Operation London Bridge is down, The Queen Code


London Bridge is down

Operation London Bridge (also known by its code phrase “London Bridge is down“) is the funeral plan for Queen Elizabeth II. The plan includes the announcement of her death, the period of official mourning, and the details of her state funeral. The plan was created as early as the 1960s and revised many times in the years before her death in 2022.

The phrase “London Bridge is down” would 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. Bodies involved in preparing the plan included various government departments, the Church of EnglandMetropolitan Police Service, the British Armed Forces, the media, the Royal ParksLondon boroughs, the Greater London Authority and Transport for London. Some critical decisions relating to the plan were made by the Queen herself, while some were left to be determined by her successor. Reporting on the preparations, The Guardian described them as “planned to the minute” with “arcane and highly specific” details.

Several other plans were also created to support the implementation of Operation London Bridge, such as Operation Unicorn, the plan that details what would happen if the Queen were to die in Scotland. Running concurrently with Operation London Bridge are operations concerning King Charles III‘s accession to the throne and his coronation. Several Commonwealth realms developed their own plans for how to react to the death of the Queen.

Funerals and coronations of members of the Royal Family are typically organised by the Earl Marshal and the officers in the College of Arms. Preparations for Elizabeth II’s death and funeral have also been made by the Cabinet Office.

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. When King George VI died in 1952, key government officials were informed with the phrase “Hyde Park Corner.”

Several codenamed funeral plans for royal family members in the late-20th and early-21st centuries 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, which was rehearsed for 22 years before its eventual use in 2002. The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, was also modelled after Operation Tay Bridge. 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, while Operation Menai Bridge referred to the funeral plan for King Charles III. All coded operations for members of the royal family, including the plan for Elizabeth II, form a part of Operation Lion, an overarching plan for any royal death.

Australian Code

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

The prime minister was informed of the Queen’s death approximately an hour prior to its formal announcement. The prime minister wears 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 returned to Canberra to make their statements before departing for London with the Royal Australian Air Force. If not scheduled to sit, the Parliament was recalled to meet to pass a condolence motion. Plans have the governor-general issuing the Australian proclamation for the accession of King Charles III and his Australian titles at an appropriate ceremony.

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

The Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom observed the Accession Council. In addition, Australian members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom are entitled to sit on the Accession Council. 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. Wikipedia

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