Ever wanted to know how to tell military time? Military time may be confusing if you’re not used to it. Many civilians end up counting to figure out the translation when they hear something like, “twenty-two hundred hours.” It may take a minute to figure out this translates to 10:00 pm for a civilian.
While it may seem difficult and even a bit odd, military time has actually been around for centuries. The Egyptian astronomical system was based on a 24-hour time system. Many early astronomers, navigators and scientists also used a 24-hour time system. Many clocks around the world are actually 24-hour clocks instead of 12-hour clocks, including the Shepherd Gate Clock found in Greenwich.
It may be common for those in the United States and most other English-speaking countries to use a 12-hour time system, this isn’t the time system used by the military. Instead, they use a 24-hour time system with a few adjustments compared to the more common 24-hour time system.
Understanding Military Time
The easiest way to catch on to military time is to simply understand everything is basically the same from 1:00am to 12:00pm (noon). The military doesn’t use AM or PM because once you get to 12:00pm, you don’t reset back to 1:00pm. Instead, the next time on the clock is 13:00 or 1300. From there, just keep counting until you reach 2400 and reset back to 0100.
Military time does have a few quirks compared to other 24-hour time systems. For example, the leading zero is always written and spoken. The military also used a letter at the end of the time to communicate the time zone. It’s also well-know that no divider is used between the hours and the minutes. Instead of, 11:25, the military would write 1125 followed by a letter for the time zone.
There are several acceptable ways to speak military time, however. For example, if the time you are trying to say is 6:22am (on a standard 12-hour clock) you can say “zero six twenty-two” or “zero six two two”. Both of these forms are acceptable, but saying “six twenty-two” is not acceptable.
Where did Military Time Start?
While the 24-hour time clock dates back to Egyptian times, military time wasn’t adopted by the United States until 1920. It actually started in Britain when the British Royal Navy adopted the 24-hour clock in 1915. This was followed by the Canadian armed forces in 1917 and the British Army in 1918.
The first branch of the United States military to adopt the 24-hour clock was the US Navy in 1920. The US Army didn’t adopt military time until July 1, 1942 during World War II.
The 24-hour clock most refer to as military time isn’t just used by the military, however. Pan American World Airways Corporation and Western Airlines both used a 24-hour clock. The BBC still uses a 24-hour clock for most content and the British Rail, along with London Transport started using a 24-hour clock for their timetables in 1964.
Many other countries and companies across the globe use a 24-hour clock instead of a 12-hour clock. It may be most well associated with the military, hence the term “military time” but the 24-hour clock isn’t just used by military members.