First we got the bomb

First we got the bomb, and that was good

‘Cause we love peace and motherhood

Then Russia got the bomb, but that’s okay

‘Cause the balance of power’s maintained that way

– so sung the American satirist Tom Lehrer.But the Beeb tells it differently.

Michael Gill writes:

I visited the following URL: “Still fighting the bomb, 50 years on.” (Typical output from the Beeb)

From that page, I followed the link to “RELATED BBCi LINKS: On This Day 1957: Britain drops its first H-bomb

Now this page did have an interesting bias.

Take a look at the “Timeline: Arms Race” box. Note how we are given dates when the US exploded H-bombs, when the UK exploded H-bombs, when the French exploded an A-bomb, even when the Chinese detonated an H-bomb.

But no dates for the Soviet Union! At all!

[Well, there are lots of dates for the Soviet union participating in talks to reduce nuclear weapons and several mentions of it having missiles and warheads. It just doesn’t say how it got them. I blame the tooth fairy. – NS]

Interesting arms race where one side doesn’t appear to be participating!

Even though the Soviet Union did detonate by far the biggest H-bomb of them all, the BBC can’t find room to mention it.

According to this website the first Soviet test H-bomb was exploded on 12 August 1953. I gather there is quite a difference in difficulty between making a static experimental bomb and one capable of being launched from an aircraft or missile. (Britain, unusually, went straight to this stage.) The first Soviet thermonuclear bomb to be dropped from an aircraft was exploded in Kazakhstan on 22 November 1955. The biggest H-bomb ever, as mentioned by Mr Gill in his e-mail, was exploded by the USSR over Novaya Zemlya on 30 October 1961. Given a very basic general knowledge of twentieth century history, these dates aren’t hard to find via Google. It’s downright odd that they weren’t mentioned in a timeline that includes such relatively obscure details as the date of France’s third H-bomb. And what the devil is the banning of landmines by the UK doing in a nuclear timeline?

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14 Responses to First we got the bomb

  1. Angie Schultz says:

    Am I looking at the right page? I don’t see any timeline on the “On this day” page, or even a link to onet, and a search on “Timeline: arms race” yielded nothing.


  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree this is great fun.

    I see that the two links in the arms race timeline to the deployment of US intermediate missiles and to the CND protests about them failed to mention – even in the “in context” bit – the prior Soviet intermediate range missile deployments to which the US missiles were a response.

    I was less surprised to note the absence from the timeline : “Soviet Union collapses – we win without firing a shot”

    lee moore


  3. Natalie Solent says:


    On the second link, scroll down under the picture of Christmas Island. The Timeline column runs down the centre of the page.


  4. Angie Schultz says:

    Natalie—Thanks, but no it don’t. Under Christmas Island there’s an audio of Harold Macmillan, and below that a box that says “In Context”, which has a few dates, but is not a timeline. Must be some damned plug-in or sumpin I do not have.


  5. g wiz says:


    The Beeb’s front-page story about the Aug. 6 PDB, aka: The ‘Bin Laden Memo’.

    It doesn’t mention that 70 FBI and CIA investigations focused on Al Queda at the time until the 11 paragraph!

    It also fails to mention the 1996 and 1998 Fatwas that Bin Laden issued publicly. He pledged both times to attack America.

    The BBC should be better than that.


  6. Neil says:

    Angie – yes, the timeline is an embedded Flash object, so you will need the plugin.


  7. rob says:

    The PDB
    The BBC seem to want to go for a Bush lied line on the contents of the PDB –
    “The BBC’s Jon Leyne says the briefing appears to challenge repeated assertions by the White House that it had no specific information that al-Qaeda was planning to attack within the United States.”
    Clive Myrie in the video report suggests a Bush cover up. His quote from the report is
    ” FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings” omitting the rest of the paragraph “or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.”
    This paragraph shows how NON-SPECIFIC was the warning.
    Any criticism of Bush should relate to his response to the PDB. I do not see anything that suggests the administration lied about its contents.


  8. rob says:

    PDB cont’d
    Even questionning Bush’s response has to take account of
    1. The PDB states “The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Laden-related.” Should Bush have said, make that 100, 150?
    2. Increasing air security in the face of such unspecific threats would have been met by howls of complaint. Sections of the UK media have sneered at heightened airline/airport security POST 9/11. How much greater the disbelief before 9/11.


  9. rob says:

    Sunday Times reports that the BBC may not show “Popetown” (,,176-1070728,00.html) an amusing cartoon featuring a pope on a pogostick. It was obviously a satire of Swiftian depth, “Stuart Murphy, controller of BBC Three, had announced the programme, saying: “Having had a Catholic upbringing myself, I believe Jerry Hall will make an excellent nun, and hope Ruby Wax, being Jewish and female, may bring something to the role of the Pope which the Catholic Church may have so far overlooked.””
    Shame, it only cost £2m of licence fee money. I was looking forward to a follow up taking the p*ss out of the Islamic clergy.


  10. rob says:

    More on the reporting of Iraqi casualties.
    BBC1 News – John Simpson (in Baghdad)talks over pictures from Falluja. He tells us we are seeing pictures from the children’s ward (several bandaged kids).
    He doesn’t tell us why we only see scenes most supportive to the insurgents. Perhaps cameras were only allowed into the children’s ward.
    But he no doubt is sympathetic to emotional pictures, as are many of the jihadi supporting Western media.
    This subject is examined by the Belmont Club at


  11. Mike says:

    How cute. A terrorists life in picture courtesy of the BBC. This guy was the “spiritual” leader of a terrorist organization that was responsible for the slaying of hundreds of Israelis. Thank god he’s dead.


  12. don says:

    Guardian reports that MPs consider BBC the most biased of main TV news broadcasters (includes Sky, no doubt omits the Jon Snow Show).
    Storm clouds gathering for the BBC!,14173,1190177,00.html

    registration required for Guardian Media, I think


  13. Tommy says:

    Much as I’m loath to stick up for this publicly funded indulgence, it has to be said that the Jon Snow Show as Don calls it is quite possibly the worst example of presenter-as-auteur current affairs anywhere in the known universe.

    ITV news is very much the “Disaster in Middle East; inferno grips Iraq; armageddon in hours” school of journalism which does get a bit boring: I mean how many times can Iraq threaten to implode without actually imploding?

    Compared with these I’m willing to tolerate Huw Edwards, if not quite Orla “Israelis are probably Nazis” Gerin.

    The issue is simply that poor journalism is bad enough, but to actually pay for it!! Even our pigs in the trough MP’s have had enough.