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Watching a Guardsman’s watch helps tell the time

No more seeing red in the morning

You might be gaining an extra hour of sleep this Sunday, but it means saying goodbye to the scarlet tunics of the Household Division as we revert to Greenwich Mean Time. 

It’s a Guard Change which happens only twice a year as troops on public duties will officially switch to Winter Order.

The other time is after the last Sunday in March when the clocks go forward and Guardsmen once more don their Summer uniforms and we revert to British Summer Time.

Winter order

Winter Order will see a sea of red replaced with Athol Grey. Ceremonial soldiers sport a single-breasted greatcoat, whilst officers and warrant officers wear a double-breasted version.

Greatcoats have been worn by the military since the Napoleonic era in an attempt to protect against the worst that Winter weather has to offer. The military greatcoat remained standard issue for frontline British soldiers up until the 1950s but are now only worn on ceremonial duty.

For members of The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment the mirrored sheen of their cuirasses, the technical term for their polished breastplates, will be replaced by warm woollen cloaks.

Whilst the Guardsmen will be uniform in their grey greatcoats, the Cavalry will still display a splash of colour: red cloaks for the Life Guards and dark blue for the Blues and Royals.

British summer time

You need never forget again, just see what the soldiers on Public Duties are wearing.

It’s very simple:

Tunics and Cuirasses = British Summer Time.

Greatcloaks and Cloaks = Winter Order.

The origins of daylight savings time

But where did the change come from? Some have ascribed it to American revolutionary Benjamin Franklin, others to the New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson who presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a two-hour daylight-saving shift.

In Britain it was a prosperous builder from Chelsea who published a pamphlet “The Waste of Daylight” in 1907. It 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.

His ideas received limited Parliamentary support, including from a young Winston Churchill, but nothing came of it.  It was not until the First World War the issue became more important primarily due to the need to conserve coal and a simpler version was introduced in May 1916, the clocks were advanced by an hour on Sunday, 21 May for the first time.

Last chance

The last chance to see the Foot Guards in Summer ceremonial uniforms in London was on Friday 27th October when F Company Scots Guard marched off the forecourt of Buckingham Palace as the old guard were replaced by the new guard from the 19th Regiment Royal Artillery who do not wear red tunics.

By Sunday morning the clocks will be back and The King's Guard comprising of Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards will be the first to perform their Public Duty in their Greatcoats.