Croft was born into a showbiz family: his father, Reginald Sharland (1886–1944), had a successful career as a radio actor in Hollywood, and his mother, Annie Croft (1896–1995), was a famous stage actress. His first public appearance was at the age of seven, when he was seen in a commercial which aired in cinemas. After that, his acting career in films "began and ended" with his uncredited appearance as Perkins in the film Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939).
Croft was educated at two independent schools: at Durlston Court Preparatory School in Swanage, followed by Rugby School in Warwickshire. At Durlston Court, he overlapped with the school's only other distinguished old boy, Tony Hancock (b. 1924). The boys attended Sunday services at St.Aldhelm's Church, and Croft later gave that name to the church in Dad's Army. He enlisted in the Royal Artillery in 1942. He served during the Second World War in North Africa, India and Singapore. After contracting rheumatic fever in North Africa, was sent home to convalesce and then underwent officer training at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.
Croft was posted to India, arriving as the war in Europe ended, and was assigned to the Essex Regiment, rising to the rank of Major. When his military service ended he began working in the entertainment industry, as an actor, singer and writer. Croft met Freddie Carpenter, who produced many pantomimes for Howard & Wyndham across the UK, resulting in Croft writing scripts such as Aladdin, Cinderella and Babes in the Wood. Through his lifelong friend, composer/conductor Cyril Ornadel, Croft met the producer Fiona Bentley, who had obtained rights to adapt and musicalise a number of Beatrix Potter stories. Croft wrote the scripts and lyrics for a series released on His Master's Voice Junior Record Club, narrated by Vivien Leigh and starring several singer-actors and actresses including Barbara Brown, Graham Stark and Cicely Courtneidge. David Croft himself played a number of roles, including Timmy Willie in Johnny Town-Mouse, Kep in Jemima Puddle-Duck, and Old Brown in Squirrel Nutkin.
Croft relocated to the Northeast of England to work at Tyne Tees Television, where he produced many editions of the variety show The One O'Clock Show. For Tyne Tees Croft also directed and produced the admags Ned's Shed and Mary Goes to Market, as well as producing his first sitcom, Under New Management, set in a derelict pub in the North of England.
After leaving Tyne Tees Television to work at the BBC in the mid-1960s, he produced a number of the Corporation's popular sitcoms such as Beggar My Neighbour, Further Up Pompeii! and Hugh and I. It was while producing Hugh and I that he was introduced to actor Jimmy Perry, who handed him an unsolicited script for a pilot called The Fighting Tigers about the British Home Guard during the Second World War. Croft liked the idea. The two men co-wrote nine series of the show, which was retitled Dad's Army, as well as a feature film and a stage show based on it.
While Dad's Army was still running, Croft began to co-write Are You Being Served? with Jeremy Lloyd. He was to continue both writing partnerships for the rest of his career in several hit series including It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Hi-de-Hi! and 'Allo 'Allo!. He then started up You Rang, M'Lord?, a show that spoke of policies and unfairness in 1927. His last full series Oh, Doctor Beeching!, broadcast from 1995 to 1997, was co-written with Richard Spendlove. He created a television pilot in 2007, entitled Here Comes The Queen, with Jeremy Lloyd. This pilot starred Wendy Richard and Les Dennis, but because of Wendy Richard's death the show never went to a full series.
As a producer, Croft's regular practice was to signal the end of an episode with the caption "You Have Been Watching ...", followed by vignettes of the main cast.
Croft married theatrical agent Ann Callender on 2 June 1952, and they had seven children and sixteen grandchildren. He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1995 when he was surprised by Michael Aspel outside BBC Television Centre.
His wife Ann died on 11 June 2016.
David Croft died in his sleep on 27 September 2011, at his home in Portugal, twenty days after his 89th birthday.
Croft became an Officer of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire with Jimmy Perry in 1978 for services to television. He also received the 1981 Desmond Davis award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, for his outstanding contributions to the industry.
Croft's awards include:(BAFTA awards): Best Light Entertainment
Nominated: 1970 Dad's Army
Best Light Entertainment Production
1971 Dad's Army (With Team)
Nominated: 1971 Up Pompeii!
Best Situation Comedy Series
Nominated: 1973 Dad's Army
Nominated: 1974 Dad's Army
Best Situation Comedy
Nominated: 1975 Dad's Army
Nominated: 1977 Are You Being Served?
Desmond Davis Award
1982 Lifetime Achievement Award
Best Comedy Series
Nominated: 1982 Hi-de-Hi!
Nominated: 1983 Hi-de-Hi!
Nominated: 1985 Hi-de-Hi!
Nominated: 1986 'Allo 'Allo!
Nominated: 1987 'Allo 'Allo!
Nominated: 1988 'Allo 'Allo!
Nominated: 1989 'Allo 'Allo!
(British Comedy Awards): 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award
Writers' Guild of Great Britain
1969 Best Comedy Script Dad's Army
1970 Best Comedy Script Dad's Army
1971 Best Comedy Script Dad's Army
In addition to writing most of the episodes of these television series, Croft also worked as producer, director and, later, executive producer.1968–1977 Dad's Army
1974–1981 It Ain't Half Hot Mum
1988–1993 You Rang, M'Lord?
1972–1985 Are You Being Served?
1977–1978 Come Back Mrs Noah
1980 Oh Happy Band!
1982–1992 'Allo 'Allo! (Series 1–6)
1992–1993 Grace and Favour
1994 Which Way to the War
2008 Here Comes the Queen
1995–1997 Oh, Doctor Beeching!