Queen’s state funeral: Woman spends 51st birthday camping on The Mall

“Buckingham Palace is not a bad place to spend your birthday!”

Thousands of people from all over the world camped out on The Mall in central London to secure the best vantage spots for The Queen’s state funeral.

Former members of the Armed Forces rubbed shoulders with people from all around Britain and the rest of the world as they slept on the street.

Tracey Hannam, 55, had travelled down from the Orkney Islands after breaking off from a walk around the coast of the UK to attend the funeral.

Tracey, from Bath, Somerset, started her epic coastal trek on July 4th, 2020, and is set to finish in around two years time.

Lesley Warren travelled to London with friends and family from her home in Sittingbourne on Saturday, her 51st birthday. Photo: SWNS

She said: “To get here, I started at the highest northern part of the Orkney islands in a lighthouse. From there I caught a flight with just me and the pilot on an eight-seater plane.

"I then spent a night on a yacht of someone I met there. Then I got the ferry to Aberdeen and finally got a 12-hour coach to arrive in London today.”

She is now sat with friends at the front of The Mall, and added: “I do lots of work for the RNLI so it was important for me to be here as the Queen was a patron.”

After the funeral, Ms Hannam is heading back north to continue with her walk.

Darran May, 50, who served 10 years in the Welsh Guards, had come to say a final goodbye to his “commander-in-chief’.

Former soldier Jeff York from London (left). Photo: SWNS

He and his wife arrived on The Mall from their home in the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, at 4am on Sunday morning.

Mr May said: “For the Welsh Guard I used to be Prince Charles’ mounted escort so I used to look after his horse. Being around the royal family was fantastic.

“If we were posted at Windsor the Queen would always come up on hot days and offer us cold drinks.

“It was like your nan coming up and checking up on you and making sure you were ok.

“Of course, though, you would never want to say yes!”

The Montgomery family over from Belfast. Photo: SWNS

He added: “I have come to say one last goodbye. She was our commander-in-chief and she just is the greatness in Great Britain.”

Today will see one of the UK’s biggest transport operations with more than one million people expected to travel to the capital, according to Transport for London (TfL).

While a monarchist from Kent spent her birthday camping out on The Mall to ensure a prime spot for the occasion.

Lesley Warren travelled to London with friends and family from her home in Sittingbourne on Saturday, her 51st birthday.

Her pals presented her with a cake - complete with candles - and serenaded her with ‘Happy Birthday’ along with other people camping on the thoroughfare near Buckingham Palace.

Katrina Montgomery from Belfast. Photo: SWNS

Lesley said: “My friend Sandra bought me a cake and we lit candles last night. It was amazing, about 20 people came over and sang me happy birthday. It was very special.

“Buckingham Palace is not a bad place to spend your birthday!

Lesley also attended the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Diamond Jubilee plus William and Kate’s wedding.

She is camping out with her daughter Victoria Warren, her granddaughter Darci May and her friend Sandra Brabbs who she met when she came to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Sandra, 48, from Yeovil, Somerset, who bought the cake, said: “I had a nightmare as I dropped the first cake I bought on the floor before I came here so I had to get a replacement!

Devon couple Mark (left) and Bev Ryland. Photo: SWNS

“Luckily, I got a new one because it was such a special moment celebrating with all these people.”

Also among the crowds on the Mall was Katrina Montgomery, 29, from Belfast, who arrived in London with her family at 7pm on Saturday to pay their respects.

She said: “It has been okay in the day, but at night it got quite cold.

“Luckily St. John’s Ambulance volunteers have been giving out foil blankets which has really helped. It is a once in a lifetime experience and I just wanted to be part of history.

“The Mall is one of the best places to see something like this.”

Darren May. Photo: SWNS

She added: “In Belfast the atmosphere has been amazing.

“The Queen is so important to all of us as she has always been so dedicated. She has always been the heart of Northern Ireland.”

A couple from Devon cancelled the London hotel they had booked for the funeral at the last minute so they could camp out on The Mall instead.

Bev Ryland, 66, said: "When we came down here we realised that we had to stay and see the funeral from up close."

Her husband Mark Ryland, 68, said: “We’ve come here for our two year old grandson.

Tracey Hannam. Photo: SWNS

“We would love for him to tell his friends that his grandparents were there. Just like I can say that my parents were at the Queen’s coronation.”

Bev added: "It has been great, we have met so many people here. There is a real feel of friendship as everyone has been helping one another out."

Former soldier Jeff York, 68, from London, was keen to camp out to pay his respects.

He has been camping out on The Mall since last Friday.

He said: “We have got a lot more army mates coming down later to join us. Luckily, we have got tents so we have been able to stay warm but the temperature has dropped in the past few days.

“We have to take the tent down at 7am. We also have sleeping bags so it has been fine. I feel sorry for those just sleeping on chairs.

“I have come with friends but I have met so many people along the way, it has been great.

“There is a really great atmosphere around here. We have been making each other tea and chatting all day.

“And the police have been excellent. They keep coming up to us to have a chat and some banter, it’s been great.

“I’m not looking forward to tomorrow but I am glad I’m here. It is going to be very sad to say goodbye.”