Robert Loraine - Actor and Aviator
by
Jennifer Carnell

A photograph of Captain Robert Loraine in uniform, taken in about 1916 by Lafayette.
In 1915 he was awarded the Military Cross after an aerial fight with German planes.

My own interest in Loraine stems from his actor father, who is profiled in my new book Mary Elizabeth Braddon and the Victorian theatre.

In 2010 a nice thing happened when I sold a signed copy of his second wife Winifred Loraine's biography of her husband, and the purchaser from the Isle of Wight asked me if I could put him in touch with any of Robert Loraine's descendants. Because of my interest in Loraine's family, I knew the name of his daughters and I was able to reply, 'One of their daughters was called Joan. I just did some searching and I think she may well be this lady (scroll down, she owns a well-known garden in Somerset), and she looks just like Robert Loraine in the face: http://www.johnhurford.co.uk/whatsnew.htm '. Richard made contact and it was indeed the right Joan Loraine and she was then able to attend the 100th anniversary celebration of his flight to the Isle of Wight; although I wasn't able to attend, I was very happy to have been of help.

Robert Loraine (1876-1935) was the son of an actor and actress and also had other relatives on the stafe. His first wife was the actress Julie Opp, who he met when they were performing in The Prisoner of Zenda. Robert left the stage for a time and fought in the Boer Boer War and was awarded the Queen's Medal with clasps for Wittebergen, Transvaal and the Cape Colony. In 1901 he went to act in New York, where his good looks led him to be called New York's 'most beautiful man'. When he returned to England he played Henry V and met George Bernard Shaw. He appeared in Man and Superman in New York in 1905 and spent time with and later acted in more Bernard Shaw plays in London, including Arms and the Man.

After a false start with a Bleriot plane, in 1910 he obtained a plane from Henry Farman and got his licence on 21 June 1910 and competed at England's First International Aviation Week, Bournemouth Meeting on 11 and 12 July 1910 and won the flight to and back from the Isle of Wight.

When the First World War began, Robert Loraine joined the Royal Flying Corps. In 1917 he was made Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the D.S.O.

After the War he returned to the stage and his later successful roles included Cyrano de Bergerac at Drury Lane in 1919.

Recommended Reading: Winifred Loraine, Robert Loraine: Soldier, Actor, Airman (London: Collins, 1938).

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