Frederick Adam Roenne was also known as Ferdinand Frederick Adam Roenne, Adam Roenne and Baron Roenne. He was a true man of mystery – a confidence trickster, fraudster and swindler. He also may have been an accomplished airship and naval engineer.
His Life in Prussia?
There are marriage records for a Ferdinandus Roenn dated 13th October 1892 (so he would have been about 18 or 19 years old). The marriage took place in Katholisch, Mutscheid, Rheinland, Prussia. His bride was Catharina Krumbein and the groom’s parents were Henrici Roenn and Elisabethae Schoester.
There is also a reference to a Baron Roenne in the Evangelical Lutheran Books for Latvian births 1854 –1939, showing him as the father of a child called Gertrude.
Another marriage in the Lutheran books, for a Paul Alexander Leon Adam Von Roenne in 1879, might be a link. His date of birth was 1846 (so aged 33 years). He would be too old for our man but the similarity in the name is striking – our man’s father or uncle perhaps?
Ferdinand arrives in England and his Dirigible Airships!
Police evidence gathered later states that Ferdinand came to England from Germany in March 1909. After this, there are a series of intriguing pieces of evidence about our man and his ventures.
Early in 1910, Ferdinand established an office in the Haymarket London, SW1 for the ‘promulgation of aircraft’. In 1910 The Patent Office granted Adam Roenne two patents,
- GB- 1910-14688 for “An improved Airship” and
- GB- 1910-25469 for “Improvement for Docks for Airships”
The inventor’s address was 11 Haymarket London SW. His patents appear under the heading of ‘patents filed by Britons’.
In March 1910, The Royal Engineers Journal published an article by Baron Roenne entitled “Dirigible Airships”. It extols the virtues of the airship over other methods of flight.
Protection for Warships and a Patent for an Invisible Airship
On 29 November 1911, the Journal of the Royal United Services Institution published an article by Baron Roenne, entitled “Protection for Warships against torpedoes, mines, and under water hits by shells”.
During the Turkish Italian War (September 1911 -October 1912), he contacted Whites Shipyard at Cowes saying he was commissioned by the Turkish Government to purchase six destroyers. Negotiations came to nothing.
In 1912, various newspapers announced that Baron Adam Roenne had applied for a patent for an “Invisible Airship”.
21 months hard labour
The London Evening News, announced on 31 October 1913 that, ‘Airship inventor and engineer of Russian nationality, Ferdinand Frederick Adam Roenne, 31 otherwise Baron Roenne, appeared on remand…’
On 19 November 1913, Ferdinand Frederick Adam Roenne, Russian, an architect, aged 31 was found guilty at the Old Bailey of obtaining £115 from three people by false pretences and goods by false pretences.
He was sentenced to 21 months hard labour in Wormwood Scrubs and was also recommended for expulsion under the Aliens Act of 1905.
Publicity surrounding the trial tells us much about what Ferdinand had been up to over the previous few years.
A newspaper article published Friday 18th April 1919 in the Aberdeen Press & Journal states that the Baron, at the time of his arrest, declared he was of Russian nationality, but he was afterwards discovered to be German.
It was stated that his name did not appear in the Register of Russian nobility.
A witness said that Roenne had told him that he was expecting £1,300 from a motor car company for the sale of cars to the Russian Government. He also claimed the British Government would pay him £35,000 for a patent. Neither of these statements were true.
Detective Sergeant Steele gave evidence and told the Court that Roenne had advertised in a newspaper that he was an inventor who was financially embarrassed. If someone were to give him a home he would repay them on completion of his invention.
A lady in Kensington provided him with food and lodgings for six months. She received no money and discovered he was a fraudster. She said that Roenne had, ‘practically ruined two young ladies.’ The Detective added that Roenne was probably a “German Pole”
Another witness said, ‘All the time he has been in England I cannot find anywhere he has earned an honest penny.’
Plans of British airships in his possession
Detective Sgt Steel discovered Roenne to be in possession of plans relating to British airships, aeroplanes, warships and docks. He was supposedly one of Count Zeppelin’s principal engineers.
Just before he was arrested, Ferdinand had formed a syndicate to establish a British airline between London and Berlin. He estimated that each of his airships could carry 200 first class passengers and 200 second class passengers. He thought that the airship might bring about a profit of £1,000,000.
The baron had written many books on airships and in March 1913, he had delivered a lecture to a distinguished audience in London.
This article went on to report that Baron Ferdinand Adam Roenne, who in November 1913 was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment for fraud was subsequently interned. He died in Long Grove Criminal Lunatic Asylum.
The General Register Office recorded his death age 35, in the March quarter of 1919, reference Epsom 2a 85. He was buried in Horton cemetery on 27 February 1919, grave reference 310a.
An intriguing man! Was he just a trickster? Was he a talented engineer or was he even a spy? We will probably never know.