George Clark, an acclaimed journalist who rubbed shoulders with Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher has died, leaving a controversial and humourous legacy of work. Reporter SARA NELSON looks back on the Chislehurst resident's career.

BORN in 1918 in Bedford, George Clark's journalism career spanned almost 60 years and saw him scale the full heights of political journalism.

Mr Clark's first job as a messenger at The Bedford Times was to be a springboard from which he would eventually make his name at The Times.

It was during his career with The Times he met many important figures, including Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Harold Wilson.

Mr Clark, formerly of Highfield Road, Chislehurst, also got to know Sir Winston Churchill, after befriending his son-in-law Christopher Soames, the MP for Bedford.

The pair were so close, the former Prime Minister allowed him to use his offices in Westminster.

Over time, the pair struck up a friendship, with the Prime Minister often pausing to remark: "The pen is mightier than the sword" when he came across Mr Clark at work.

Mr Clark, a father-of-four, found himself to be the subject of local and international news after he came across military documents scattered across Chislehurst and St Paul's Cray Common in 1967.

He had been cycling through the nearby woods when he came across the badly charred papers, which looked as if somebody had tried to burn them.

A number of the documents, some marked "top secret", related to British Army military missiles and included details of the range and striking power of some of the weaponry.

Others referred to testing grounds, missile-making firms in European and United States bases, the testing of missile equipment and American policies on missile maintenance and training.

Some of the documents even appeared to have details of Army movements and arrangements for visits of high-ranking officers to European and American bases.

The documents, which dated back to 1956, were handed to The Ministry of Defence and prompted an immediate investigation.

It was not the first time Mr Clark found himself in the news.

In 1969 he was embroiled in controversy after publicly falling out with Richard Crossman, the Labour Secretary for Social Services.

Mr Crossman had personally attacked Mr Clark for his reporting of the delay in implementing increased National Insurance charges.

The two men did not speak for several years, but by 1974 Mr Crossman confessed his attack had been necessary under embarrassing circumstances.

He also covered Thatcher's re-election and was present at the House of Commons during the debates about sending British forces to Suez in 1956.

Mr Clark's son Henrik said: "Dad was always inquisitive.

"He had an insatiable appetite for knowledge and passing it on and he was always scribbling notes.

"The funny thing was we could never find out about his politics.

"Despite spending his life covering political events, he never revealed who he voted for."

Mr Clark's work also revealed his humourous side.

He once laid a posy of flowers beside the Petts Wood William Willett memorial, commemorating the builder who campaigned for daylight saving and whose efforts led to the Summer Time Act of 1925.

After depositing this token, Mr Clark contacted the press to report the Chislehurst builder's birthday had touchingly been remembered by a member of the public.

Following an illustrious career, Mr Clark retired from The Times in 1983.

A year later, he was made an OBE for services to journalism, after being put forward by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He received the Prix du Journalisme Europeen in 1991 for his reports on European affairs.

Despite his retirement, he continued to freelance and reported extensively on the European Parliament and contributed obituaries to The Times, where his own was published last week.

Mr Clark died in Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup, on March 4, following a long illness.

His funeral service was held at Lewisham crematorium on March 10.

Mr Clark is survived by his Danish-born wife Grethe and his children Henrik, Vibeke, Karen, Diana and Per.