Following the death of HM The Queen, Patron of the Scout Association, nearly 200 Scouts aged 18-25 were called up to support the Lying-in-State. WWESU Leaders Carina and Ellie were chosen to help – read on to hear more.
Ellie writes about her experiences here:
Just before my 18th birthday, I signed off my Queen’s Scout Award, and at the same time was introduced to “Operation Marquee”…
Four years later, we received the sad news that the Queen had died. Operation Feather (once Marquee) was now in place. On Thursday evening I received an email with a form to fill in, and on Saturday evening I got confirmation that I’d been selected. On Tuesday evening I was sat in Gilwell Park, Scout HQ in a briefing, ready for one of the most exhausting, but most rewarding weeks of my life.
After a very early (4:30am!) wake up, the early shift headed down to the valet to collect our freshly pressed uniforms, and then grabbed a pastry for breakfast. This routine became a well oiled machine as the days went on. We all hopped on the coach and headed into central London, ready for our first shift where we were assisting with the accessibility queue at Tate Britain, helping the bag drop at Archbishops Park, and providing a smiling face to what became known as the zigzags in Victoria Tower Gardens.
On Wednesday, we arrived well before the queue officially opened, and stayed at Tate Britain, to help with the beginning of the accessibility queue. This mostly consisted of answering questions, explaining the system, and reassuring members of the public that they would be able to attend the lying in state.
Thursday bought a change of duty, to the second set of zigzags in Victoria Tower Gardens. Here the job was to boost morale, as many people had been queueing for 9+ hours by this point. It was on Thursday as well that we realised the amount of food waste being generated at the security point. Some of our group began collecting any sealed non-perishables, with the intention of donating to a food bank.
As the shift went on, more and more was collected until we had 40 industrial rubbish bags worth of food. Some of this was redistributed to those further back in the queue who may have not brought enough for the entire time. By Friday, the food bank operation had become more formalised – Matt Hyde got in touch with the Felix Project, who collect excess food and redistribute to homeless charities, domestic abuse shelters, and to those who need it most. In total the Scouts collected over 4 tonnes of food, and all the blankets provided for people in the queue were donated as well.
As the week continued, I moved around the queue – from the entrance to Victoria Tower Gardens, to just before security and everywhere in between, the Scouts provided information, guidance, and someone to chat to for all those wishing to pay their respects. Much of this included shouting out prohibited items and instructions to the ever-moving queue – if I ever hear the words “please remove all prohibited items from your bags” again it’ll be too soon!
The highlight of the week had to be when HM King Charles III drove past the entrance to the Gardens, and 20 of us stood and saluted, earning a wave from the new King. It was such a special moment, and one I will remember for a lifetime.
It has to be said, I would not have made it to such a monumental occasion without WWESU. The support I had whilst completing top awards allowed me to reach this, and I could not be more grateful. I truly felt I was able to follow my Promise and do my duty to the Queen.
Carina talks about her highlights here:
I joined the evening shift of the Operation Feather team on Friday after a call went out for more people to come and help. It was amazing to see what a difference the Scouts were making to the lying-in-state queue and what was being achieved by everyone working together. I spent a lot of time helping near the front of the queue, getting people ready to go through security and generally just checking in and making sure they were alright after standing in the queue for so long. It was nice to see that even just a quick chat could raise someone’s spirits if they were finding it hard. I had lots of lovely conversations with people in the queue and it was great to see such a big mix of people coming together to pay their respects. It was a privilege to be able to help with such an important national event. Another really special part was all standing together during the minute silence on Sunday evening – a moment of reflection amongst the business of the shift!