23 September 1921

Le Marquis Bernard Henri Marie Léonard Barny de Romanet with a Spad-Herbemont, (S.20bis6) 9 October 1920. (Agence Meurisse 84138/BnF)

23 September 1921: While flight-testing the new Lumière-De Monge racer, Lieutenant Bernard Henri Marie Léonard Barny de Romanet was tragically killed in a crash.

Flight reported:


     It is with the most profound regret that we have this week to place on record the accident which resulted in the death of one of France’s finest and most popular pilots, Count Bernard de Romanet. It appears that on September 23 de Romanet took the de Monge machine up for a trial flight. He had previously tested the machine as a biplane, but this is said to have been the first flight made with it as a monoplane; and it proved to be the last. According to reports, de Romanet took off well and climbed to a height of a few hundred metres. He then flattened out, and, it is thought, opened out the engine. The machine is stated by eye-witnesses to have “leapt forward” and to have proceeded at a great pace, judged to be over 300 kilometres (186 miles) per hour. The fabric of the left wing was seen to lift and fly back from the wing. The machine heeled over to the left, but for a few seconds it looked as if de Romanet would regain control, as he managed to right the machine. It then, however, got into a dive, and is stated to have dived straight into the ground. Needless to say, the unfortunate pilot was killed instantly by the terrible shock.

     With regard to the cause of the accident, it is stated in our French contemporary L’Auto that it is though that the stitching of the fabric was at fault, the distances between the stitches which attached the fabric to the framework being 12 centimetres instead of the usual 2 centimetres.

     Le Marquis Bernard de Romanet came of a very old French family. He was born at Macon on January 28, 1894, and at the age of 18 he commenced his military service in the cavalry. He was made an officer during the War, and distinguished himself, first in the cavalry and later as a pilot. Bernard de Romanet was an officer of the Legion of Honour, and held the Croix de Guerre with 18 palms and the Medaille Militaire. At the end of the War he took to civil aviation, and was always a prominent figure in speed races, being the crack pilot of the Spad-Herbemont machines. At Monaco he won the speed race of 1920, and he put up a splendid flight in last year’s Gordon-Bennett race, in spite of a broken oil pipe which forced him to land smothered in oil.

     Some time ago de Romanet had a slight accident while testing a land machine with floatation gear. He alighted on the Seine, but the machine turned turtle instantly, and he was rescued by a motor-boat. While testing the de Monge machine for the Aerial Derby one of his wheels broke, without, however, causing serious damage to the machine. He was an interested spectator at the Derby, in which, but for the mishap, he would have been a competitor. His death will be regretted not only among his many friends, but in the world of aviation generally, for he was a great pilot, a great gentleman, and, last but not least, a real sportsman.

FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, No. 666 (No. 39, Vol. XIII), 29 September 1921, at Page 651

Lumière-de Monge.  (L’Aérophile, 15 September 1921, at Page 280)

Barny de Romanet’s racing airplane, the Lumière-de Monge, was designed by Vicomte Louis-Pierre de Monge de Franeau, and built by Establissements Lumière. It was a strut-braced biplane which could rapidly be converted to a monoplane. The airplane was 7 meters (22 feet, 11.6 inches) long, with an upper wing span of 8 meters (26 feet, 3.0 inches) and lower span of 6 meters (19 feet, 8.2 inches). Its height was 2.75 meters (9 feet, 0.3 inches). The chord of the upper wing was 2.60 meters (8 feet, 6.4 inches) at the root, narrowing to 1.40 meters (4 feet, 7.1 inches) at the tips. The vertical gap between the upper and lower wings was 1.10 meters (3 feet, 7.3 inches). The plan of the upper wing was distinctively trapezoidal and had an area of 15 square meters (161.46 square feet). The lower, 5 square meters (53.82 square feet). It weighed 950 kilograms (2,094 pounds).

Lumière-de Monge biplane racer (Les Ailes. Premiere Annee—Nº 10., Thursday, 25 August 1921, at Page 2, Columns 4–5)

The Lumière-de Monge was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 18.472 liter (1,127.265-cubic-inch-displacement) Hispano-Suiza 8Fb V-8 engine, with a compression ratio of 5.3:1. The direct-drive engine had a normal power rating of 300 horsepower at 1,850 r.p.m., and could produce a maximum of 400 horsepower. The V-8 engine had a dry weight of 360 kilograms (793.663 pounds). A Lamblin cylindrical radiator was placed above the upper wing.

The de Monge V.a. (FLIGHT, No. 655 (Vol. XIII, No. 29), 21 July 1921, at Page 492)

Le Marquis Bernard Henri Marie Léonard Barny de Romanet was born at Saint-Maurice-de-Satonnay, Saône-et-Loire, Bourgogne, France, 28 January 1894. He was the son of Léonard Jean Michel Barny de Romanet and Marie Noémie Isabelle de Veyssière. He descended from a very old French family.

Bernard Barny de Romanet joined the Cavalry at the age of 18 years, and was assigned to the 16º Regiment de Chasseaurs, 6 December 1912. During World War I, he served with both cavalry and infantry regiments as a Maréchel de Logis (master sergeant) before transferring to the Aéronautique Militaire in July 1915, as a photographer and observer.

After completing flight training in 1916, de Romanet was assigned as a pilot. In early 1918, de Romanet trained as a fighter pilot. He shot down his first enemy airplane 23 May 1918, for which he was awarded the Médaille Militaire, and was promoted to Adjutant (warrant officer). De Romanet was commissioned as a Sous-Lieutenant (equivalent to a second lieutenant in the United States military) several months later. After a fourth confirmed victory he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (first lieutenant).

By August 1918, Lieutenant de Romanet was in command of Escadrille 167. He was officially credited with having shot down 18 enemy aircraft, sharing credit for 12 with other pilots. He claimed an additional 6 airplanes destroyed.

Lieutenant de Romanet was appointed Chevalier de la légion d’honneur, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre with three  étoiles en vermeil (silver gilt) stars and 10 palmes.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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