Last-minute rush for places as queen's queue closes

Mourners wait 14 hours on final chilly night for glimpse of coffin in Westminster Hall before Monday's funeral

Dressed in 1930s-style clothing, Molly and Paul Rogers had just finished a dinner party with friends on Saturday night when they made the spontaneous decision to drive to London from Kent. The National
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People dashed from across Britain for the last chance to view Queen Elizabeth lying in state on Sunday after the government warned the queue would soon close.

The National spoke to mourners who had made last minute decisions to travel overnight to London before Westminster Hall shuts to the public at dawn on Monday.

With queuing times approaching 14 hours the start point close to London Bridge shut late on Sunday afternoon, but not before an estimated half-a-million people were able to view the queen’s coffin.

On the south side of Westminster Bridge, people at the tail-end of the line that has been constant since Wednesday were given encouragement by stewards.

Dressed in 1930s-style clothing, Molly and Paul Rogers had just finished a dinner party with friends on Saturday night when they made the spontaneous decision to drive to London from Kent.

However, those who spoke to The National were in high spirits, undaunted after getting through the chilliest night in months, where temperatures dropped to 5°C.

“It’s not much effort giving this 12 hours of my time in return for the 70 years of service that the queen has given to our country,” said former RAF Regiment serviceman Jamie Stracker, 33.

He had travelled the 300km from Bridlington in Yorkshire with his daughter Summer, 9, leaving at 10pm on Saturday night.

“Summer is old enough to understand that for the last nine years she’s had a queen and she wants to say her final goodbyes,” said Mr Stracker, a fireman who served 12 years in the RAF, including tours of Afghanistan.

“I have served the queen since I left school so it’s only right I pay my last respects.”

Retired RAF serviceman Jamie Stracker and his daughter Summer, nine, among the last in the queue to see the queen. They travelled 300km overnight from Yorkshire to pay their respects. The National

Dressed in 1930s-style clothing, Molly and Paul Rogers had just finished a dinner party with friends on Saturday night when they made the spontaneous decision to drive to London from Kent.

“We’ve had a fabulous day and met the most amazing people standing here,” said Mrs Rogers, 59. “We haven’t slept since Friday night but that doesn’t matter, we’re just really happy to be here. It’s something we will remember for the rest our lives.”

Mr Rogers, 63, added: “Let’s face it, it’s worth it for all the queen’s done for us in her long reign.”

How did they think they would feel once alongside the coffin? “It’s going to be very emotional,” said Molly. “I’ve brought a lot of tissues.”

Volunteers and residents along the 16-kilometre route have distributed coffee, snacks and warm clothing for the last four days.

Sisters Sue and Bev Nichol had blankets draped over their shoulders as they made it to the last lap of the line.

“It did get pretty cold at about 4am this morning but the blankets really helped,” said Sue, 63.

“People were so kind, giving us coffee and we brought loads of sweets.”

Bev, 58, added: “We just wanted to pay our respects when we could. We’re just so pleased that we got in the queue a few hours before it closed, we’re really lucky.”

Ashley Lampshire, 31, had just finished his shift managing a restaurant in Colchester, Essex, in the early hours of Sunday when he decided to drive down with a friend.

“It was the only opportunity that I had,” he said. “The queen’s done an awful lot for us so it’s the least we could do. We know it’s only going to be 30 or 60 seconds in the hall with her but it’s going to be amazing and so worth doing.”

Updated: September 18, 2022, 8:53 PM
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