Military Wiki
Harold Balfour
Harold Balfour as Under Secretary of State for Air, sitting at his desk at the Air Ministry, London durig the Second World War
Born (1897-11-01)November 1, 1897
Died 21 September 1988(1988-09-21) (aged 90)
Place of birth Camberley, Surrey, England
Place of death Shefford, Berkshire, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army (1914)
Royal Flying Corps (1915-18)
Years of service 1914-1917
Rank Major
Unit 60th Rifles (1914)
60 Squadron (1915-17)
No. 43 Squadron (1917)
40 Squadron (1917-1918)
43 Squadron (1918)

First World War

Awards Military Cross and & Bar

Harold Harington Balfour, 1st Baron Balfour of Inchrye MC & Bar (1 November 1897 – 21 September 1988) was a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom, and First World War flying ace. As Under-Secretary of State for Air in 1944 he was instrumental in the establishment of London Heathrow Airport.

Early years

Balfour was born at Camberley, Surrey, England on 1 November 1897 and educated at Chilverton Elms School, Dover, Kent and later at the Royal Navy College, Osborne, Isle of Wight.

Aviator and fighter ace

During the Second World War, the Under-Secretary of State for Air, H H Balfour, questions an Air Commodore about 250-lb GP bombs, which are about to be loaded into a Bristol Blenheim Mark IV of the Advanced Air Striking Force on a snow-covered airfield in France.

Balfour joined the 60th Rifles in 1914 and served in France for three months before he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. After training he was posted to 60 Squadron. In 1917 he was serving with No. 43 Squadron when he downed two enemy aircraft while flying a Sopwith 1½ Strutter. He was injured in a crash and moved on to the School of Special Flying, 40 Squadron, then returned to 43 Squadron. Now piloting the Sopwith Camel he claimed 7 more victories and was promoted to Major. Balfour then took command of a training school until 1919. He was private secretary and Aide-de-camp to Sir John Salmond 1921-22 and temporary ADC to Sir Samuel Hoare, Secretary for Air, 1923. He retired from the Royal Air Force in 1923 to follow a career in journalism and business. Balfour was interviewed on 30 September 1978 by the art historian Anna Malinovska. The interview is reproduced in Voices in Flight (Pen & Sword Books, 2006)


He contested UK Parliament constituency without success in 1924 and was elected in 1929 as Member of Parliament (MP) for UK Parliament constituency. He served in the Air Ministry from 1938 and was Minister Resident in West Africa, 1944-45. He left the House of Commons in 1945 and was raised to the peerage as Baron Balfour of Inchrye, of Shefford in the County of Berkshire. Balfour died on 21 September 1988 aged 90. He was married twice in 1921 and 1946 with a son from the first marriage and a daughter from the second. One of his wives was Mary Ainslie Profumo (d.1999), sister of the disgraced cabinet minister, John Profumo. After Profumo resigned and Lord Hailsham attacked his morals, Balfour remarked on live television, "When a man has by self-indulgence acquired the shape of Lord Hailsham sexual continence requires no more than a sense of the ridiculous". Balfours's son, diamond historian Ian Balfour (1924-2013), became the 2nd Baron Balfour of Inchrye on his father's death.

Awards and decorations

  • 26 May 1917: Balfour was awarded the Military Cross "for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on many occasions. He was carried out many valuable reconnaissances under very adverse conditions. He has shot down two hostile machines"
  • 22 April 1918: Balfour was awarded a bar to the Military Cross "for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On three occasions during one month he has destroyed one hostile machine and driven down two others completely out of control. On one occasion, flying at very low altitude, under extreme adverse weather conditions, he carried out a reconnaissance, in which he bombed two guns and silenced them, bombed large bodies of troops in a market square, and fired into the hangars and huts in a hostile aerodrome, several casualties being observed. He has at all times shown himself to be a leader of exceptional dash and ability, and offensive patrols led by him have constantly attacked enemy formations with marked gallantry and determination'
  • 5 July 1945: Balfour gained the title 1st Baron Balfour of Inchrye, of Shefford in the County of Berkshire.


  • Harold Balfour, Wings Over Westminster, Hutchinson (1973), ISBN 0-09-114370-5
  • Harold Balfour, An airman marches: early flying adventures, Hutchinson (1933)
  • Harold Balfour, An airman marches: early flying adventures, Greenhil (1985) Abridged ed

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Esmond Harmsworth
Member of Parliament for Isle of Thanet
Succeeded by
Edward Carson
Political offices
Preceded by
Anthony Muirhead
Under-Secretary of State for Air
jointly with Lord Sherwood 1941–1944
Succeeded by
Lord Sherwood
Rupert Brabner
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Balfour of Inchrye
Succeeded by
Ian Balfour

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