Roland Garros (aviator)

Roland Garros (October 6 1888October 5 1918) was an early French aviator and a fighter aircraft pilot during World War I.


Garros was born in Saint-Denis, Réunion. He started his aviation career in 1909 flying Santos-Dumont's Demoiselle monoplane, an aircraft that only flew well with a small lightweight pilot. In 1911 Garros graduated to flying Bleriot monoplanes and entered a number of European air races with this type of machine. He was already a noted aviator before World War I having visited the US and South America; by 1913 he had switched to flying Morane-Saulnier monoplanes, a vast improvement over the Blériot, and gained fame for making the first non-stop flight across the Mediterranean Sea from Fréjus in south of France to Bizerte in Tunisia. The following year, Garros joined the French army at the outbreak of the conflict.

Garros and Development of Interruptor Gear

In the early stages of the air war in World War I the problem of achieving a practicable platform for a forward-firing machine gun on combat aircraft was considered by a number of individuals. The so-called Interrupter gear did not come into use until Anthony Fokker developed a synchronisation device which made a large impact on air combat, however Garros also had a significant role in the process of achieving this goal.

In December 1914, Garros, as a reconnaissance pilot with the Escadrille MS26, visited the Morane-Saulnier Works. Saulnier's work on metal deflector wedges attached to propeller blades was taken forward by Garros; he eventually had a workable installation fitted to his Morane-Saulnier Type L aircraft. Garros achieved the first ever shooting-down of an aircraft in which deflector wedges were used, on 1 April 1915; two more victories over German aircraft were achieved on 15th and 18th April 1915.

On April 18, 1915, either Garros' fuel line clogged or, by other accounts, his aircraft was downed by ground fire, and he glided to a landing on the German side of the lines. Garros succeeded in burning the aircraft before being taken prisoner but the gun and armoured propellor remained intact. After examining the plane, German aircraft engineers, led by Fokker, designed the improved interrupter gear system. The tables were reversed against the Allies due to Fokker's planes shooting down nearly every enemy aircraft they met, leading to what became known as the Fokker Scourge.

Garros managed to escape from a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany in February 1918 and rejoined the French army. On October 5, 1918, he was shot down and killed near Vouziers, Ardennes, a month shy of the end of the war and one day before his 30th birthday.

Garros is erroneously called the world's first fighter ace. In fact, he shot down three aircraft, and the honour of the first ace went to another French airman, Adolphe Pegoud.

Places named after Roland Garros

In the 1920s, a tennis centre was named after the pilot, Stade de Roland Garros. The stadium accommodates the French Open, one of tennis' Grand Slam tournaments. Consequently, the tournament is officially called Roland Garros.

The international airport of La Réunion, Roland Garros Airport, is also named after him.

Peugeot Car Manufacturers (French) commissioned a 'Roland Garros' limited edition version of its 205 model in celebration of the Tennis Tournament that bears his name. The model included special paint and leather interior. Due to the success of this special edition, Peugeot later created Roland Garros editions of its 106, 206, 306 and 806 models.


See also

External links

  • http://www.peugeotrolandgarros.co.uk

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