was an early sport pilot, coming second in
the Paris-Rome and Paris-London-Paris races.
He then made the first crossing of the
in 1913. Just before the Great War he won the Monaco seaplane race.
On the outbreak of the First
World War, Garros was sent to serve on the Western Front.
Garros realised that he would have more success in dogfights if he could
find a way of firing a machine-gun through the propeller. Working with
Raymond Saulnier, a French aircraft manufacturer, Garros, added
deflector plates to the blades of the propeller of his Morane-Saulnier.
These small wedges of toughened steel diverted the passage of those
bullets which struck the blades.
Now able to use a forward-firing machine-gun, went out searching for his
first victim. On 1st April 1915, Garros approached an German Albatros B
II reconnaissance aircraft. The German pilot was surprised when Garros
approached him head-on. The accepted air fighting strategy at the time
was to take 'pot-shots' with a revolver or rifle. Instead Garros shot
down the Albatros through his whirling propeller.
In the next two weeks Garros shot down four more enemy aircraft.
However, the success was short-lived because on 18th April, a rifleman
defending Courtrai railway station, managed to fracture the petrol pipe
of the aircraft that Garros was flying. Garros was forced to land behind
the German front-line and before he could set-fire to his machine it was
captured by the Germans. After finding out about Garros' invention,
German pilots began using these deflector plates on the blades of their
In 1918 Garros escaped from Germany and returned to active service on
the Western Front. Roland Garros was shot down and killed at Vouziers on
5th October 1918.
Today Roland Garros has a
tennis tournament named after him although he seems
never to have had a connection with this sport!