Harold Bamberg CBE (b. 1923) is the Australian-born entrepreneur who founded the Eagle Empire that would play an important part in shaping the early days of the British independent airline industry.
Harold was a pilot during the Second World War, and founded Eagle Aviation Ltd in 1948 with the acquisition of two converted bomber planes which he used for cargo transportation. Delivering fruit throughout Europe initially, he made his first significant profits from the Berlin Airlift, and participated in a number of para-military operations at locations including South Australia’s Woomera Rocket Range and Christmas Island in the Pacific for the nuclear deterrent. With the purchase of more aircraft, by 1951 the company employed 12 pilots amongst a staff of 100 people, and had a share capital of £50,000. The following year, Eagle became a short-haul operator based out of Blackbushe Airport, Hampshire and by 1960 was operating out of Heathrow as one of Europe's largest airlines flying scheduled, charter and trooping services worldwide.
In the face of strong competition from the state-owned BOAC and BEA, Harold became known as an industry innovator. He acquired the travel agency Sir Henry Lunn Ltd, marking one of the earliest occasions that a UK airline became vertically integrated with its own in-house tour operator. Having acquired the Polytechnic Touring Association prior to this, he formed Lunn Poly from the two agencies in the mid-1960s. Harold was the first to put meals on aircraft, was a pioneer of the package holiday business and also operated as sole distributor for Beechcraft and Nomad throughout Europe. In 1968, a number of factors including the loss of the Caribbean licence, the end of trooping and migrant contracts, and a decline in overseas travel due to economic downturn sadly forced the company into liquidation.
Harold was awarded the CBE in 1968 for services to aviation.
Harold was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2004