (A fact that Lu-Tze speculated was evidence of the idea of the self-correcting history). Vimes assumed Keel's identity, and fulfilled his place in history, though slightly differently; while in the original history Keel's side lost the revolution and were killed in the fight, in the new history they won but 'Keel' was sentenced to death by Mad Lord Snapcase out of fear of what he might do in the long term after accomplishing so much in just a few days. The Monks of Time ensure that both timelines fit back into the normal timeline, with some residuals from both remaining. As a result, Vimes was taught all he knew by both Keel and himself.

Throughout the Watch series, Vimes occasionally refers to his "old sergeant", whom we can assume is Keel.

Sergeant Keel's Watch number is 354 and was first seen worn by Old Vimes on the hardback cover of Night Watch and then on a charity pin sold in aid of the Alzheimer's Research Trust to celebrate the Glorious Revolution and worn by Terry Pratchett in his hat on BBC One's "The One Show"

According to Lady Roberta Meserole, Keel was known in Pseudopolis (his former home) as "slow, thoughtful and sensible," adding that he has certainly seemed to have bloomed in Ankh-Morpork - not knowing, however, that who she knows as Keel is actually Vimes.

Keel's gravestone is in the Small Gods' Cemetery, and is the second best-maintained of all the graves of the dead of the Glorious Revolution (The first being the grave of Reg Shoe, who takes care of the maintenance of his resting place himself). Every 25th of May it is decorated with lilac and a hard-boiled egg.



On Roundworld, there is also a ufologist called John Keel, known as one of ufology's most original and controversial researchers. However, it's not an uncommon name so it can be doubted that TP is using him as a basis for the character.

A possible inspiration for the Vimes version of John Keel is Sir Robert Peel, founder of Scotland Yard. It because of him that UK police are called "Bobbies" and sometimes as "Peelers" in Ireland. Similarly police trained in Vimes's style, which he learned from John Keel, are called "Sammies". Peel is considered the father of modern policing. He developed the Peelian Principles which define the ethics of an effective police force. His most memorable principle was, "the police are the public, and the public are the police."

There is a great old marching song about a certain John Peel (1776-1854) of Cumbria, a passionate British huntsman who was immortalised by his friend John Woodcock Graves. The song is the regimental marching song of the Border Regiment in which George MacDonald Fraser, one of Pratchett's favorite authors served. See his book Quartered Safe Out Here for more on this.

And a great march it is: click here [1] to hear it.

D'ye ken John Peel with his coat so gay1?
D'ye ken John Peel at the break o' day?
D'ye ken John Peel when he's far, far a-way.
With his hounds and his horn in the morning?


For the sound of his horn brought me from my bed,
And the cry of his hounds which he oftime led,
Peel's "View, Halloo!" could awaken the dead,
Or the fox from his lair in the morning.

1 Some believe the end of this line to be 'grey', due to the colour of his coat made from local Herdwick wool.