During the Queen's funeral I volunteered as a ‘Way finder’ on Victoria Street, where my job was to help people get to wherever they needed to go.
I got the train from Slough to Paddington at 5am ready to start my shift at 6.30am! I had the pleasure of being paired up with Jo, the Queen’s Guide Advisor from Bristol. We were stationed on the way into one of the viewing areas, where we helped the police with general crowd control, changing the flow of people when the viewing area was full and consoling some disappointed people as we pointed them in the direction of the big screens at Hyde Park. We also helped people get to and from work by navigating all around the road closures, and helped tourists to find the attractions they were looking for. There were a lot of people who came to London simply to be part of it all, and were wandering in circles a little lost, so we advised them on where they could best join the crowds and see the tributes.
My team were lucky enough to be located near one of the gates to Westminster Abbey, therefore we were able to see some of the VIPs leaving the funeral. We saw members of the armed forces and the Horse Guard returning from the procession.
In a moment of luck, we also caught a quick glimpse of some of the European royals as they were rushed away in a coach, surrounded by police escorts! We also saw many black cars with dark windows escorted by protection officers and police, including one of the royal cars, but we could only guess at who was travelling in them!
Invited guests from the public also exited via a gate onto Victoria Street. We had the pleasure of talking to a lovely representative of the Blind Veterans UK, who was kind enough to give us an insight into what it was like inside Westminster Abbey for the Queen’s funeral service, and showed us his order of service. The Chief Guide also stopped on her way past to thank us for volunteering!
When we started our shifts at 6.30am, there was initially a very sombre mood amongst the volunteers and the members of public we encountered, but by the time the funeral had finished and the procession had left London, there was much more of an air of celebration of the Queen’s life.
My husband travelled to London with me, so in the afternoon we went to see the floral tributes in Hyde Park and Green Park, where we also laid our own flowers for the Queen. There were so many messages from other Girlguiding units, it was a beautiful tribute! I also managed to pop into HQ for a quick visit – they had space for volunteers to rest from the crowds, and tea and coffee on offer!
We did get stuck trying to get out of London, as all the trains heading West out of Paddington were cancelled! In the end we managed to get the tube out as far as we could, where my very kind brother-in-law came to our rescue and reunited us with our car in Slough.
The day will be one to tell my children in the future, that I was volunteering with Girlguiding in London on the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral! Our Brownies were certainly captivated when I arrived at our meeting after driving straight from London on Tuesday evening. They most enjoyed the stories of the leaders of the Commonwealth and European royals being transported by coach, and not by horse and carriages or limousines.
Amy Peach-Gibson, Queen's Guide Adviser