Robert Thomson Clark was a military historian and classical scholar who worked as chief news editor at the BBC in London from 1936.
Robert Thomson Clark was the elder son of the Free Church minister, the Rev Peter Alexander Gordon Clark (normally abbreviated to Rev P. A. Gordon Clark), who was minister of the Paisley Road church in Glasgow. He had at least one brother, Gordon Clark.
The family moved to Perth in 1893 after the Reverend Clark was called to Perth's Free West Church.
Robert Clark was educated at Perth Academy and went on to Glasgow University, where he graduated with an MA in 1911, and Balliol College, Oxford where he took Honours in Classics. He then went with a King Edward VII Scholarship to study in Germany, and was only with difficulty able to leave Munich at the outbreak of war in August 1914.
Clark, who served in France with the Black Watch, received his journalistic training on the Glasgow Herald in the years immediately following the war. He was a member of the Herald leader-writing staff in 1921 when be accepted an appointment on the Daily Telegraph. Subsequently he worked on the Manchester Guardian and on the Observer.
He joined the news department of the BBC in 1934 as Foreign News Editor and, from 1936, was senior assistant to John Coatman until succeeding him in December 1937. Unlike Coatman, he was a journalist.
For many years Clark made a close study of the politics of Central and Eastern Europe. He had an intimate knowledge of German and of Germany and, in addition to translations of German works into English, he had published two books while at the BBC on the last days of the German republic and on Germany under the Hitler regime.
Allegations of bias towards General Franco
In February 1937 a long term critic of the BBC, Captain Archibald Ramsay, Conservative MP for Peebles, asked the Assistant Postmaster General to investigate the "grave dissatisfaction" about the alleged downplaying of information received from Franco’s side. After receiving assurances from the Minister that he would convey members’ concerns to the BBC, a Labour MP retorted, to opposition cheers: "Is the Minister aware that many of us are of the opinion that the BBC shows too much partiality to Franco?". By 1938, the pressures on the News Department were so intense that Clarke, the department’s senior news editor, confronted the new Director General, Cecil Graves, to demand that the attacks on “his boys” should stop. It is claimed that Clarke was nearly sacked for his insubordination, only being saved by a supportive petition from news room staff.
- Republican Germany: A political and economic study by Hugh Quigley and R. T. Clark (London: Methuen, 1928)
- The Fall of the German Republic: A political study by R. T. Clark (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1935)
- The German resistance; Carl Goerdelers struggle against tyranny by Gerhard Ritter (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1958) / translated by R. T. Clark
- 'Instructions for the News Department on the Outbreak of War', memo by R. T. Clark (BBC Archive)
- Photo of R. T. Clark pictured alongside with BBC war correspondents Richard Dimbleby, David Howarth and Harvey Sarney (BBC Archive)
- 'BBC appointments: Scotsman to be Chief News Editor', Glasgow Herald, 16 December 1937, 11.
- 'BBC’s alleged Bias: Spanish News', Manchester Guardian, 10 February 1937, 14.
- Jonathan Dimbleby, Richard Dimbleby: A Biography (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1975), 84.