Security operation after Queen’s death will be ‘biggest the UK has ever seen’

·3-min read
The Queen (Joel Ryan/PA) (PA Archive)
The Queen (Joel Ryan/PA) (PA Archive)

The security operation in the wake of the Queen's death and surrounding her funeral is likely to be the biggest the UK has ever seen, according to a former counter-terror chief.

Nick Aldworth said police and security services will anticipate huge crowds of people flocking to mourn the loss of the monarch, with plans on an "enormous" scale set in motion.

The former counter-terrorism national co-ordinator, who used to have responsibility for such events and oversaw the armed police operation in central London during the 2012 Olympics, said the plan on how to keep the public and dignitaries safe has been years in the making and is regularly revised.

The UK's terrorism threat level is currently "substantial", meaning an attack is "likely".

Mr Aldworth told the PA news agency: "It's probably the biggest operation that we're likely to mount in the UK."

Queen Elizabeth II - Her Final Year

Queen Elizabeth II smiles while receiving the President of Switzerland Ignazio Cassis and his wife Paola Cassis during an audience at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, Thursday, April 28, 2022. (AP)
Queen Elizabeth II smiles while receiving the President of Switzerland Ignazio Cassis and his wife Paola Cassis during an audience at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, Thursday, April 28, 2022. (AP)
Queen Elizabeth II looks at a fan as she views a display of memorabilia from her Golden and Platinum Jubilees in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle. (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II looks at a fan as she views a display of memorabilia from her Golden and Platinum Jubilees in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle. (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II is joined by one of her dogs, a Dorgi called Candy, as she views a display of memorabilia from her Golden and Platinum Jubilees in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle. (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II is joined by one of her dogs, a Dorgi called Candy, as she views a display of memorabilia from her Golden and Platinum Jubilees in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle. (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II presents the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry to Grace Nichols during a private audience at Windsor Castle. (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II presents the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry to Grace Nichols during a private audience at Windsor Castle. (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of York arrive at a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of the Duke of Edinburgh, at Westminster Abbey in London. (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of York arrive at a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of the Duke of Edinburgh, at Westminster Abbey in London. (PA)
This new portrait of Queen Elizabeth II has been released by The Royal Windsor Horse Show to mark the occasion of her 96th birthday.  They are Fell ponies and the one on the right (in The Queen’s left hand) is called Bybeck Nightingale and the one on the left is Bybeck Katie . The image was taken in March in Windsor (PA)
This new portrait of Queen Elizabeth II has been released by The Royal Windsor Horse Show to mark the occasion of her 96th birthday. They are Fell ponies and the one on the right (in The Queen’s left hand) is called Bybeck Nightingale and the one on the left is Bybeck Katie . The image was taken in March in Windsor (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, Windsor. (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, Windsor. (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II at Paddington station in London, to mark the completion of London’s Crossrail project. (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II at Paddington station in London, to mark the completion of London’s Crossrail project. (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II and the Earl of Wessex next to a ticket machine at Paddington station in London during a visit to mark the completion of London’s Crossrail project (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II and the Earl of Wessex next to a ticket machine at Paddington station in London during a visit to mark the completion of London’s Crossrail project (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II departs following the A Gallop Through History Platinum Jubilee celebration at the Royal Windsor Horse Show at Windsor Castle. (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II departs following the A Gallop Through History Platinum Jubilee celebration at the Royal Windsor Horse Show at Windsor Castle. (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II sitting in a buggy during a visit by members of the royal family to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022 (PA)
Queen Elizabeth II sitting in a buggy during a visit by members of the royal family to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022 (PA)

Tens of thousands of people arriving around the clock over several days to line routes ahead of any ceremonial event would create the "most demand on police and the security operation".

While the Queen lies in state the "planning assumption" is that there will be "enormous queues of several hours long of people wanting to pay their respects".

Laying down road barriers will be one of the first tasks in anticipation of crowds lining the streets to see the cortege pass by.

There will be a "significant armed operation" with officers on patrol and queues formed in a way so people are not crushed and lorries and cars cannot be driven into them.

Rooftop snipers will be in place while the cortege is moving, receiving a helicopter escort anywhere outside of London.

Police and security services will be alert to the prospect of knife attacks, bombs being detonated, and all other possible terror threats or incidents.

Mr Aldworth said: "Clearly thousands of people gathered creates an attractive opportunity for any of those methodologies" but some threats are "easier to manage than others".

Security screening such as bag checks to look for knives and other weapons will be carried out in some areas.

"We always think about vehicles and blunt or bladed weapons as being the most likely because they're easy to get hold of and don't require any skill or planning to use," Mr Aldworth said, adding that bombs "are less likely" as they are made to order.

Platinum Jubilee 2022: The Queen appears at Buckingham Palace

The Prince of Wales,the Queen and Prince George (PA Wire)
The Prince of Wales,the Queen and Prince George (PA Wire)
The Duchess of Cornwall, the Prince of Wales, the Queen, Prince George, the Duke of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis, and the Duchess of Cambridge on the balcony of Buckingham Palace (PA Wire)
The Duchess of Cornwall, the Prince of Wales, the Queen, Prince George, the Duke of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis, and the Duchess of Cambridge on the balcony of Buckingham Palace (PA Wire)
The Prince of Wales and the Queen (PA Wire)
The Prince of Wales and the Queen (PA Wire)
The Queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace (PA Wire)
The Queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace (PA Wire)
The Queen surrounded by her family (PA Wire)
The Queen surrounded by her family (PA Wire)
(PA)
(PA)
The Duke of Cambridge and Prince George (PA Wire)
The Duke of Cambridge and Prince George (PA Wire)
The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Louis (PA Wire)
The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Louis (PA Wire)
The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Louis (PA Wire)
The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Louis (PA Wire)
Prince Louis (Getty Images)
Prince Louis (Getty Images)
Ed Sheeran said the performance felt like a ‘full circle moment’ (PA Wire)
Ed Sheeran said the performance felt like a ‘full circle moment’ (PA Wire)

Another "major consideration" that "really stretches policing" is organising the armed protection for visiting foreign dignitaries.

"There are only so many armed protection officers in the UK," he said, warning that there are "certainly not enough in London" to manage the potential more than one hundred heads of nation states which could come to the UK.

"The whole operation will draw massively on resources from across the country," he added.

Police and security services will oversee the plans from a central operations room in Lambeth in London, with the Metropolitan Police assuming overall responsibility and other forces taking charge on activity in their areas, Mr Aldworth said.

A senior police officer, known as a gold commander, will head up the operation.

An intelligence cell would be set up, with the Met speaking to police intelligence operations and the security services.

The central operations room will be divided into sections looking at things such as the armed response, protection teams, intelligence, roads, queues, and landmarks such as Parliament and Buckingham Palace, he said.

The Duke of Edinburgh's funeral last year "took a very different profile" because of the constraints in the country at the time dictated by restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

"One can't rule out in the current world that the same wouldn't happen with Her Majesty's funeral," Mr Aldworth added.