September 6, 1997 was a day that the nation will never forget; 20 years ago, Princess Diana’s funeral was watched by millions of people at home and abroad.
At the time, I was serving with Bedfordshire Police and an operational order called Operation Tunic was put in place to facilitate the passage of the cortege on the M1 as it passed en route through the county to her final resting place in Northamptonshire.
My duty on that day commenced at 0600hrs, and I remember how sunny and warm it was. The major incident room commenced the operation at 0900hrs, and myself and 48 officers were allocated locations along the route to ensure the safety of the members of the public, and to minimise traffic congestion. Each officer was to stand to attention and salute as the cortege passed by.
It was anticipated that large numbers of the public would congregate on motorway bridges and other vantage points. However, the number of people lining the route was underestimated and thousands either ran onto the motorway down the steep banks of the M1, or stopped their vehicles to pay their respects and throw flowers on to the hearse.
No matter what was planned, no one could have imagined this moving scene.
Then, within minutes, the cortege had passed by, and we were left with the motorway at a standstill, and the road covered in flowers – a sight that I shall always remember.
Coun Ray Wootten