Ankh-Morpork City Watch

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The Ankh-Morpork Watch (also known as just "The Watch") is Ankh-Morpork's police force.


The Watch and Ward of the Cities of Ankh and Morpork was founded in 1561 UC by King Veltrick I, who also bestowed upon them his personal motto, "Fabricati Diem, Pvncti Agvnt Celeriter," Latatian for "Make the Day, the Moments Pass Quickly." The Ward, originally the city gate guards, eventually took over thief-taking during daylight hours and became known as the Day Watch, the Watch becoming the Night Watch.

At the time Sam Vimes enlisted, the Watch comprised four divisions: Day Watch, Night Watch, (the Patrician's) Palace Guards, and the secret police Cable Street Particulars. Cable Street Particulars were housed in Cable Street, Palace Guards worked at the palace; Day Watch and Night Watch shared the same police stations, using hour-of-daylight instead of geographic districts to delineate their jurisdictions.

The Cable Street Particulars, an unpopular and much-feared group of secret policemen who spied, jailed citizens without arrest warrants, and tortured them to death, had been taken down during the transition from Lord Winder to Lord Snapcase as the Patrician (see Night Watch).

When first encountered in The Colour of Magic, Watch officers 'bravely' intervened in a pub fight, but only after "giving 'survivors' ample time to escape via the back door, a neat compromise between caution and justice that benefited all parties"; these were likely the Day Watch officers.

Lord Havelock Vetinari, the Patrician, legalised the Thieves' Guild and made them regulate their own behaviour, which were mostly what were conventionally thought of as the criminal activities in the city. The Watch slowly became unnecessary, and anyway the Day Watch was headed by a pompous idiot, Captain "Mayonnaise" Quirke, so called because he was thick, oily and smelled of eggs (this may be an oblique reference to Capt. Mark Phillips, first husband of HRH Princess Anne, who was allegedly known as "Foggy" because he was thick and wet). The Night Watch was even worse. It was for total whittles. The Watch motto, as inscribed over the Treacle Mine Road watch-house, had eroded to "Fabricati Diem, Pvnc," which Fred Colon insisted meant "To Protect and Serve."

By the time of Guards! Guards!, the Night Watch had been reduced to four members, one of them a raw recruit, and permanently housed in Treacle Mine Road. The Day Watch at that time did not use that station, which was just as well because, very soon, a Noble dragon burned down the building. By the gift of Lady Sybil Ramkin, the Night Watch was moved to a building in Pseudopolis Yard, in posh uptown Ankh-Morpork opposite the Opera House. The building was large, but the Night Watch morale was habitually low.

Lord Vetinari, in his efforts to modernise Ankh-Morpork, has continually forced the Night Watch to take in members of the despised 'ethnic minorities': trolls, dwarfs, and the undead. This was originally intended to project an image of the modern Ankh-Morpork embracing the ethnic diversity, while really putting the minority members in the Night Watch which nobody saw so nobody would complain. This cultural diversity, coupled with Corporal Carrot's exceptional leadership skills, allowed the Night Watch to bring back a sort of peace and order during a period of ethnic riots (in Men at Arms).

After dealing with the riots successfully, Vetinari merged the Day Watch, Night Watch, and Palace Guard under Sam Vimes, promoted to the long-dormant knightly rank of Watch Commander, and Carrot, now Captain of the Watch. Carrot lobbied for an increase in the Watch's power; Sir Samuel worked out the details of which police stations to keep, to re-open, or to establish, and how may officers per station, how their shifts and beats are rotated and scattered, etc. This went much further than Vetinari's ideas, but Carrot's powers of persuasion (and some overwhelming debts - whilst never acknowledged - being owed him by Vetinari) led to a strong Watch which has become a police force as term is understood in other areas of the Multiverse.

Sir Samuel also resurrected the Cable Street Particulars, now in the form of plainclothes detectives instead of secret police (because, as Vimes surmised, if you have secret crimes, you need secret policemen). The latest time that they were mentioned, the modern Cable Street Particulars were still housed in the building in Pseudopolis Yard, now the headquarters of the merged Ankh-Morpork City Watch.

The Watch is now a multi-ethnic, creative, pro-active, public-facing institution - a good job with real prospects, a force for good, a powerful lobby in such councils as take place and an active deterrent to unlicensed crime of all sorts. This is a far cry from the humble beginnings we witness in Guards! Guards!.

Warrant Cards are mentioned for the first time in Snuff where previously, only possession of the badge was necessary to prove one's status as a Watchman. Also, Sam Vimes has somehow found the time to write the definitive book on police procedure - possibly the Watch's answer to the Assassins' Concordat or the Fool's Pune, or Play on Words.


The Watch ranks mentioned in the books are, from highest to lowest:

  • Commander
  • Captain
  • Sergeant-At-Arms
  • Sergeant
  • Corporal
  • Constable
  • Lance-Constable (trainees)

In addition to the regular officers, there are several other divisions of the Watch:

  • Cable Street Particulars, the plainclothes detectives for secret crimes (in Maskerade)
  • River Patrol, although the boat keeps sinking in the Ankh, which is probably an amazing feat considering that the Ankh is more than semi-solid (in The Fifth Elephant)
  • Traffic division (est. Jingo), which is self-financing and therefore cheerfully abused (they clamped and fined anything that stayed in one place for what they judged to be too long: carts, a troll, a duck, The Patrician's Palace and similar immovable and/or ridiculous objects. (in The Fifth Elephant)
  • Forensics (est. Feet of Clay), housed in an unused privy and the cellar in Psuedopolis Yard
  • Airborne Section, mainly for surveillance and intelligence gathering (in Night Watch) and also in Snuff featuring Wee Mad Arthur taking long-distance surveillance and rescue mission, flying on an albatross
  • The Specials or "Citizens Militia", who are unsuitable for the job as a regular Watchman due to profession, age, or even brain (in Night Watch). Called up in times of great need, by, for example, a young Watchman named Carrot (in Men at Arms). Includes the Librarian (of Unseen University), whom Nobby called "Special Ape Services" (in Guards! Guards!), as well as surprisingly, Mr Boggis (and his bodyguards) of the Thieves' Guild.
  • In Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook, it is confirmed that a Railway Police now exists who are (inferentially) at least trained by the City Watch.
  • The Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork employs its own Watchmen.. While in theory these are responsible directly to the Bank and only secondarily to the City, Moist von Lipwig noted a good 80% of them are either serving City Watchmen moonlighting for a second income, or else recently discharged former Watchmen. Either way, Vimes wins: the Bank's internal security police might not have to answer to him, but if they know what's good for them on Watch muster the next day, they will.


The watchhouses currently in service are:

(See The Discworld Companion, Night Watch.)


Members of the modern Watch, listed alphabetically, and their ranks at the latest or last mention, include:

The Specials include:

Members of the old Watch (Night Watch unless stated):

Workplace Culture

The modern watch, under the leadership of Commander Vimes (who is cynical and dislikes everything in general) and Captain Carrot (who sees the good in everyone), has the widest ethnic diversity of all organizations or businesses in Ankh-Morpork (with the possible exception of the Post Office). At last count, members include:

  • Humans with Vimes and Carrot ranking the highest, and Fred Colon being the most senior;
  • Dwarfs, Stronginthearm (deceased) and Littlebottom ranking as sergeants;
  • Trolls, Detritus and Flint ranking as sergeants;
  • A werewolf, Angua ranking as Captain;
  • A gnome, Swires ranking as corporal;
  • A Nobbs. While Nobby carries papers declaring him to be human many people believe these to be forged;
  • A zombie, Reg Shoe;
  • Golems, three in Thud!, with Dorfl being the first and so far the only named Golem in the watch;
  • Gargoyles, Downspout and Pediment;
  • A recent vampire recruit, Sally von Humpeding.
  • An Igor whose modern outlook on matters pertaining to medicine (bio-artificing, no lisp and ridiculously small stitches) have made him outcast in his own community. He is Watch medic, surgeon, and occasional forensic pathologist;
  • And an Ephebian (perhaps they exist in other regions) Medusa who joined between the events of Unseen Academicals and Thud!. Allegedly, she (or he?) turned three people into stone after a gust of wind blown his/her sunglasses off. As Ponder Stibbons said, even though the wizards restored them, no-one wants to be a statue, even if it was only for half an hour.

It appears that many Watchmen consider all Watchmen as the same class of people and outside of everyday racial or species discrimination. Camaraderie between Watchmen appears to be high and genuine except when the wage chitty is mislaid (see Watchmen's Guild, in The Fifth Elephant). The modern Watch, in fact, comes from conscripting rioters who were fighting over differences in species. Whether this camaraderie can see the Watch through another major ethnic riot has yet to be seen. Prejudices against ethnic minorities still do exist between Watchmen, such as the common habit of putting articles in the locker of a new recruit (e.g. stepladders and platform shoes for a dwarf). In particular, many humans and some dwarfs worry that the werewolf, Angua (now captain) will attack them, and they make nasty comments about the werewolf when they get a chance. Troll officers worry less about the werewolf, since even a werewolf cannot bite a chunk off a troll.

In the old days, many Watchmen were never eager about the job, since it was not a good idea to die on duty. Practical considerations would also tell a Watchman, however much of an advocate of justice he might be, to refrain from making his wife a widow, because there were no widow's pensions, except a few dollars scraped together by Samuel Vimes (then Captain), which nobody knew about and so weren't taken into consideration. The advice for Carrot in his first days in the Watch was: Don't run. Remember Gaskin. Herbert "Leggy" Gaskin was buried just before the events of Guards! Guards!. He chased and actually caught up with a criminal, in foolish disregard of Watch practice.

Nowadays, there is a well-endowed fund for retirement pensions and pensions for widows, orphans, and old parents of Watchmen who died on duty. Another work benefit is emergency surgery by Igor when a Watchman is wounded on the job, a benefit long available to members of many different guilds in Ankh-Morpork (the guilds hired their own doctors), but only recently available to the Watchmen.

New Watchmen are mostly trained by Sergeant Detritus and Sergeant Colon. Detritus can beat (metaphorically) the new recruits into shape, and then they will do anything that Sergeant Colon wants them to. Sergeant Colon will then school them in the more practical and cynical aspects of being a Watchman. After training, a new Watchman works a probation period. Since the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is now famous for its training and accomplishments, after the probation, the new Watchman will often decide to move to other cities because their watches pay a premium to hire an Ankh-Morporkian Watchman. Such constables are known around the Sto Plains as Sammies. This phenomenon has the extra benefit of creating a network of policemen across the Disc, who have all been trained to salute Commander Vimes and call him "sir".

Captain Carrot, perpetually cheerful and at the same time scrupulously law-abiding, keeps the Watchmen from being another gang of petty criminals. The notable example of this effect is after-work drinking. Like many Ankh-Morporkians, Watchmen go for a drink after work. They usually drink at Mr. Cheese's pub, the Bucket. Captain Carrot will lecture a Watchman who doesn't pay his tab. On and on. Watchmen have learned to pay their tabs.

Watch TV Series

The Ankh-Morpork City Watch is the inspiration for a new BBC America television programme, The Watch, starring Richard Dormer as Sam Vimes.

See Here for more information.


The idea for the Cable Street Particulars may have come from the Baker Street Irregulars, a secret police force of street children formed by Sherlock Holmes. Cable Street has police connections in our world, which see.

Another interesting crossover between Pratchett and anarchistic author Robert Anton Wilson; in Wilsons's Illuminatus! series novel The Widow's Son, which is largely set in Paris in the run-up to the French Revolution, we meet the Paris City Watch. This is commanded by one Antoine de Sartine[1], a real historical personality, whom Wilson draws as a very familiar Vimes-like figure. De Sartine has a subordinate officer called Lieutenant Loup-Garou. Loup-Garou is French for Werewolf...

The City Watch novels can be seen as an affectionate parody of Ed McBain's famous "87th Precinct" novel sequence (1956–2005), probably the most influential police procedurals ever written.

Thinking along Ed McBain-like lines, it's worth noting that TP himself has acknowledged a debt to Joseph Wambaugh's seminal novel of the Los Angeles Police Department, the Choirboys, which details the everyday lives of the street cops working out of a certain precinct, and how the priorities of the force are not always theirs. Note several things here: the motto of the LAPD is To Protect and To Serve, as uncertainly quoted by Fred Colon in Guards! Guards!.

In Wambaugh's novel, the officers periodically detox themselves with "choir practice" - a euphemism for going out and getting riotously drunk. While the Ankh-Morpork officers have the Bucket for their choir practice sessions, Sally von Humpeding, in Thud!, goes one better and actually gets the Watchwomen going out on a pub crawl - she takes the ladies' choir out on the road.

Elsewhere in the fictional police contininuinuum, there is the San Francisco P.D. (Motto: "Oro en Paz, Fierro en Guerra".)One of its (celluloid) officers is Dirty Harry Callahan, whose personal motto is Make My Day, Punk - a more literal translation of the dog-Latin carved above the watch-house door.

it ocurs to me that in Tom Sharpe's two novels set in apartheid South Africa, Riotous Assembly and Indecent Exposure which centre around the grossly incompetent and disorganised Piemburg Police Force, might well also be an influence here. In general, the South African Police Force as portrayed by Sharpe is an analogue of the Night Watch as we know and love it, but shorn of any graces or redeeming features whatsoever. Another influence on Pratchett?

Character Correspondences:

Liutnant Verkramp (deranged secret policeman) - Findthee Swing

Sergeant de Knock (fat lazy old-timer) - Fred Colon (and/or Sergeant Knock)

Konstabel Els (indescribable, trigger-happy psychopath) - Nobby Nobbs and Detritus with the Piecemaker

Kommandant van Heerden: Captain "Mayonnaise" Quirke

Another set of associations: To the Police Academy series of movies, in which an assortment of no-hopers and misfits become police officers, despite themselves. This is most marked in Men at Arms, although there are also allusions in Feet of Clay.

Character associations:-

  • Cadet Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg)
  • Cadet Karen Thompson (Kim Cattrall) - Angua von Uberwald
  • Cadet Moses Hightower (Bubba Smith) - Detritus
  • Cadet Leslie Barbara (Donovan Scott)
  • Cadet Larvell Jones (Michael Winslow)
  • Cadet George Martin (Andrew Rubin)
  • Cadet Eugene Tackleberry (David Graf) Andy Hancock
  • Cadet Douglas Fackler (Bruce Mahler)
  • Cadet Laverne Hooks (Marion Ramsey) - Cheery Littlebottom
  • Cadet Kyle Blankes (Brant Von Hoffmann)
  • Cadet Chad Copeland (Scott Thomson)
  • Cadet Carl Sweetchuck - A.E. Pessimal.
  • Lt. Thaddeus Harris (G.W. Bailey ) - Captain Mayonnaise Quirke