How Is It Decided When British Summer Time Begins? It's Surprisingly Complicated
I can't ever seem to decide on which I prefer more — long summer evenings or dark winter mornings. But it's that variety that makes the year just a little more exciting, and it's all thanks to the clocks moving forward and back. But how is it decided when British Summer Time begins and ends?
In the early 19th century, there was no standardised time for Britons to follow — it was as simple as working while it was light and heading to bed when it got dark. That was until 1840, when the use of a single standardised time was first recorded thanks to the Great Western Railway, BT reports, which required an efficient timetable. This is where Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) came into play. First used as a tool for naval navigation in the 15th century, the Prime Meridian — located at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich — began to be used as a reference line for world time. There are plenty of other places throughout the world where the Prime Meridian crosses through, but in 1884 Greenwich was chosen as the winner during the International Meridian Conference in Washington D.C.
Here's a tip — if you're ever at the O2 Arena in London, take a walk around the Thames path. There are so many references to the Prime Meridian Line through art installations and a literal line running past the dome, which represents time itself through its architecture and design, as the BBC reports.
But what has all this got to do with British Summer Time (BST)? While Britain gets a solid eight to nine hours of daylight in the winter, this wasn't great for people who relied on daylight to work — it was the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution after all — or those who got fed up with having to wrap up their golf rounds at dusk, The Week reports. Builder William Willett was associated with the later, as in 1907 he wrote the fantastically titled pamphlet Waste of Daylight, which would be one of the first suggestions of BST.
This proposal was pretty much ignored until the First World War, when Germany decided to adapt to a "summer time" in 1916 in order to keep factories open longer. Britain obviously followed, and began the "Summer Time Act" where they would put clocks forward an hour from beginning on May 21 until October 1. This would be doubled in the Second World War — moving the clocks forward two hours in the summer, and one hour in winter — to help the British population get home before blackouts.
Today, BST is enacted on the last Sunday of March at 1 a.m., which will be the 31st this year. They then go back to GMT on Oct. 27 at 2 a.m. And while I do enjoy the variety of having long days in the summer and long nights in the winter, it's actually been suggested multiple times that the UK shouldn't have BST at all.
According to the AA, when the clocks go back in October the risk of traffic accidents increase, and if BST were to become a thing of the past "around 100 lives would be saved per year." There's also the argument that carbon emissions could be reduced if the clocks didn't change as well. Although, if Britain were to get rid of BST, Northern Scotland would not fare well as their sunrises could be as late as 10 a.m. in the winter.
Personally, I think Britain should continue using BST. I need variation throughout my year, and if we stuck to the same old time I honestly don't think I could deal with it. I need my long summer evenings, man.