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Our clocks go forward on Sunday morning at 1am and BST begins but why do they go forward?

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

The nights are getting shorter, the evenings are staying lighter for longer and the daffodils are beginning to bloom - this can only mean one thing - Spring is finally here, with the time to move to British Summer Time (BST) this Sunday when our clocks go forward an hour.

The springing forward of clocks happens every year on the last Sunday of March in the UK. But in exchange for less darkness Brits are handed one hour less in bed.

Don't forget to put your clocks forward at 1am this Sunday. Some people change the clock before they go to bed so they don't forget. In the UK the clocks go forward 1 hour at 1am on the last Sunday in March which this year is Sunday 28th March and back 1 hour at 2am on the last Sunday in October which this year falls on Halloween, Sunday 31st October.

The period when the clocks are 1 hour ahead is called British Summer Time (BST). There's more daylight in the evenings and less in the mornings (sometimes called Daylight Saving Time). When the clocks go back, the UK is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Spring Forward, Fall Back.....

28th March 2021 - Forward 1 hour. Daylight Saving Time Starts.

When local standard time is about to reach Sunday, 28th March 2021, 01:00:00 clocks are turned forward 1 hour to

Sunday, 28th March 2021, 02:00:00 local daylight time instead.

Sunrise and sunset will be about 1 hour later on 28th March 2021 than the day before. There will be more light in the evening. Also called Spring Forward, summer time and Daylight Savings Time.

31st October - Back 1 hour - Daylight Saving Time Ends. When local daylight time is about to reach Sunday, 31st October 2021, 02:00:00 clocks are turned backward 1 hour to

Sunday, 31st October 2021, 01:00:00 local standard time instead.

Sunrise and sunset will be about 1 hour earlier on 31st Oct 2021 than the day before. There will be more light in the morning. Also called Fall Back and winter time.

British Summer Time, also known as daylight savings time, is on 31st March, millions of Brits will be putting their watches, clocks and digital devices forward by one hour. For some, the annual ritual represents a welcome end to gloomy winter evenings, but an increasing number of people are starting to question whether there is any practical reason to keep it up.

Why the clocks go forward: a history of British Summer Time

The simple matter of putting the clocks forward by an hour in spring has always sparked discord.

When was daylight savings introduced?

The first British advocate of daylight savings time was William Willett, who published a pamphlet in 1907 entitled A Waste of Time advising his countrymen that they could make the most of summer by getting up earlier. According to the Wall Street Journal, Willett was a keen golfer, and it was partly his frustration at having his games cut short by nightfall that turned him into a passionate campaigner for an extra hour of sunlight.

Britain didn’t adopt the idea of daylight savings time until 1916, when Germany and Austria-Hungary implemented it as a wartime measure. Just a few weeks later, Britain and her allies followed suit.

What happened during World War Two?

In 1940, clocks were not put back at the end of summer, and so for the remainder of the war the nation was on Double British Summer Time – two hours ahead of Greenwich meantime in the summer months, and one hour ahead during winter. This was designed to increase productivity in the war industries and help workers get home before the blackout, the Guardian explains.

Why did it change in the 1970s?

In 1968, Harold Wilson's government began a three-year experiment which saw the nation’s clocks put forward an extra hour – but not everyone was a fan of darker winter mornings. The Scots, in particular, protested that double BST would leave some parts of the nation in darkness until 10am. In 1971 the House of Commons voted to abandon the experiment by a decisive 366 votes to 81.

Should it change again now?

According to some, yes. While adding an hour of natural light might have reduced energy consumption in the days of coal heating and tallow lights, Forbes reports that in our electronic age the difference appears to be negligible.

British expat John Oliver got in on the act with a satirical segment on his Last Week Tonight show decrying daylight savings as not only outdated, but dangerous. Several studies in the US National Library of Medicine have shown that drowsy citizens suffer for their missed hour of sleep, with an increase in accidents in the days following the switch.

BST still has some passionate defenders. The Independent notes that lighter evenings provide a psychological pick-me-up and are also connected to a drop in crime. The Telegraph suggests that a permanent switch to BST would have the economic benefit of putting UK businesses in the same timezone as most of their European counterparts.

What's it got to do with the EU?

Since 1981, EU directives have ensured a uniform observance of European Summertime, starting on the last Sunday in March and ending on the last Sunday of October. Until then, as the European Commission's website explains, many member states had different start and end dates for daylight savings, which made conducting business across the continent a real headache. Iceland, Belarus and Russia are the only European countries to opt out of this system. The three countries remain on the same time all year round.

Now enshrined in EU legislature, it appeared that British Summer Time is here to stay, or now we have left the EU, could it possibly change? despite its detractors.

"A simple alternative, put right from the start, was to change working hours in the summer and make everyone start an hour earlier," David Rooney, curator of timekeeping at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, told the Telegraph. "But humans are creatures of habit – of the nine-to-five day – so it's easier psychologically to change the clocks instead."

What do you think?

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