Why do we change the clocks?

The clocks go forward this weekend, but forget those stories about farmers in Scotland, the real reason we keep fiddling with the time is thanks to a horse rider and the Germans.

The idea of British Summer Time was first proposed over 100 years ago by keen horse-rider William Willett, who was incensed at the waste of useful daylight first thing in the morning during summer. Willett spent the rest of his life fighting to get acceptance of his time-shifting scheme. He died in 1915 with the Government still refusing to back BST. But by then Britain and Germany were fighting each other in the First World War and any system that could save fuel and money was worth trying. Germany introduced the system in 1916 and a few weeks later Britain followed suit on 21st May, and we have been ‘changing the clocks’ ever since.

So why don’t we stay on BST all year round? Actually, back in 1968 we did exactly that and for 3 years we marked British Standard Time. That wasn’t the first experiment to shift the clocks in winter; during the Second World War, Britain adopted Double British Summer Time, with the clocks one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time in winter and two hours ahead in summer. But neither experiment proved a complete success.

Even today we still cannot agree on whether daylight saving is a good thing or not. Over the past two decades there have been eight failed attempts to change clock times. Each year proposals are made to try Double British Summer Time again, bringing the UK in line with much of Europe. On the plus side we’d have longer, brighter evenings, but on the downside winter mornings would be even darker, and more dangerous for youngsters travelling to school.

In the meantime, get ready to change all your clocks and don’t be late this weekend if you’re taking part in Sport Relief. See you in Glasgow!

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