Prior to the adoption of universally accepted time zones, the vast majority of settlements around the world observed local mean solar time. Because of variations in geographical longitude, this meant that different towns and cities had slightly differing time standards. Although Greenwich Mean Time had been established in 1675 to help mariners navigate at sea, no law existed to mandate its use for local time.
The arrival of the railways in the mid-19th Century increased the need for a standardised time across the network, since local time would differ in all the towns the train visited. In Great Britain, Greenwich Mean Time was first adopted by the Great Western Railway and it is estimated that by 1855 up to 98% of all public clocks in the country displayed Greenwich Mean Time.
The use of a standard time in Britain was, however, not mandated by law. It was the New Zealand government that first introduced such legislation in order to allow the easier synchronisation of railways, steam ships, and the electric telegraph. Having consulted with Scottish-born scientist and explorer James Hector, the government adopted his recommendation of a time zone based on New Zealand’s mean longitude 172° 30′ east of Greenwich. Originally established at 11½ hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, New Zealand Mean Time was adopted on 2 November 1868.
Britain eventually implemented a standardised national time in 1880, while the U.S. Congress passed the Standard Time Act on 19 March 1918.
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
The two mountaineering pioneers were part of the ninth British Mount Everest expedition that had sought to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain. At the time only the Nepalese approach to Everest was open to climbers, but the government in Kathmandu only granted permission to one expedition a year.
With a British team unlikely to be granted another attempt until at least 1956, the Joint Himalayan Committee who oversaw British expeditions believed it was vital that the 1953 expedition was a success. They made the decision to appoint British Army Colonel John Hunt as the leader of the expedition, although his appointment was opposed by some other members of the team. Hillary himself was initially unhappy as he was fiercely loyal to Eric Shipton, the climber who had previously led expeditions for the Committee.
The 400-strong team of British climbers, Sherpa guides and porters set up base camp in March 1953 and established advanced camps further up the mountain throughout April and early May. A first attempt was made on the summit by Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans on 26 May, but they were defeated by problems with their oxygen equipment.
Hillary and Norgay were directed to begin their attempt the next day. Poor weather meant that they began their final ascent on the morning of 29 May, reaching the summit at 11:30 am where Hillary took a photo of Norgay, alongside a series of other shots looking down the mountain as proof that they had reached the summit. News of their achievement reached Britain on the morning of 2 June, the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.
On the 3rd September 1939, the Second World War officially began when France and the United Kingdom – together with Australia and New Zealand – declared war on Germany. Nazi forces had invaded Poland two days earlier, claiming to be acting in self-defence. Although both France and Britain had each signed Pacts with Poland regarding mutual assistance in case of invasion, no significant military action was taken for eight months against Germany. As a result, this period became known as the Phoney War.
However, to call the war ‘phoney’ ignores some key elements of this period. The French, for example, launched an attack across the German border known as the Saar Offensive but the troops were pulled back to their defensive Maginot Line on the 17th October after it became clear that a full-scale assault would not be successful.
Further action took place at sea, where both the British and French navies both began a blockade of Germany’s ports the day after the declaration of war. The previous evening the British passenger ship SS Athenia was hit by torpedoes fired from a Nazi U-boat off the coast of the Hebrides. 128 civilian passengers and crew were killed as a result of the attack, and it is seen by some as marking the start of the Battle of the Atlantic.
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned and was replaced by Winston Churchill, on Chamberlain’s own suggestion, on the 10th May 1940. This coincided to the day with Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries using the tactic of blitzkrieg and effectively marked the end of the Phoney War.