Operation London Bridge
For years now every LRF around the country has been planning for Operation Bridges. For those of you that do not know, Operation Bridges is the collective term for the plans that are put in place for the death of a senior Royal. Every senior Royal is given a bridge name so, for example, HRH Queen Elizabeth II was London Bridge, the Prince of Wales is Menai Bridge and the former Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip) was Forth Bridge. King Charles III now becomes London Bridge upon the death of his mother. A number of media outlets published headlines recently saying that London Bridge had fallen, which in turn meant the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.
As you will have seen unfold throughout early September 2022, there is a large amount of organisation and process involved with the passing of HRH Queen Elizabeth II, with all regions of the UK involved in some way or another.
A question many will have, is why are Wiltshire and Swindon LRF involved; what did they do?
Firstly, we have an LRF multi-agency plan alongside separate plans for both Local Authorities. There are several processes we needed to implement as soon as we heard of The Queen’s passing, these include lowering flags to half mast on all key buildings and ensuring that communications are sent out to the public and parish councils. It is vital that all messaging across multi-agency partners was consistent.
We then needed to ensure that the predefined memorial areas (where the public can lay flowers) are highlighted to everyone. Although many people wanted to lay flowers in London or outside Royal residences, it was important that appropriate local sites were identified. Following this, Books of Condolence were distributed to all our public libraries across the County to ensure everyone had access to the books and could leave their messages.
Running in parallel to the period of mourning for the passing of The Queen, there was a need for the proclamation of King Charles III. This part of the process is known Operation Spring Tide and is viewed more as a celebratory event with flags flown at full mast for a set period of time. This is time critical because flags have to return to half mast to continue the period of national mourning.
The main proclamations across the county were in Trowbridge at 1pm on Sunday 11th September and then a subsequent one in Swindon approximately 30 minutes later. Crowds gathered and it was important to ensure their safety. Other parish councils across the County also chose to carry out their own ceremonies after 1.30pm on the Sunday.
The proclamations in Wiltshire and Swindon were attended by an invited list of dignitaries holding senior/ceremonial positions and the general public. These proclamations follow a set process and were similar across the country. In Wiltshire, road closures were put in place to manage large numbers of the public in attendance. The ceremony was also accompanied by a live band.
As we saw in the news coverage, the death of The Queen and the immediate accession of the new King was a very hectic and busy period that most of us have never witnessed before. All agencies had a role to play. Therefore, you can appreciate the importance of having a plan in place to make sure people knew their roles and events were coordinated and ran as smoothly as possible.
As we move forward, we will conduct a debrief for learning and to make any changes. As a result, our plans will be refined and exercised to ensure that they are fit for purpose. The LRF is always in a state of readiness, however, although well-rehearsed let’s hope that we do not have to activate these plans again for some considerable time.