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"The school had a good reputation scholastically but the food was awful, and wartime rationing did not help. Several of us fainted on the station platform under freezing conditions at the end of the 1917 winter term; we had had only porridge for breakfast and even that was burnt."

'A Talent for Adventure' by Andrew Croft

Andrew Croft: A resume of his life

CROFT, Noel Andrew Cotton (1906 – 1998)

SILVER: ARCTIC 1935 – 1936 (L.g. 10.2.42)

EXPEDITION: Oxford University Expedition to North East Land 1935-36

Born 30.11.1906. The son of the Curate of Stevenage, Hertfordshire. Attended Lancing and Stowe Schools, becoming head boy at Stowe. Went to Christ Church, Oxford, and then spent two years in Lancashire, working in the cotton trade. During the slump of 1929 he went to the Continent for a year to learn French and German. He found himself a captive audience with Hitler, and was a witness to Hitler’s Brown Shirts at the burning of the Reichstag. In 1933-34 he was a member of Martin Lindsay’s three-man Trans-Greenland Expedition as principal dog driver and photographer. He went out to Greenland in advance of the other members and wintered at Jakobshaven. He took part in the crossing of Greenland from east to west in 15 weeks, covering 1080 miles. The reconnaissance mapping of Greenland’s highest mountains was also carried out. In 1934-35 he became a tutor and ADC to the young, and last, of the Maharajahs of Cooch Behar. In 1935-36 he served as Second-in-command of Glen’s Oxford University North East Land Arctic Expedition, where he spent a year sledging and mapping, and again taking charge of the dogs and photography. For this expedition he was awarded the Polar Medal and later received the Back Award of the Royal Geographical Society. His next three years were spent in Cambridge with Louis Clarke, an art connoisseur, philanthropist and friend of Queen Mary. He prepared himself for the forthcoming war by training as a pilot, but when war broke out he was rejected by the RAF as being too old at 32. He joined the Army and was sent as British Army Liaison Officer to the Finnish Army, during the Russian onslaught in the winter of 1939-40. When the Germans invaded Norway in April 1940 he was in Bergen engaged in organising supplies for Finland. He made his way to Alesund, from where he was evacuated to England. In late April 1940 he was posted back to Norway as Chief Intelligence Officer to Brigadier Colin Gubbin’s Independent Companies operating in the region of Bodo, but was evacuated shortly afterwards. In the autumn of 1940, after a training course in guerrilla warfare, he was posted to the Combined Operation Directorate, and given the task of devising and testing landing craft for use on commando raids, and to act as an instructor in small boat handling. Late in 1941, he served in Stockholm as Assistant Military Attache at the British Legation, to gather intelligence through contacts with the Norwegian resistance. He also joined Sandy Glen in long-range ice reconnaissance missions, by Catalina aircraft, to map the southern limits of Arctic drift ice for the benefit of the convoys to Russia. In 1942 he returned to active service with the Commando forces engaged in small boat training. He was then sent to the Mediterranean and, in April 1943, operated for a while with the Special Forces unit behind German lines in Tunisia, and was then put in charge of small boat training at a base in eastern Algeria. Between August 1943 and September 1944 he was given an independent command to operate small boats out of Calvi in Northern Corsica on covert missions to the Italian and French coasts, where secret agents and equipment were landed. For this hazardous work he was awarded the DSO. In early August 1944, after parachute training, his team was dropped into southern France, to operate behind German lines. He spent the last two months of the war in Denmark, helping to disarm the Germans. In 1945 whilst still in the Army he was invited to serve as the British Army observer on the Canadian Exercise ‘Musk Ox’, involving a 3000 mile winter journey across the Canadian northern wastes.

After a period of secondment to the Canadian Department of National Defence, to develop clothing and equipment for Arctic warfare, he obtained a regular commission in 1949.

For the last six years of his army service he was in charge of the Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion at Plymouth, and of the Army Apprentices’ School at Harrogate, in the rank of Colonel. On his retirement from the army in 1960 he became Commander of the newly formed Metropolitan Police Cadet Corps at Hendon, where he remained until his final retirement in 1971. He was appointed OBE in 1970.

Copyright: Savannah Publications: Lieutenant Colonel Neville W Poulsen/Rear Admiral J A C Myers CB: British Polar Exploration and Research.

Copyright © 2017 Trustees of The Andrew Croft Memorial Trust