May 23, 1916 – Farmers fight ‘sham time’ as UK changes the clocks

Big Ben Clock Face

The introduction of changing the clocks was labelled a ‘childish, paltry trick’ by farmers according to a report in the May 23, 1916, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

The aim of the Government’s Daylight Saving Bill was to get the country starting work earlier and going to bed earlier – thus avoiding the need to use fuel.

The ‘number jugglers’ as the paper calls them, reckon it will be worth £2.5 million a year to the economy but the status quo will be reverted to soon after the war has concluded.

Well we know that didn’t happen even though the largest meeting of farmers ever held in Northampton ‘unanimously passed a resolution to adhere, as far as possible, to real time as shown by the sun in the arrangement of work on their farms and take as little notice of the sham time that will be shown by public clocks’.

The story quotes Alderman Nunneley, who said the Summer Time Act had been passed ‘because big men in London knew perfectly well they had been getting up later than they ought’.

He added: “They had not the strength of will and mind to get up at the proper time – (applause) – and so they were trying, like a pack of children, to deceive themselves and diddle themselves into getting up an hour earlier by messing the clocks about and putting them all wrong.

“He could not understand how any gathering of ordinary sensible Englishmen could descend to what seemed to him a childish, paltry trick.”

There was also more news of anti-Government sentiment in a story detailing the arrest of two London women ‘dressed as nuns’ who had come to Kettering to distribute anti-war leaflets.

When they were arrested they were found to have ‘a large number of Stop the War leaflets, and other literature including League against War and Conscription and Peace Too Late’.

The duo – one who was 85 years old – were detained for committing a breach of the Defence of the Realm Act, that they ‘by word of mouth and circular did make false statements and spread false reports likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty or to prejudice recruiting of His Majesty’s Forces’.

On a more positive note, there is news that local hero Edgar Mobbs, the former Northampton and England rugby star, who had joined up as a private, had been promoted once again – this time to the elevated rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and given command of the 7th Northamptonshire Battalion.

He acted as a rallying point at the outbreak of fighting for men to enlist and his group rapidly became affectionately known as Mobbs’ Corps.

The Advertiser says: “At the outbreak of war he applied for a commission but the Military Authorities refused to grant him one on account of his age.”

He was 32 at the time.

The news account adds: “Nothing daunted him, he set about raising a company himself and gathered in many well-known ruggerites. Quite a number of Harborians enlisted in Mobbs’ Corps, as it was known locally, and we regret to say that the local casualties have been very heavy indeed for the Regiment took part in the great Loos Battle, where they suffered severely.”



There is brief news of other deaths of young soldiers: Private F Sturgeon of Market Harborough has been killed in action and Private C Pratt, also of Market Harborough, who had previously been reported as wounded, has now died.

There is a longer report about the death of Private Ernest Cheney of East Langton. The 18-year-old had only enlisted three weeks ago and was in training in Edinburgh when he was rushed into hospital for an appendix operation.

The Advertiser reports: “At first it was thought this would be successful but the patient soon had a relapse and died at hospital…his parents being with him during the last few hours.”

  • Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.
  • My fellow researcher and De Montfort University colleague David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.

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