What is Operation London Bridge?

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Operation London Bridge – when the queen dies

There’s no other way of putting it – if you hear from a British official source that ‘London Bridge is down’ this means that Queen Elizabeth ll has died.  It seems that the plans for her death and funeral have been in place for many years. The same applies to Prince Philip (Forth Bridge) and Prince Charles (Menai Bridge).

The queen was born in 1926 and although at the time of writing she is hale and hearty, it’s very understandable in this day and age that her end has been planned meticulously. Royal deaths haven’t always been that way. (Incidentally, the birth years of Princes Philip and Charles mentioned above are 1921 and 1948 respectively).

As soon as the queen dies, Operation London Bridge will swing into action. For the first time in history, the news of a British monarch’s death will be transmitted across the globe in mere minutes.

It’s to be hoped that we won’t first hear the news via Twitter but it wouldn’t be surprising. It will certainly be announced by the monarchy’s Twitter account but first, the news will be broken by the BBC, the Press Association and one of the first people to be informed – day or night – will be the prime minister. He or she will break the news to parliament whose members will be called in at once.

In traditional style, a member of the royal household staff will pin the official notice on a board outside Buckingham Palace. It’s thought that a crowd will quickly gather there. But before the news is given to the general public there will be ambassadors and officials from the commonwealth who will be informed first.

The Guardian reported:

Every station, down to hospital radio, has prepared music lists made up of “Mood 2” (sad) or “Mood 1” (saddest) songs to reach for in times of sudden mourning. “If you ever hear Haunted Dancehall (Nursery Remix) by Sabres of Paradise on daytime Radio 1, turn the TV on,” wrote Chris Price, a BBC radio producer, for the Huffington Post in 2011. “Something terrible has just happened.”

For the rest of us, once the news has broken we’ll be bombarded with carefully-rehearsed television programs and articles online and in traditional print media. This might continue for weeks, especially in the UK and in Commonwealth countries. Royal experts are already on hand with their rehearsed comments. The monarchy’s website will show the news on a single sombre page and all media will react appropriately.

In industry, managers will inform the workforce and it’s likely that they will be told to go home – work will end for the day. It may be announced by the managers to audiences in cinemas and theatres. Airline pilots will announce it to their passengers as will the captains of ships. It will be announced publicly at sporting events and fixtures.

Throughout the country and the Commonwealth flags, not necessarily just the Union Flag, will be lowered to half mast. Although it’s important to remember that the UK and the Commonwealth will still have a monarch. Prince Charles will become king as soon as his mother dies.

When the queen’s father died, the news was announced on BBC Radio seven times at 15-minute intervals. It’s unlikely that the media in the 21 century will be so restrained. After the announcement screens went blank and radio broadcasts were halted. Today, it’s thought that television screens will show only the royal standard and that the national anthem will be played for several hours.

What’s not known is how businesses, especially those in London, will react. Will stores, theatres, places of entertainment close down? It’s likely that they will but for how long?

The funeral will take place nine days after the queen’s death and her body will be laid to rest in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Dignitaries will attend the funeral from all over the world. Heads of state will start to arrive from their own countries to London.

When George Vl died, the US House of Representative suspended its activities. Countries all over the world will react similarly for Operation London Bridge.

Queen Elizabeth ll became queen when her father died in 1952. This means that for anyone in the UK who was born at about the same time as Prince Charles afterwards has known the queen as their monarch for all their lives. Like her mother before her, she has become ‘the nation’s grandmother’.

It will be the end of an era.


Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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