the Hon Charles Stewart Rolls 1877 - 1910

The son of a wealthy British peer, Rolls might have led a carefree life often associated with the young Edwardian aristocracy. Instead, he combined an adventurous spirit with an education and thus made a useful contribution to his nation.

Rolls went to Cambridge University where he earned a BA, and later MA in engineering. His love for speed led him to become a racing cyclist. Later he turned to racing automobiles along with his friend, Moore-Brabazon.

In 1896 Rolls joined with other auto enthusiasts to break a law which forbade automobile travel at over 4mph (6.4km/hr). Their defiance led to a new speed limit which at 12 mph (19.3 km/hr) was 200% faster than had previously been allowed.

In 1901 Rolls, having become an aeronaut, helped found the Aero Club. Two years later he entered an automobile sales venture in London selling expensive French cars. One day a friend introduced him to F. H. Royce who was just beginning to build quality automobiles. Royce, who had worked hard his entire life, had little in common with Rolls yet they still became friends. In 1904 they agreed that Royce would build cars and Rolls would sell them. Rolls-Royce was born.

Rolls continued to fly balloons when he wasn't demonstrating his soon-to-be-famous products. His balloon flying led to aeroplane flying and in 1910 he received certificate number 2 from the Royal Aero Club (Royal as of that year). Later in the same year he became the first man to fly non-stop across the English Channel both ways, but his triumph was short lived. In July 1910 he was killed when his French-built Wright biplane broke up in mid-air. Though he came down from only 20 feet, he cracked his skull. He became Britain's first aircraft fatality.

Charles Stewart Rolls

Charles Rolls makes his his first balloon flight, Sept. 8, 1898

Rolls completed the first double crossing of the Channel - England/France/England on 2 June 1910 in total flying time 95 1/2 minutes and is pictured below.

Rolls completes the first double crossing of the Channel

A French built moving tail plane was fitted 10 July 1910 to his Wright plane. On 12 July in a 20 - 25 mph wind he crashed when tail plane broke at the Bournemouth International Aviation Meeting in celebration of the town's centenary. Rolls was the first Briton to die in an aviation accident. At this time Rolls' exploits had built up such a following in Great Britain that Lord Montague of Beaulieu interrupted his speech in the House of Lords to announce the death. Rolls was buried at St. Cadoc's Church 16 July 1910.

Charles Rolls, Vauxhall, 1908

Charles Rolls' fatal crash, 1910