Taking your time…

So here we go again; the twice yearly farce of waking up to find nobody knows what time it is. Basically the government borrows an hour off you at the start of summer and pays you back at the start of winter – I would have thought a couple of minutes “interest” would be in order.

We are now officially in British Summer Time (BST) which of course being an hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) coincides with Central European Time (CET) or Western European Summer Time (WET+1) until they decide to move their clocks around too. As everyone is fully aware GMT has been replaced now by UTC which is Coordinated Universal Time or UT for short. Originally UTC was Coordinated Universal National Time which nobody could think of an abbreviation for. Perversely the military call GMT “Zulu time” for reasons that presumably are a question of national security. The Navy meantime would still be lost without “solar time”.

Salvador Dali -The Persistence of Memory 1931
Drawings of Harrison’s H4 chronometer of 1761, published in The principles of Mr Harrison’s time-keeper, 1767

GMT was adopted across Britain by the railways in 1847 although in 1858 a court case upheld “local mean time” as the official time. By 1880 GMT or “railway time” was adopted nationwide. This is not to be confused with British Rail Time which meant anything they bloody well wanted it to.

During the darkest days of the Second World War Britain was effectively on “British Double Summer Time” (BDST); The British Double Summer Mean (BDSM) was abandoned as an official name as it sent the “wrong signals” to the Germans.

The clocks were not advanced for the summer of 1945 and were reverted to GMT at the end of the summer of 1946. In 1947 the clocks were advanced by one hour twice during the spring and put back twice during the autumn so that Britain was on BDST during the height of the summer.

Safety campaigners, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), have made recommendations that British Summer Time be maintained during the winter months, and that a “double summertime” be applied to the current British Summer Time period, putting the UK two hours ahead of GMT during summer.

The British Standard Time (BST) scheme was trialled between 1968 and 1971, when Britain remained on GMT+1 all year.

In 2005, Lord Tanlaw introduced the Lighter Evenings (Experiment) Bill into the House of Lords, which would advance winter and summer time by one hour for a three-year trial period at the discretion of “devolved bodies”, allowing Scotland and Northern Ireland the option not to take part. The Local Government Association has called for a three-year trial of the Single/Double Summer Time (SDST).

During all this “time” Greenwich has actually moved; the prime meridian is now 5.31″ E.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply