Royal Navy military personnel have taken the blame for leaking WhatsApp message that sparked a rumour that the Queen had died.
Officials have apologised for any misunderstanding after claims that HRH had passed away went viral.
On Sunday 1 December, a screenshot from a WhatsApp group chat was posted on Facebook and Twitter.
Inside the image was a conversation believed to be between individuals serving in the Royal Navy stating what equipment personnel would need for an exercise to do with the royal’s passing.
A user called Gibbo, wrote on the group chat: Queen’s passed away this morning, heart attack, being announced 930 AM tomorrow (sic).
The message also says: Channel dash 0800 tomorrow in full number 1s, in your black kit bag you need: 1 set of 3s 1 set of 4s Underwear and socks for 2 weeks (sic).
The screengrabs claim to give instructions sent to guards.
But the comrades are uncertain of Gibbo and one called Ricey says he has text another guy in the guards to confirm.
Other users in the group chat include Burnsy, Cheeks, Josh and Morty who are understood to have been between serving military personnel.
Within 24 hours, it has been shared by thousands of people worldwide, with hashtags #GodSaveTheQueen, #QueenDead and #BuckinghamPalace trending on Twitter.
Royal Navy officials have confirmed that the message was part of a practise military exercise.
It is believed that someone received the exercise recall message and thinking it to be real, then forwarded it on further.
Servicemen based at the Royal Navy Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton had been practising for an Operation London Bridge recall – the codename used for when the Queen dies.
A Royal Navy spokesman said: ‘We can confirm an internal exercise took place at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in line with established contingency plans for recall of personnel.
These exercises are conducted on a regular basis and no significance should be drawn from the timing of the exercise.
While the exercise was conducted properly, we regret any misunderstanding this may have caused.
Buckingham Palace was forced to respond after the maelstrom of social media speculation, with a royal spokeswoman downplaying the rumours and saying it was ‘business as usual’.
Former paratrooper Alfie Usher shared the initial WhatsApp message to his Facebook followers on his Fill Your Boots UK military humour page.
Mr Usher, who runs military insurance firm Forces Compare, said he didn’t believe the message was real and insisted he shared it as a joke on his page, which is followed by 97,413 people.
Shortly after posting it, he was bombarded with questions by people fearing it was a genuine message and was forced to delete the original post and write an explanation about it.
It went bigger than Ben Hur. I realised I was losing control of the situation when other news sources were picking it up.
He added: I feel so sorry for Gibbo. Someone screenshotted his message which was out of his control but he will be the one that gets shafted.
Former Special Air Service (SAS) personnel, James Deegan, who has 20,000 followers, posted on Twitter: I find it sad that someone would start a vile rumour about The Queen.