Colonel Noel Andrew Cotton Croft DSO OBE (30 November 1906 – 26 June 1998), was a member of the Special Operations Executive in the Second World War, with operations in Norway and Corsica, as well as Military attaché to Sweden, an explorer, holding the longest self-sustaining journey in the Guinness Book of Records for more than 60 years (across Greenland), and Commandant of the Cadet Corps of the Metropolitan Police Service. He also stepped down with his leader, Eric Shipton, from the 1953 Everest Expedition which summitted the mountain that year. He was a recipient of the Polar Medal.
Noel Andrew Croft was born on 30 November 1906, St Andrews Day, in Stevenage in Hertfordshire where his father, Robert, was the local vicar. After two prep schools, he attended Lancing College, before becoming one of the founding pupils at Stowe School, and then going up to Christ Church, Oxford in 1925.
Career as an Explorer
Croft participated in several Arctic expeditions.
In 1934, along with Lieutenant A.S.T. Godfrey, RE and Martin Lindsay, Croft participated in the 1934 British Trans-Greenland Expedition as the expedition photographer and dog-handler. In order to do so, he learned to speak Danish and Greenlandic and learned to be an expert dog-driver.
He served as the second-in-command of the Oxford University Arctic Expedition, 1935–36, under A. R. Glen, a glaciologist. The expedition, under the auspices of the Oxford University Exploration Club, was a fourteen-month-long scientific survey of North-East Land.
War service and army career
During WWII Andrew Croft served in Finland, Norway & Sweden before returning to active service with 14 Commando. He served with a Special Forces unit behind enemy lines in Tunisia, and was then given an independent command in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to operate small motor boats out of Calvi in Northern Corsica. Covert missions were carried out to the Italian and French coasts, where secret agents and equipment were landed and picked up. In 1944 he was parachuted into Southern France to organise the French Resistance there. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on 15 March 1945. Following the end of the war he was granted a regular commission on 21 May 1949, backdated to his original commissioning.
On 24 July 1952, he married Rosalind Madden, the widow of an Irish Guards officer.
In 1960 Croft became the first Commandant of the Metropolitan Police's Hendon Police College, and was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1970 New Year Honours for his successful development of the Corps of Cadets. In 1968, he served as a member of the organizing committee for an Arctic exploration expedition led by Wally Herbert. A member of the expedition, Allan Gill, suffered a serious lower back injury requiring his evacuation.
Polar Exploration: Epics of the Twentieth Century
A Talent for Adventure The Self-Publishing Association, 1991
- The London Gazette: . 6 February 1942. Retrieved 2008-03-17.
- The London Gazette: . 30 December 1969. Retrieved 2008-03-17.
- 'The British Trans-Greenland Expedition, 1934' The Geographical Journal Vol. 85, No. 5 (May 1935
- The Times July 15, 1935. pg. 15
- The London Gazette: . 13 March 1945. Retrieved 2008-03-17.
- The London Gazette: . 20 May 1949. Retrieved 2008-03-17.
- The Times July 4, 1952, pg. 8
- Glen, Alexander R. (2004). "‘Croft, (Noel) Andrew Cotton (1906–1998)’". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/70174. Retrieved 2008-03-17.
- The Times, by a Staff Reporter, September 26, 1968, pg. 1
- The Andrew Croft Memorial Fund (http://www.acmf.org.uk/)