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Remembered Today:

"Time" in France


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We all know that RFC and RNAS officialdom used Greenwich Mean Time when reporting. I have noted that when cross referencing RNAS Squadron Record Books and CITARs etc, with pilot's log books, there is often, but not always, a 1 hour time difference, the log books being ahead.

 

For example, the squadron record book might say "Offensive Patrol at 05.30" but when I look in one or more logs books where the pilot(s) participated in that patrol the pilot(s) often put something like May 19th 6.30 a.m.

 

Did the pilots set their wristwatches and cockpit clocks to "local time" which was 1 hour ahead, or did they fill in their logs considerably after the event and simply guess the time of each patrol?  

 

 

Mike

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Lots of daylight saving going on through the War _ I'm sure you know that, but I've analysed and summarised it in my book, in the Introduction. Get in touch if you want Mike.

 

 

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Hi Trevor, 

 

"Introduction"? I don't read Intoductions any more than I read Instructions :ph34r:.

I had a hard disc blow up so have lost your email address.

 

I'm looking at May 17, where German time is 1 hour ahead. Is it safe to assume French and Belgium time was +1 as well?

 

I'm just puzzled as to why a pilot's diary and log book is mostly 1 hour ahead of the squadron record book. And it's not just one pilot but 2. I am rather annoyed because I have a 3rd log book but have misplaced it so can't compare that one. Just seemed logical if the pilots are going to Le Panne or Dunkirk when off duty, they set their watches accordingly.

Mike

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12 hours ago, MikeW said:

Hi Trevor, 

 

"Introduction"? I don't read Intoductions any more than I read Instructions :ph34r:.

I had a hard disc blow up so have lost your email address.

 

I'm looking at May 17, where German time is 1 hour ahead. Is it safe to assume French and Belgium time was +1 as well?

 

I'm just puzzled as to why a pilot's diary and log book is mostly 1 hour ahead of the squadron record book. And it's not just one pilot but 2. I am rather annoyed because I have a 3rd log book but have misplaced it so can't compare that one. Just seemed logical if the pilots are going to Le Panne or Dunkirk when off duty, they set their watches accordingly.

Mike

German time was an hour ahead of French and Belgian in 1914. In fact, in Longuyon, the Germans demanded hostages and that they were to report to German HQ by 1200. The German commander was about to send out death squads through the streets because none had turned up, when one of his officers pointed out that it was only 1100 in France.

I think that for the rest of the war the time in the occupied territory was changed to German time.

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Germany operated to CET which meant that it was usually one hour ahead, but for a time in summer it was two hours in advance. This was forced on the occupied French and Belgians as part of the policy of Germanification, that is, stripping out national and local identity from the local population. Curfew hours were governed by CET which was hugely inefficient for agriculture as it meant that daylight hours were lost during peak periods of production, notably harvesting. Also in industries like brewing where production was regulated by chemistry and not by the clock. A big own goal for the occupying Germans.

Edited by Hedley Malloch
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Further to my post on Friday, I have now found the third logbook and have been criss-crossing back and forth between the 3 log books and the Squadron Daily Ops book.

 

All times align between all of the documents up until the squadron moves from St Pol to Furnes on the 15th May 1917 - thereafter the pilots record their activities in their logs (and in one case in the illicit diary) an hour out. If the ops book says 07.00 (GMT), all of the log books and diary say 08.00 and so on.

 

 

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On 11/12/2020 at 22:38, MikeW said:

I'm looking at May 17, where German time is 1 hour ahead. Is it safe to assume French and Belgium time was +1 as well?

No. French and Belgian time was the same as British GMT. Both the Allies and the Germans operated daylight saving time in 1916, 1917 and 1918, though not necessarily on the same dates. As Hedly points out, German-occupied areas of France and Belgium were forced to adopt CET but the rest of these countries kept in step with GMT. It was only during WW2 that they moved to CET, and did not move back at the end of hostilities.

 

Ron

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Maureene's timeanddate.com website gives the following information if I understand it correctly:

 

In May 1917 the UK used DST, i.e. GMT+1

                           France used  GMT +1   

                           Belgium used CET +1, i.e.   GMT +2       

 

So when the squadron was at St.Pol, the Squadron Records, the pilots' log books (the 4 that I have), and the diary all correspond.

 

After the Squadron relocates to Furnes in Belgium, the pilots set their watches to local time and the next day the log books and the diary suddenly become 1 hour ahead of the Squadron Records.

 

A month or so later, the squadron relocates to Guizanccourt in France, and the next day the log books and diary magically synchronise with the Squadron record book again. The pilots' must have reset their watches to local time again.

 

Incidentally, one  pilot did not relocate to Furnes but remained in France for a couple of weeks. He eventually joined the squadron at Furnes and his log book corresponded with the Squadron record book, then two days later all his log entries were suddenly 1 hour ahead just like the other pilots.

 

I am satisfied that I now know why the disparity exists.

 

Mike

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34 minutes ago, MikeW said:

Maureene's timeanddate.com website gives the following information if I understand it correctly:

 

In May 1917 the UK used DST, i.e. GMT+1

                           France used  GMT +1   

                           Belgium used CET +1, i.e.   GMT +2       

 

 

 

It was or had been, more complicated than that. I found a guidebook for the very early 1900s (and can't lay my hands on if for the moment) and it said something like, "Time in Luxembourg is 10 minutes later than Belgium and 40 minutes earlier than Belgium. France is 30 minutes different to Belgium. Travellers should be aware of this".

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4 hours ago, healdav said:

It was or had been, more complicated than that. I found a guidebook for the very early 1900s (and can't lay my hands on if for the moment) and it said something like, "Time in Luxembourg is 10 minutes later than Belgium and 40 minutes earlier than Belgium. France is 30 minutes different to Belgium. Travellers should be aware of this".

 

    Both can be correct.  Our modern system of time depends on internationally agreed zones-in which every place and part of that zone is at the same time.

Before this standardisation, time was local and measured against the sun-thus, every place was slightly different due to the movement of the earth as to when Sun Highest/Noon actually was-eg Exeter was 6 minutes behind London.  Very often, time in a locale was measured from the clock in the local town-the "town clock" to give some local consistency. What messed this up was the coming of the railways-where timetables needed a consistent time base. Thus, national imposition of time and later the time zones we know and love.

Edited by voltaire60
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16 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

 

    Both can be correct.  Our modern system of time depends on internationally agreed zones-in which every place and part of that zone is at the same time.

Before this standardisation, time was local and measured against the sun-thus, every place was slightly different due to the movement of the earth as to when Sun Highest/Noon actually was-eg Exeter was 6 minutes behind London.  Very often, time in a locale was measured from the clock in the local town-the "town clock" to give some local consistency. What messed this up was the coming of the railways-where timetables needed a consistent time base. Thus, national imposition of time and later the time zones we know and love.

I know. My father used to give talks to OAP groups about this. But it does show the difficulty of using times for any action taking place. Whose time?

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18 minutes ago, healdav said:

I know. My father used to give talks to OAP groups about this. But it does show the difficulty of using times for any action taking place. Whose time?

     

The best story about time was one given me by an Economic History lecturer at the LSE-  According to the novel of the same name, Tristram Shandy was conceived the night his father wound the clock.  When the book was published, it became the come-on from "Ladies of the Night" in London to ask prospective punters "Would you like your clock wound Sir?"

 

 Whose time?    This does beg a difficulty-such as the southern end of the Somme in 1916.  Records of what happened could be harder to work out as there might be 3 different times being used by the British,the French and the Germans. One would have expected that British and French times were synchronised.

Edited by voltaire60
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22 hours ago, MikeW said:

Maureene's timeanddate.com website gives the following information if I understand it correctly:

 

In May 1917 the UK used DST, i.e. GMT+1

                           France used  GMT +1   

                           Belgium used CET +1, i.e.   GMT +2       

 

 

How interesting. I worked with a Belgian colleague who assured me that the dates for moving the clock forward or back differed between France and Belgium. Only by a few days, but during that time a trip from Ploegsteert to Le Bizet, a distance of 2.1 kilometres, meant crossing two time zones.

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21 hours ago, Hedley Malloch said:

 

How interesting. I worked with a Belgian colleague who assured me that the dates for moving the clock forward or back differed between France and Belgium. Only by a few days, but during that time a trip from Ploegsteert to Le Bizet, a distance of 2.1 kilometres, meant crossing two time zones.

It was the case that France and Britain changed times on different dates right into the 1980s, and when Summer Time was introduced across the EU, France refused to join at all at first, and Britain insisted on changing on a different date to everyone else. It caused complete chaos. To accommodate Britain airline timetables had to be rewritten for airlines - which threw out landing and take off times across Europe and much further afield. France not changing meant that cross border workers - several million people - were leaving home at 6 a.m. to get to the office at 9 a.m. That means trains and buses arriving before they had left and then losing an hour on the return journey. Eventually, France agreed to change to general relief. A couple of decades later some French Minister proposed giving up changing and the howls were heard right over to the Urals. He quietly dropped his proposal.

It looks very simple to have different times, but the implications are almost terrifying.

Way back in 1974 or 5, my wife and I were invited to dinner just over the border in France. We forgot the time difference, and leaving home at 7 for an invitation for 8, arrived at 9. Then, after leaving at around midnight, got home at 11.

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David, This makes sense. My Belgian colleague told me that that the 2 hour plus car journey from Ploegsteert to Le Bizet had happened within recent memory.

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Why all this confusion? Normally German time on the Western Front was one hour ahead of British time, except for certain periods. when  they matched.   Trevor set this out perfectly in  TSTB.  As a certain TV detective used to say as his punch line: 'End of.'  :-)

Happy Christmas, all. 

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Hi Alex,

 

no confusion at all about German time. The confused.com here is Belgian time.  Squadron moves to Furnes in May - Squadron records in GMT, but pilots' records (multiple log books and a diary) are GMT +1. The Squadron moves back to France in June and suddenly log books and diary go back to GMT.

 

Your TV Detective obviously wasn't Hercule Poirot

 

Cheers

 

Mike

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have resolved the problem - it wasn't French, Belgian or German Time, it was the Recording Officer for No.9 Squadron RNAS not being consistent and obviously not reading The Sky their Battlefield. Whilst working up at St Pol, the records are in GMT until the 25th March 1917, when the recording officer switched to British Summer Time. On the 14th May the squadron changed Wings (from 1 Wing to 4 Wing) and moved to Furnes in Belgium - at that point the Squadron went back to reporting everything in GMT - but the pilots obviously kept their watches on BST. 

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ICM - RAF Retd

Perhaps just as well that the International Date Line wasn't involved.

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