The his­tory of day­light sav­ing time

As we get ready to put our clocks for­ward, David Mills ex­plores the his­tory be­hind our na­tional day­light-sav­ing rit­u­als

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Hello! -

Twice a year, ev­ery­body in Bri­tain be­comes a rr time trav­eller. Most of us are asleep when it hap­pens. Some peo­ple for­get it's hap­pened and take a cou­ple of days to ad­just. It gives us all some­thing to talk about for a day or so, and then we for­get all about it again, un­til six months later, when we do it all over again - but in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. No Tardises or time ma­chines are re­quired - we do this by en­gag­ing in the rit­ual of putting the clocks for­ward or back by one hour. This year, we will switch to Bri­tish Sum­mer Time (BST) at lam on the last Sun­day in March - which in 2018 is 25 March. The switch back to Green­wich Mean Time (GMT) will take place at 2am on the last Sun­day in Oc­to­ber, which falls on 28 Oc­to­ber 2018. In prac­tice, it means that, for seven months of the year, there are more hours of day­light in the even­ings and fewer in the morn­ings.

The his­tory of day­light sav­ing

Like other parts of our na­tional life – such as the re­stricted li­cens­ing hours that per­sisted through­out the 20th cen­tury, and women gain­ing the right to vote – putting the clocks for­ward in spring and back in win­ter has its roots in the First World War.

Ger­many adopted day­light sav­ing time in 1915, draw­ing on the ideas of a Bri­tish man, William Wil­lett, who ad­vo­cated ad­just­ing the time in spring and win­ter to max­imise day­light hours. Bri­tain fol­lowed suit a year later in or­der to save en­ergy, and Bri­tish Sum­mer Time, as it was quickly dubbed, was born.

Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, the coun­try stayed on BST, leap­ing for­ward an­other hour for ‘Bri­tish Dou­ble Sum­mer Time’, to max­imise the hours of day­light for the war ef­fort.

Stay­ing on BST all year round was tri­alled again be­tween 1968 and 1971, and it seemed to be pop­u­lar: the Gov­ern­ment re­ported that busi­ness­peo­ple liked be­ing on the same time zone as much of the rest of Europe.

Road-safety statis­tics ap­peared to sug­gest that it saved lives by re­duc­ing ac­ci­dents, and it was even sug­gested that lighter win­ter after­noons led more peo­ple to play sport. But farm­ers, con­struc­tion work­ers and postal work­ers ob­jected to the dark morn­ings, as did those who wor­ried about the im­pact on chil­dren trav­el­ling to school – es­pe­cially in Scot­land and the north of Eng­land.

The de­bate

The ex­per­i­ment ended when MPs voted over­whelm­ingly to go back to the pre­vi­ous sys­tem, which con­tin­ues to­day. Yet the de­bate over the im­pact of day­light sav­ing – and whether we should go fur­ther – ig­nites

ev­ery year. On one side, the Royal So­ci­ety for the Pre­ven­tion of Ac­ci­dents (RoSPA) ad­vo­cates the UK adopt­ing the same time zone as France and Ger­many – by stay­ing on BST dur­ing the win­ter, then mov­ing one hour fur­ther for­ward in the spring, on to ‘dou­ble sum­mer time’.

RoSPA ar­gues this would create lighter even­ings all year round and re­sult in fewer road ac­ci­dents. It also sug­gests it could re­duce lone­li­ness among older peo­ple, some of whom don’t leave their homes un­til af­ter the morn­ing rush hour and are ‘cur­fewed’ by the on­set of dark­ness.

On the other side, op­po­nents of re­form point to the im­pact on Scot­land and the north of Eng­land, where morn­ings would be darker.

They helped to scup­per the last se­ri­ous at­tempt to move to ‘dou­ble sum­mer time’, when Con­ser­va­tive MP Re­becca Har­ris in­tro­duced a bill in the House of Com­mons in 2010, cit­ing ev­i­dence that it would per­mit an ex­tra 235 hours of day­light af­ter work ev­ery year.

It would also, she claimed, de­liver fur­ther ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing 100 fewer deaths from road crashes; sav­ings of £200m for the NHS from fewer ac­ci­dents; cuts in CO2 emis­sions from sav­ing the en­ergy needed for light­ing and heat­ing, and a boost in in­come from tourism of £3.5bn.

Some de­ci­sion-mak­ers feel that go­ing ahead might drive a wedge be­tween Eng­land and Scot­land.

For most of us, putting the clocks for­ward is lit­tle more than the wel­come as­sur­ance that spring is here.

For par­ents of young chil­dren, though, it means hav­ing to ad­just times for feed­ing and sleep­ing, and it can take a few days for the young­sters to adapt.

And al­though com­put­ers, phones and many house­hold goods au­to­mat­i­cally change the time for us, there are still mil­lions of time­pieces that need man­ual ad­just­ment.

So when you’re du­ti­fully putting the clocks for­ward next week and be­moan­ing the loss of an hour in bed, try to fo­cus on the ex­tra hour you’ll get back in Oc­to­ber.

The de­bate over day­light sav­ing ig­nites ev­ery year

Man with

a plan: William Wil­lett

Big Ben takes five hours to ad­just man­u­ally

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.