Today marks the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ first single, Love Me Do. The story has been quite well reported in the media, but 5th October 1962 was also the date on which the first James Bond film Dr No was released...
On the same date in 1930, the airship R-101 crashed on its maiden voyage... six years later, the Jarrow March set off for London... and keeping the north east theme, Brian Johnson of AC/DC turns 65 today. Other notables with 5th October birthdays include Bob Geldof (61 would you believe..?) and Kate Winslet.
But today’s blog concerns someone who died on this date... in 1918. You might know his name, but possibly not much about the man.
Roland Garros (pictured) was born in 1888 and his desire to become a concert pianist changed completely after a visit to the 1909Reims air show. He learnt to fly (fly a plane... not actually fly by himself) and displayed great skill as an exhibition and stunt pilot, as well as setting a number of records including a long distance flight from France to Tunisia. As luck (or otherwise) would have it, he was teaching in Germany when World War I broke out... he managed to escape back to France where he joined a fighter squadron.
One of Garros’ main achievements was the development of a forward-firing machine gun that sent bullets through the rotating propeller blade. He is reported to have shot down five German aircraft in two weeks during March 1915 (although some sources say four); an achievement that led to him being described as an “ace”, a term which was later applied to Allied pilots who had successfully shot down five or more German planes.
Unfortunately, Garros was forced to land his aircraft behind enemy lines the very next month and was captured as he tried to burn his plane (and his “secret” machine gun). Garros was imprisoned and his plane was examined by German aircraft designer Anton Fokker who managed to improve on Garros’ idea courtesy of an interrupter gear... and if you don’t know what one of those is... it’s a gear... that interrupts...
Roland Garros managed to escape from his prison camp early in 1918 – you’d think that was a good thing... but sadly, just weeks before the end of the War, he was shot and killed in action.
His legacy is now remembered through the French tennis open which is held in the stadium that bears his name. A fitting testament to the memory of an innovative and brave pioneer and a guarantee, I suppose, of seeing yet more “aces”...
All my own work... almost.