The mourners at the front of the endless queue to farewell the Queen at Westminster Hall

There were dozens more in attendance from security firms and the police, their helmets bobbing about as they waited for the promised queues they had been sent out to shepherd.

Sarah Langley, of North London, sat in what appeared to be pole position, propped up by the stone parapet of the embankment, blase now to all the hours of media attention.

Sarah Langley, sitting on the right, was the fourth person in the queue. She spent hours being interviewed by media crews.Credit:AP

She had come in the darkness at 12.30am – the fourth to arrive, she said – armed with not much more to keep the night air at bay than a pair of ugg boots, a tracksuit jacket, a beanie and a packet of cigarettes.

“We were told we weren’t to bring anything comfortable,” she said. “But it looks like there aren’t any rules like that, so I’ve sent my fiance home to get some blankets so I’ll have something to lie on.”

Why had she come with so much time stretching out before her?

“This is my last chance to pay my respects to someone who has been the most wonderful person in my lifetime,” said Langley, speaking of the late Queen. “She was the ultimate grandmother and mother of our country. I’m a grandmother myself, you see.

Security workers wait to be deployed around central London.

Security workers wait to be deployed around central London.Credit:AP

“I work in a railway station, and I’ve got two days off. I have to be back at work at six o’clock on Thursday morning, so I’ve got a window from 5 o’clock on Wednesday night to about 4 o’clock on Thursday morning, and I don’t want to miss out.

“It’s really strange, I suppose. She (the Queen) was very old, she’d had a full life and we knew she was coming to the end of it. But it doesn’t make it any better. When I heard she had gone, I was devastated. I did cry. Everyone in the whole country, I think, was moved.

“It’s the end of something very, very special.”

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By the end of the day, many more queuers were lining up behind Langley, keen for a prime position in their quest to view in Westminster Hall the Queen’s coffin which will be raised on a catafalque and draped in the Royal Standard with the Orb and Sceptre placed on top.

With hundreds of thousands from all over Britain and the world expected to view the lying-in-state over four days, and predictions that it could take up to 30 hours to negotiate the lines, the British government announced plans as detailed as a military operation.

More than 1000 volunteers from the Scouts, Samaritans, the Red Cross, First Aid Yeomanry and the Salvation Army, stewards, Metropolitan Police and representatives of faith organisations will be on hand to provide physical, emotional and spiritual support to those in the lines. Church and community halls are establishing welfare centres along the route.

Toilets and water fountains are being set up, wristbands will be provided so queuers can use toilets and seek food and still return to their place in the line, and major organisations, including the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, promised to keep open their doors all day and night for “comfort stops”.

St John Ambulance will operate eight first aid stations along the route, airport-style security will check everyone entering Westminster Hall, and guide dogs, hearing dogs and other assistance dogs will be permitted.

A very British operation, in short, in the land of the orderly queue.

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