When the clocks go back an hour this Sunday morning, reverting to Greenwich Mean Time, the iconic Summer uniforms of the British Army’s ceremonial troops will switch back to ‘Winter Order’ in perfect synchronicity.
We’ve been changing the clocks twice a year for over a century.
Putting them forward an hour to British Summer Time at 1am on the last Sunday in March, and back one hour at 2am on the last Sunday in October.
Every year however, there’s always someone who forgets to alter their watch, misses their train, or turns up an hour early for a meeting.
If only there was a visual reminder of the change…
But there is!
If in doubt of where we are in the UK time-wise, check out what the Army is wearing on public duties
Tunics = British Summer Time
Greatcoats and cloaks = Greenwich Mean Time
It was a Chelsea builder who inspired the time change.
The Waste of Daylight
In 1907 William Willett published a pamphlet “The Waste of Daylight” which suggested that if people started their days earlier in the summer, as soon as it’s light, the country could save millions in lighting costs in the evening.
Willet’s plan was complicated and involved moving the time weekly by 20 minutes a week on successive Sundays in April and then reversed 20 minutes weekly from September.
In 1916 the country was at war with Germany and fuel needed to be prioritised for the manufacture of munitions.
Daylight Saving Time
Parliament adopted a simplified version of Willett’s plan and introduced Daylight Saving Time for the summer months reducing the demand for domestic electricity and gas in the evenings.
We’ve been changing the clocks to match the seasons and save energy ever since.
Over recent weeks, the Army’s tailors, noting the days are getting shorter, have been busy preparing new uniforms to combat Winter’s chill.
Winter is coming
This year may have witnessed the warmest October for decades, but the nights are lengthening fast, leaves are blowing across the parade square faster than they can be swept clear, and there’s a hum of sewing machines in the air.
All the troops on duty at the Royal Palaces are about to be transformed. The Foot Guards’ scarlet tunics, and the smart black uniforms of the Gurkhas in 9 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps will soon be replaced by hardy Athol grey greatcoats.
Soldiers wear a single-breasted greatcoat, officers and warrant officers wear a double-breasted version.
Greatcoats have been worn by the military since Napoleonic times to combat the worst that Winter can offer.
They were standard issue for frontline British soldiers up until the 1950s but are now only worn on ceremonial duty.
From Cuirass to Cloak
The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment’s silver cuirasses (breastplates), whose mirror polish caught the light and blazed all summer, will soon be replaced by cosy, thick, woollen cloaks: red for the Life Guards and blue for the Blues and Royals.
These generously cut Cavalry cloaks offer warmth and protection for both rider and horse in the Winter blast.
Cloaks have been worn by the military against foul weather for millennia and in the past would have doubled up as a blanket for sleeping in.
Friday 28th October will offer your final chance to see the Foot Guards in Summer ceremonial uniforms in London this year.
Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards will be in their familiar scarlet tunics and red plumed bearskin caps when they march out of Wellington Barracks to change the guard on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace at 11am.
Visitors to Windsor will catch Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards mounting the Castle Guard in their scarlet tunics for the final time on Saturday morning.
The Blues and Royals will be at their guard posts in their summer tunics and silver breastplates on Saturday at Horse Guards in Whitehall, London, but will reappear in their blue winter cloaks on Sunday morning.
Sunday morning will also witness Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards changed into their Athol grey greatcoats on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, handing over their duties to a greatcoat-clad 9 Regiment RLC.
What will you be wearing this Winter?