Operation London Bridge

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London Bridge, the plan's namesake.

Operation London Bridge has been a codename that referred to the plan for what will happen in the days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.[1][2][3][4] The plan was originally devised in the 1960s and is updated several times each year. It involves planning from government departments, the Church of England, Metropolitan Police Service, British Armed Forces, media and Royal Parks of London. Some key decisions relating to the plan were made by the Queen herself, although some can only be made by her successor (the current heir apparent is her son, Charles, Prince of Wales), after her death.

As of early 2017, the phrase "London Bridge is down" was expected to be used to announce the death of the Queen to the Prime Minister and key personnel, setting the plan into motion. Whether this phrase is still the designated one, after the June 2017 London Bridge attack, or after the fact that the code word is now publicly known, has not been confirmed. Neither is it publicly known when this code phrase was originally chosen.


When King George VI died in 1952, key government officials were informed with the phrase "Hyde Park Corner". This was done to prevent Buckingham Palace switchboard operators from learning the news too soon.[1][2]

The funeral plan for Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, codenamed Operation Tay Bridge, had been rehearsed for 22 years and, in 1997, was used as the basis for the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.[1][5][6]

In addition to Operation London Bridge, other funeral plans for deaths in the royal family have also used the names of prominent bridges in the United Kingdom. They include:


In the event that the Queen were to die at Balmoral Castle, Holyrood Palace or elsewhere in Scotland, the British Royal Train would be used to transport the coffin to London, while if the Queen were to die overseas, The Royal Squadron's BAe 146 CC.2 executive transport would be used instead.

The Queen's Private Secretary will be the first official (i.e., not one of the Queen's relatives or part of a medical team) to convey the news. The Private Secretary's first act will be to contact the incumbent Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and civil servants will convey the code phrase "London Bridge is down" to him using secure telephone lines.[1] The Foreign Office's Global Response Centre, based at a secret location in London, will communicate the news to the governments of the fifteen other countries of which the Queen was head of state (the Commonwealth realms), and to the governments of the other countries of the Commonwealth of Nations.[1]

The media would be informed via an announcement to the Press Association and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) through the Radio Alert Transmission System (RATS) and to commercial radio 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 their scheduled programming for the day and switch to BBC One's broadcast of the announcement.[8] 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 sombre clothing prepared specifically for this purpose. The Guardian has reported that The Times has eleven days of pre-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 would be recalled. If possible it would meet within hours and the Prime Minister would address the House of Commons.

The day after the Queen's death, the Accession Council would meet at St James's Palace to proclaim the new monarch.[9][1] Parliament would meet that evening when MPs would swear allegiance to the new monarch.

Different arrangements for moving the Queen's coffin are planned depending on where she dies. For example, if the Queen dies at Windsor Castle or Sandringham House, it would be moved by car to Buckingham Palace within a couple of days. If the Queen dies overseas, it would be brought by No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron to RAF Northolt and then by car to Buckingham Palace. If the Queen 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. In all cases the coffin would be taken to the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace. Four days after the Queen's death, it would be moved to Westminster Hall and lie in state for four days.

The state funeral would be held at Westminster Abbey nine days after the Queen's death, after which her body would be buried in a prepared tomb at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.[1]

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.[10] The governments of the Commonwealth realms will be informed of the death of the monarch from the Foreign Office's Global Response Centre.[1] These realms have devised plans of their own, in conjunction with their British counterparts.


After the Government of Australia receives news of the event, a flag notice will be issued instructing flags to fly at half-mast immediately for the next 10 days, except on the day the ascension of the new monarch is proclaimed.[10] After the death of the Monarch of Australia, it is expected that the Parliament of Australia will meet for a condolence motion.[10] A speech has been drafted for the Prime Minister of Australia.[10] Current plans will see the Governor General of Australia issue the Australian proclamation of accession of a new monarch at an appropriate ceremony.[10]

The Australian Defence Force will organise several gun salutes coinciding with events in London, as well as participate in ceremonies in the United Kingdom.[10] The Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom is expected to observe the Accession Council. In addition to the High Commissioner, Australian members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom are entitled to sit on the Accession Council.[10]


In Canada, preparations for what will happen in the days after the death of the Queen were made as early as 2002, during the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II.[11] Consultations over the plans have been made with the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian Privy Council Office, the Canadian Secretary to the Queen, the office of the Governor General of Canada, and the office of the Earl Marshal in the United Kingdom.[12]

Government Houses in Canada, such as Rideau Hall, will have black fabric hung on flagpoles, and a book of condolences at the front entrance in the event of the Queen's death.

Once the Government of Canada has been informed of the sovereign's death, all staff of the Governor General of Canada, provincial lieutenant governors, and territorial commissioners will be immediately issued black ties and black armbands. Government Houses in Canada will have portraits of the Queen, and flagpoles draped in black fabric. A book of condolences will be laid out near front entrance of Government Houses, with events previously planned at the Government Houses cancelled.[11] It is also the Governor General's job to recall the Cabinet of Canada to Parliament Hill and proclaim that Canada has a new "lawful and rightful liege."[11]

Upon the death of the sovereign, the Manual of Official Procedure of the Government of Canada states the Prime Minister of Canada is responsible for convening the Parliament of Canada, 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.[11][13] The Prime Minister will then move to adjourn Parliament.[11][13] The Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom is expected to represent Canada at the Accession Council.[11] The Privy Council for Canada will convene to perform the equivalent function of the Accession Council for the Crown in Right of Canada.

The death of the sovereign will also 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.[11] The CBC also has a specially picked on-call squad of broadcasters in the event the sovereign's death occurs during a holiday.[11]

New Zealand[edit]

New Zealand will receive news of the Queen's death via established communication channels between the Royal Household and New Zealand.[14][15] 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.[15] 21-gun salutes will also be ordered "at appropriate times."[15] A state memorial service is expected, although decisions on accompanying events, as well as government protocol will be determined by the Prime Minister of New Zealand.[15]

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.[15] RNZ stations are instructed not to play punk music, or songs from Queen during this period.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k 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. ^ a b Oppenheim, Maya (16 March 2017). "This is the secret code word when the Queen dies". The Independent.
  3. ^ Bowden, George (16 March 2017). "5 Things We've Learned About 'London Bridge' – The Queen's Death Protocol".
  4. ^ Meyjes, Toby (16 March 2017). "There's a secret code word for when the Queen dies". Metro.
  5. ^ "A week of mourning for the last empress". The Guardian. 1 April 2002.
  6. ^ a b "A week of mourning for the last empress". The Guardian. 1 April 2002.
  7. ^ "The Insider – Paul Routledge". New Statesman. 17 June 2002.
  8. ^ Gogarty, Conor. "Operation London Bridge: This is what will happen when the Queen dies". Gloucestershire Live. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  9. ^ https://privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/privy-council/the-accession-council/
  10. ^ a b c d e f g 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.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Hopper, Tristan (5 January 2017). "What happens to Canada should Queen Elizabeth II die: The behind-the-scenes plans". National Post. Postmedia Network Inc. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  12. ^ Campion-Smith, Bruce (30 July 2017). "Ottawa's secret plan for what to do when the Queen dies". The Toronto Star. Torstar Corporation. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  13. ^ a b Davis, Henry F.; Millar, André (1968). Manual of Official Procedure of the Government of Canada. Ottawa: Privy Council Office. p. 575.
  14. ^ Wong, Simon (4 April 2017). "How NZ will respond to Queen Elizabeth II's death". Newshub. MediaWorks New Zealand. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  15. ^ a b c d e f McQuillan, Laura (31 March 2017). "What will happen in New Zealand when the Queen dies? Here's the plan". Stuff.co.nz. Fairfax Digital. Retrieved 9 December 2018.