The Daily Telegraph

Well-wishers warned they face 30-hour wait as they start to queue at Westminste­r

Mourners will be given wristbands to leave line for food or lavatory breaks under Operation Feather

- By Robert Mendick, Olivia Rudgard and India Mctaggart

THE first mourners to pay their respects to the late Queen as she lies in state in Westminste­r Hall started queuing yesterday, even though the doors will not open until 5pm tomorrow.

Even once the official queue begins, well-wishers have been warned they may have to wait for up to 30 hours.

Michelle Donelan, the newly appointed Culture Secretary, who is in charge of the arrangemen­ts for the public to pay their respects, sent a Whatsapp message to Conservati­ve MPS advising that mourners faced lengthy delays to file past the Queen’s coffin during four days lying in state.

The queue is expected to stretch more than three miles from Westminste­r to as far as Tower Bridge with wellwisher­s given wristbands that will allow them to leave the queue for lavatory breaks and to buy food. Infrastruc­ture, including barriers, portable lavatories and signs, were being set up.

Details of how the queue will operate were due to be made available at 10pm today but that did not stop the public anticipati­ng the queue beginning south of Lambeth Bridge. Vanessa Nathakumar­an, 56, from Harrow, who appeared to be first in line at 12pm yesterday said she had arrived so early because “I really, really want to be part of it”.

She added: “I don’t want to miss it in case... they said they are probably going to control the crowds if [the queue] gets too long.”

Anne, 65, from Cardiff, who did not give her full name and was second in the queue, arrived at 2:15pm with a chair and a Welsh flag, saying she had got up at 3am and travelled with a group from Cardiff but only found out where to go after seeing Ms Nathakumar­an on the news. She said that waiting for days is “nothing to me”, adding that she had come prepared with Welsh cakes and a sandwich, as well as ordering from Deliveroo.

Grace Gothard, from Mitcham in south London and the third person in line, said: “The Queen was everyone’s mother, she protected the Commonweal­th and made sure everyone is protected. I’ve been to royal events in the past, weddings and funerals, and I was so upset when I found out about this, so I wanted to see her coffin.”

Later, a former butler of the late Queen joined the queue. Tony Jones, who lives in Westminste­r, said he used to work at Royal Ascot looking after the guests the monarch had invited.

He said: “I worked for the Queen. I was a freelance butler. I used to do the royal boxes for many years. We’ve gone to the Diana things and Prince Philip’s funeral. I thought I’d come along and join in and pay my respects to the Queen for the duty that she’s given to the country all these years.”

The Queen’s body will be flown back to Buckingham Palace from Scotland today, and the public will be able to view the coffin in Westminste­r Hall from tomorrow afternoon. Queen Elizabeth will lie in state from 5pm tomorrow until 6am on Monday, the day of her funeral.

Operation Feather, the operation to manage the queue, is overseen by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport amid fears the system could buckle under the strain. It is unclear when officials will stop people entering the queue because of the time it takes to wend through.

In her message to MPS, Ms Donelan said: “Queues could be up to 30 hours as we are obviously expecting and planning for unpreceden­ted demand.”

More than 200,000 people were able to witness Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother lying in state following her death in 2002. That number is likely to double to see the late Queen – provided the queue is fully functionin­g.

Westminste­r Hall will be open for 23 hours a day, closed only for an hour for cleaning. Well-wishers have been told to keep moving when filing past the coffin to ensure as many people as possible can pay their respects.

No10 said it was hard to predict how many people would join the queue. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We do expect it to be extremely busy. I think for the Queen Mother it was around 200,000 people [who attended], we expect it to be far more than that for this lying in state. But we can’t be more specific on exact numbers.”

Asked about facilities for those who physically cannot queue for 30 hours,

‘I worked for the Queen. I was a freelance butler. I thought I’d come along and join in and pay my respects’

Liz Truss’s spokesman said: “Obviously we want everyone to be able to attend regardless of whether they have disabiliti­es. Our focus is on ensuring they have the informatio­n needed to make the decision about what’s right for them.

“There will be toilet facilities, there will be first aid available, there will be the ability for people obviously to go and use toilets and return to queues and things like that.”

Security staff and stewards were yesterday lined up at regular intervals along the expected queue route. Metropolit­an Police officers, as well as Welsh police officers, were manning the route.

 ?? ?? Vanessa Nathakumar­anm, from Harrow, and Anne, from Cardiff, were first in the queue
Vanessa Nathakumar­anm, from Harrow, and Anne, from Cardiff, were first in the queue

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