One Heroe, one Story : Lieutenant Roland Garros
Roland Garros was an extraordinary aviator and a colourful character with a heroic destiny.
Born in the sun of Saint-Denis on the Reunion Island, student at HEC, Roland Garros was already passionate about aviation at 21years old and he went on to become a pioneer. «He was without doubt one of the best pilots in the wolrd» says Michaël Guittard (responsible for the Roland Garros Museum collections) and his most noted achievement is undoubtedly that of having crossed the Mediterranean in a monoplane in 1913.
When war broke out, he obviously joined up as a pilot and also played a role in the development of a synchronised system for firing through a propeller, because Roland Garros wasn’t just an extraordinary pilot he was also a genius!
In April 1915, Roland Garros was shot down by the Germans while flying over Belgium. He was taken as a prisoner, but not before trying to burn his plane, in vain, to hide the secret synchronisation techniques from the Germans.
He tried to escape several times while held captive for three years. The 15th February 1918, he finally escaped with another pilot by making false German officer uniforms. After crossing Germany, Holland and England, they reached France and Paris to be welcomed by Georges Clemenceau.
A few months later, he was back in the air fighting with the prestigious Storks squadron. But the 5th October 1918, his airplane was again shot down by the Germans. One month before the Armistice, the lieutenant Roland Garros died a hero.
If his name is linked to tennis thanks to the famous Roland Garros courts at the porte d’Auteuil, in Paris, it’s due to his friend from the HEC and “godfather” of the Stade Français Emile Lesieur. While the courts were being built, he insisted that they be named after his friend Roland Garros : « I won’t give a penny of my money to this Sporting complex if you don’t name it after my friend Garros