Queue time ticks over 25 hours as thousands brave the cold to mourn the Queen

·4-min read
Queue time tick over 25 hours as thousands brave the cold to mourn the Queen (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
Queue time tick over 25 hours as thousands brave the cold to mourn the Queen (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Wait times stretched to more than 25 hours overnight as thousands of mourners braved cold temperatures to see the Queen lying in state.

At about 1.15am on Saturday, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) online tracker said the expected wait time was at least 25 hours as people queued from Southwark Park in south-east London to pay their respects to the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall, about five miles away.

The DCMS warned people not to travel to join the queue and to check back later on Saturday morning for updates on wait times.

Those already in line were urged to brace for cold weather, as temperatures dipped below 10C in the early morning.

Undeterred, a steady stream of people joined the queue on Friday evening, many wearing coats and jumpers.

Tatie Kirst, 38, of Canada Water in south-east London, a project manager who had just joined the queue in Southwark Park, said: “Well, it’s a journey right?

“I think I’m prepared, I brought my good coat, I have a stool if I need to sit, I’m getting food and water, and we’re going to walk the way.

“I think there is always a question, Is it worth it? Can I make it? And hopefully, yes.

“I wanted to be part of this, pay my respect to the Queen.”

As of 5am, the DCMS said the queue was at “near total capacity with wait times of at least 24 hours”.

Those inside Westminster Hall were briefly shocked on Friday night when a man was arrested after moving out of the queue to approach the Queen’s coffin.

Metropolitan Police said the incident occurred around 10pm, as the live feed from inside the hall cut away for a brief period.

A statement from Scotland Yard said: “Around 22:00hrs on Friday 16 September officers from the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command detained a man in Westminster Hall following a disturbance.

“He was arrested for an offence under the Public Order Act and is currently in custody.”

Earlier on Friday, the queue was paused for 40 minutes when it reached capacity, and when it reopened mourners were urged by the DCMS not to join the line until at least 4pm.

Officials stopped people joining the queue entirely at around 11.35am at the entrance to Southwark Park due to overwhelming demand.

Downing Street said the queue system was going to plan.

James Birchall, 33, a trainee physiotherapist who travelled from Liverpool to pay his respects, was also queuing.

He said: “Now I just feel normal and unemotional but as I get closer and closer (to the Queen’s coffin) I think I’ll start to become more emotional and maybe five minutes before I go in I’ll probably, even though I don’t look like the type of person, I’ll probably start crying.

“I absolutely loved the Queen, she was great, she had been there all my life, I have always had respect for her. She was great for our country, always did her duty right until she died.

“When she died I was overcome with emotion and I thought, I have got to come to London to see it.”

On the thousands of people queuing, he added: “I’m absolutely amazed because there is so many people, young and old — I did not think young people would come, necessarily, because they are not really in tune with monarchy, but there’s so many young people here to pay their respects which I think is awesome.”

Also queuing was Vlasta Picker, 73, of Bedford, who said: “I came here in 1977 on the Silver Jubilee.

“Growing up in central Europe, monarchy was a thing of the past, history.

“I was really quite mesmerised, it was massive in 1977 and I have admired her ever since because she was a wonderful person, unique.

“To serve all her life until the end, it’s something, isn’t it? Unprecedented. And that’s why I want to be here.”

Figures from the London Ambulance Service (LAS) show that 435 members of the public were treated along the route of the queue to see the Queen lying in state and surrounding areas over the past two days.

Some 291 people along the route of the queue and nearby in London were given medical assistance on Wednesday, with 17 needing hospital treatment, the LAS said.

A further 144 people were treated on Thursday, with 25 people being taken to hospital.

The LAS said the majority of incidents attended were faints and collapses, resulting in head injuries.