Twice a year in the UK we change our clocks by one hour; but when do we do this and why?
When do the clocks change?
The clocks always change on the last Sunday in March and on the last Sunday in October.
On the last Sunday in March, we put the clocks forward by one hour at 01:00 (in the early morning). The time then jumps to 02:00 and we lose one hour (one less hour of sleep but at least it’s a Sunday so most people can sleep in!)
Then, on the last Sunday in October, we put the clocks back by one hour at 02:00. The time changes to 01:00 and we get an extra hour of sleep! I always think it’s funny to look at TV guides for this day as you will see that a programme starts at 01:00, another programme starts at 01:30 and then the next programme starts at 01:00 again! Or there could be a programme that starts at 01:45 and finishes at 01:15!!
How to remember if the clocks should go backwards or forwards?
I always used to get confused about whether the clocks should be going forward or backwards but a few years ago someone told me a really simple way to remember this:
SPRING FORWARD – FALL BACKWARDS
In Spring time (March), we put the clocks forward and in Fall (the American way of saying Autumn), we put the clocks backwards. Genius!
Greenwich Mean Time and British Summer Time
The UK is in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) from the end of October until the end of March. Then, when the clocks change, the UK is in British Summer Time (BST) which is one hour head of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+1).
Why do the clocks change?
The idea of putting the clocks forward in the summer months was first proposed in the UK by a builder and horse-rider, William Willett. He would wake up early and go for horse rides in the summer when everyone else was still asleep and he began to think that it was a waste of daylight hours.
In 1907 he wrote a pamphlet called ‘The Waste of Daylight’ where he tried to persuade people that putting the clocks forward in the summer would be a good idea. He thought that this would improve people’s general health and happiness as they would have more hours of daylight every day.
Unfortunately, the government did not agree with Willett’s idea of BST until 1916, one year after Willett died. In May 1916 (during the First World War), Britain changed the clocks forward for the first time, after Germany decided to change their clocks. We have been following this system ever since.
When we first started changing the time, clocks and watches were very different to the ones we use today and advice informing people how to change their clocks was printed in newspapers and on special posters around the country!
Remember to change your clocks and watches!
If you are in the UK at the moment, you will need to remember to change your clocks. On Sunday 29th October at 02:00, clocks will go backward one hour and we will then be in British Winter Time.
Many computers, smartphones and other electronic devices change time themselves so be careful! Last October, I changed my phone clock back one hour manually before I went to bed and then my phone changed the time again automatically at 01:00 (2 hours back!). Honestly (and quite embarrassingly), I was nearly late for my own wedding!!