Operation London Bridge

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Operation London Bridge (also known by its code phrase London Bridge is Down) is the plan for what will happen in the United Kingdom on and immediately after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. It includes planning for the announcement of her death, the period of official mourning, and the details of her state funeral. Some critical decisions relating to the plan have been made by the Queen herself, although some can only be made by her successor, Charles, Prince of Wales, after her death.

As of 2017, the phrase "London Bridge is down" is expected to be used to communicate the death of the Queen to the prime minister of the United Kingdom and key personnel, setting the plan into motion. The plans were first created in the 1960s and are updated throughout each year, involving various government departments, the Church of England, Metropolitan Police Service, the British Armed Forces, the media, the Royal Parks, London boroughs, the Greater London Authority and Transport for London. Reporting on the preparations, The Guardian described them as "planned to the minute" with "arcane and highly specific" details.[1]

Operation London Bridge works concurrently with several plans, including Operation Spring Tide, the plan for her successor's ascension to the throne. Several Commonwealth realms where Elizabeth II reigns as monarch have developed their own plans for what will happen in the days after her death, and would occur concurrently with Operation London Bridge.


London Bridge, the plan's namesake.

Funerals and coronations of members of the Royal Family are typically organised by the Earl Marshal and the officers in the College of Heralds.[2] Preparations for Elizabeth II's death and funeral have also been made by the Cabinet Office.[3]

Pre-determined phrases have typically been used as "codenames" for plans relating to the death and funeral of a royal family member. Initially, codenames were used by key officials in an effort to prevent Buckingham Palace switchboard operators from learning of the death prior to a public announcement.[1][4] When King George VI died in 1952, key government officials were informed with the phrase "Hyde Park Corner".[1]

Several codenamed funeral plans for royal family members in the late-20th and early-21st century have used the names of prominent bridges in the United Kingdom. Operation Tay Bridge was the phrase used for the death and funeral plans of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and was rehearsed for 22 years before its eventual use in 2002.[5] The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, was also modelled after Operation Tay Bridge.[1][5] As of March 2017, the phrase Operation Forth Bridge referred to the death and funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who died in 2021,[1] while Operation Menai Bridge referred to the funeral plan for Charles, Prince of Wales,[6] and Operation London Bridge referred to the funeral plan for Queen Elizabeth II.[7][8]


Queen Elizabeth II's private secretary will be the first official (i.e., not one of her relatives or part of a medical team) to convey the news. Their first act will be to contact the prime minister, where civil servants will convey the code phrase "London Bridge is down" to the prime minister using secure telephone lines.[1] The cabinet secretary and the Privy Council Office will also be informed by the private secretary.[3] The cabinet secretary will then convey the news to ministers and senior civil servants. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office's Global Response Centre, based at a secret location in London, will communicate the news to the governments of the 14 other countries of which Elizabeth is queen (the Commonwealth realms), and to the governments of the other countries of the Commonwealth of Nations.[1] Government websites and social media accounts, as well as the royal family's website, will turn black, and the publication of non-urgent content must be avoided.[3]

The media would be informed by announcement to PA Media and the BBC through the Radio Alert Transmission System (RATS) and to commercial radio on the Independent Radio News through a network of blue "obit lights" which will alert presenters to play "inoffensive music" and prepare for a news flash, while BBC Two would suspend scheduled programming and switch to BBC One's broadcast of the announcement.[9] BBC News will air a pre-recorded sequence of portraits, during which the presenters on duty at the time will prepare for the formal announcement by putting on dark clothing prepared for this purpose. The Guardian has reported that The Times has 11 days of prepared coverage ready and that ITN and Sky News have long rehearsed her death, but substituting the name "Mrs Robinson".[1]

A footman would pin a dark-edged notice to the gates of Buckingham Palace. At the same time, the palace website would display the same notice.[1] The Parliament of the United Kingdom and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish parliaments would meet as soon as is practical or be recalled if they are not sitting.[3] The prime minister would address the House of Commons. The new monarch would host a meeting with the prime minister and then deliver a speech to the nation at 6 p.m., the evening following the Queen's death.[3] Whitehall and local government buildings will fly flags at half-mast and books of condolence may be opened; ceremonial ornaments, such as ceremonial maces or council chains, are to be put in black purses.[10][3] Gun salutes will take place at saluting stations and a service of remembrance, to be attended by the prime minister and senior ministers, will be held at St Paul's Cathedral.[3]

Different arrangements for moving Elizabeth's coffin are planned depending on where she dies. For example, if she dies at Windsor Castle or Sandringham House, the coffin would be taken by Royal Train to St Pancras railway station in London, where the prime minister and cabinet ministers would be waiting.[3] If she dies overseas, the coffin would be brought by No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron to RAF Northolt and then by hearse to Buckingham Palace. If she dies in Scotland (for example, at Holyrood Palace or Balmoral Castle), the coffin would first lie in repose at Holyrood Palace followed by a service of reception at St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh. Following this, the coffin would then be transported to Waverley Station and then taken by the Royal Train to London if possible.[11] Otherwise the coffin would be taken by plane to London and welcomed by the prime minister and cabinet ministers.[3] In all cases, the coffin would be taken to the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace. Five days after the Queen's death, it would be moved to Westminster Hall and, after a service, lie in state for three days.[3]

The state funeral would be held at Westminster Abbey ten days after the Queen's death, after which her body would be buried in a prepared tomb at King George VI Memorial Chapel in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, alongside Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose coffin will be moved from Royal Vault. A committal service would be held at St George's Chapel before the burial.[1][12] As agreed by Queen Elizabeth II and the prime minister, the day of the funeral will be declared a Day of National Mourning, although a bank holiday will not be granted. A two minutes' silence will take place across the United Kingdom at midday and processions would gather in London and Windsor.[3]

Operation Spring Tide[edit]

The Queen's death and funeral plans works concurrently with Operation Spring Tide, the plan for the Prince of Wales' ascension to the throne.[3] The day after the Queen’s death, the Accession Council would meet at St James's Palace to proclaim the new monarch.[13][1] Parliament would meet that evening when MPs would swear allegiance to the new monarch and express condolences for the Queen's death. Most parliamentary activities would then be suspended for 10 days. At 3:30 p.m., the new monarch will host the prime minister and the cabinet for an audience.[3] Two days after the Queen's death, proclamations of the new monarch would be made by the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations.[3]

On the third day after the Queen's death, the new monarch would receive the motion of condolence at Westminster Hall in the morning and then depart for a tour of the United Kingdom. The new monarch would visit the Scottish parliament and attend a service at St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh. On the next day, the new monarch would visit Northern Ireland, where they would receive a motion of condolence at Hillsborough Castle and attend a service at St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast. Seven days after the Queen's death, the new monarch would visit Wales, receiving a motion of condolence at the Welsh parliament and attending a service at Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff.[3]

Corresponding plans[edit]

Officials from Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, known as the Inter-Realm Working Group, have briefed representatives of the Commonwealth realms about the funeral, and succession plans surrounding Operation London Bridge.[14] The governments of the Commonwealth realms will be informed of the death of the monarch from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office's Global Response Centre.[1] These realms have devised their own plans for what will happen in their respective countries in the days after Elizabeth II's death, which would run concurrently with Operation London Bridge.


Preparations have been made for the death of the Queen in Australia, with statements having been already drafted for the prime minister and governor-general of Australia.[15]

The prime minister will be informed of the Queen's death approximately an hour prior to its formal announcement. The prime minister is expected to wear a black tie immediately after its announcement, with the staff of recent past prime ministers having carried a black tie in preparation for the news. The prime minister and governor-general are expected to return to Canberra to make their statements before departing for London with the Royal Australian Air Force.[15] If not scheduled to sit, the Parliament will also be recalled to meet to pass a condolence motion.[15] Plans have the governor-general issuing the Australian proclamation for the accession of a new monarch and his Australian titles at an appropriate ceremony.[14][15] The Federal Executive Council will also meet to proclaim the new monarch.

A flag notice will be issued instructing flags to fly at half-mast immediately for the next ten days, except on the day the accession of the new monarch is proclaimed.[14] Australia will observe a national day of commemoration, which may be declared a public holiday.[16] A state funeral and special Anglican service will be held.[15] The Australian Defence Force will organise several gun salutes coinciding with events in London, and will participate in ceremonies in the United Kingdom.[14]

The Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom is expected to observe the Accession Council. In addition, Australian members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom are entitled to sit on the Accession Council.[14] As reported by The Australian in 2022, four official Australian state guests are expected to attend the funeral in London, with an additional 12 Australians also being invited.[15][16]


In Canada, preparations were made as early as 2002, during Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee.[17] Consultations over the plans have been made with the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian Privy Council Office, the Canadian secretary to the Queen, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the office of the governor general of Canada, and the office of the Earl Marshal in the United Kingdom.[18][19] In addition to the federal government, provincial governments have also implemented their own contingency plans for the death of the Queen, and the accession of a new monarch.[20]

After receiving the news about the Queen's death, it is the governor general's responsibility to recall the Cabinet to Parliament Hill and proclaim that Canada has a new "lawful and rightful liege."[17] The Privy Council for Canada will also convene to proclaim a new monarch in Canada.[21] The Manual of Official Procedure of the Government of Canada states the prime minister is responsible for convening the Parliament, tabling a resolution of loyalty and condolence from the Parliament to the next monarch of Canada, and arranging for the motion to be seconded by the leader of the Official Opposition.[17][22] The Prime Minister will then move to adjourn Parliament.[17][22] The Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom is expected to represent Canada at the Accession Council.[17]

An official mourning period for Elizabeth II will take place, the length of said period to be determined by the federal government;[20] and issued by the governor general and the Department of Canadian Heritage.[19] During the mourning period, a national memorial service will be held in Ottawa.[19] Additionally, ceremonial maces, portraits of the Queen, and flagpoles at Government Houses across Canada will be draped in black fabric.[17][20] A book of condolences will also laid out near the front entrance of the Government Houses, with previously planned events cancelled.[17] The death of the sovereign is considered a mandatory half-masting event for the Canadian government. Flags on all federal buildings and establishments in Canada and abroad will be flown at half-mast from the notification of death until sunset on the day of the funeral or memorial service.[23]

Specific attire will be worn during the official mourning period. All staff of the governor-general, provincial lieutenant governors, and territorial commissioners will be immediately issued black ties and black armbands.[17] Other government officials will also wear a black armband. However, some legislative employees will have to wear additional attire during the official mourning period. This includes the sergeants-at-arms, who are required to wear black gloves, piqué bow ties, and carry a black scabbard and sword; and pages, who are required to wear black cravats, armbands and ribbons.[20]

The death of the sovereign will be considered a "Broadcast of National Importance" by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), and a regularly updated plan is maintained. Regular programming would be cancelled, advertisements will be halted, and all CBC television and radio stations will shift to a 24-hour news format.[17] The CBC also has a specially picked on-call squad of broadcasters in the event the sovereign's death occurs during a holiday.[17]

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, the Cabinet Office of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is responsible for planning the arrangements in response to the Demise of the Crown.[24]

New Zealand will receive news of Queen Elizabeth II's death via established communication channels between the Royal Household and New Zealand.[25][26] Once informed, the head of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage will inform a list of government buildings and other facilities to fly the flag of New Zealand at half-mast up to the day of the funeral; excluding the date the new sovereign is proclaimed.[26][27] Twenty-one gun salutes will also be ordered "at appropriate times."[26] A state memorial service is expected, although decisions on accompanying events, as well as government protocol will be determined by the prime minister.[26] New Zealand Defence Force personnel would participate in overseas ceremonies.[24]

Radio New Zealand (RNZ), the state-radio broadcaster, has a set of guidelines and instructions in the event of the death of the monarch of New Zealand. Across all RNZ stations, broadcasters will break regular programming to announce the death of the Queen, with rolling coverage to begin when ready. RNZ stations are instructed not to play punk music, or songs by the band Queen during this period.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Knight, Sam (16 March 2017). "Operation London Bridge: the secret plan for the days after the Queen's death". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  2. ^ "About Us". College of Arms. 2019. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Wickham, Alex (3 September 2021). "Britain's plan for when Queen Elizabeth II dies". Politico. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  4. ^ Oppenheim, Maya (16 March 2017). "This is the secret code word when the Queen dies". The Independent. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022.
  5. ^ a b "A week of mourning for the last empress". The Guardian. 1 April 2002.
  6. ^ "The Insider – Paul Routledge". New Statesman. 17 June 2002.
  7. ^ Bowden, George (16 March 2017). "5 Things We've Learned About 'London Bridge' – The Queen's Death Protocol".
  8. ^ Meyjes, Toby (16 March 2017). "There's a secret code word for when the Queen dies". Metro.
  9. ^ Gogarty, Conor (7 July 2018). "Operation London Bridge: This is what will happen when the Queen dies". Gloucestershire Live. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  10. ^ "Protocol for Marking the Death of a Senior National Figure Operation London Bridge" (PDF). Fremington Parish Council. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  11. ^ Harris, Nigel, ed. (30 December 2020). "Royal Train: a brief history". Rail Magazine. No. 921. Peterborough: Bauer Media. p. 21. ISSN 0953-4563.
  12. ^ Tonkin, Leigh (16 April 2021). "Where was Prince Philip buried after his funeral service?". ABC News. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  13. ^ "The Accession Council". Privy Council.
  14. ^ a b c d e Bramston, Troy (8 April 2017). "Till death us do part: secret plans fit for a Queen". The Australian. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Young, Ryan (18 June 2022). "Leaked plans reveal how Australia will respond to news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II". www.news.com.au. Nationwide News. Retrieved 18 June 2022.
  16. ^ a b Wu, Crystal (18 June 2022). "Leaked funeral details reveal Australia may get another public holiday and will observe 10 days of mourning after Queen's death". www.skynews.com.au. Nationwide News. Retrieved 18 June 2022.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hopper, Tristan (5 January 2017). "What happens to Canada should Queen Elizabeth II die: The behind-the-scenes plans". National Post. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  18. ^ Campion-Smith, Bruce (30 July 2017). "Ottawa's secret plan for what to do when the Queen dies". Toronto Star. Torstar Corporation. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  19. ^ a b c Karadeglija, Anja (21 December 2021). "Will Canadians want Charles III on our banknotes when he becomes King?". National Post. Postmedia Network. Retrieved 9 February 2022.
  20. ^ a b c d French, Janet (9 November 2019). "Bill to automatically change court's name in event of Queen's death". Postmedia Network. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  21. ^ "Queen's Privy Council for Canada". www.canada.ca. Government of Canada. 4 January 2022. Retrieved 6 February 2022.
  22. ^ a b Davis, Henry F.; Millar, André (1968). Manual of Official Procedure of the Government of Canada (PDF). Ottawa: Privy Council Office. p. 575.
  23. ^ "Rules for half-masting the National Flag of Canada". www.canada.ca. Government of Canada. 16 August 2021. Retrieved 4 November 2021.
  24. ^ a b "Plans in the event of The Queen's passing". fyi.org.nz. New Zealand Defence Force. 13 January 2022. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  25. ^ Wong, Simon (4 April 2017). "How NZ will respond to Queen Elizabeth II's death". Newshub. MediaWorks New Zealand. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  26. ^ a b c d e McQuillan, Laura (31 March 2017). "What will happen in New Zealand when the Queen dies? Here's the plan". Stuff (company). Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  27. ^ "Half-masting the New Zealand Flag". mch.govt.nz. New Zealand Government. 6 March 2020. Retrieved 4 November 2021.

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