Roland Garros: The National Hero of France Immortalized in History

Roland Garros immortalized his name as a national hero of France. Mariela de Diego 05/20/2024 06:43 8 min

Roland Garros is synonymous with tennis. It is one of the four Grand Slams in the world and the only one popularly known with a proper name. It would be logical to think, then, that the tournament is named in honor of a tennis great as well.

However, his name had little to do with rackets and brick dust. And although it is true that in his youth he practiced several sports, including tennis, Garros went down in history for his heroism in a completely different field: aviation.

His full name was Eugéne Adrien Roland Georges Garros and was born on October 8, 1888 in Saint-Denis, capital of Reunion Island, a French territory near Madagascar. At the age of 12, and to recover from pneumonia, his parents sent him to Cannes, and he would never return to his homeland.

His full name was Eugene Adrien Roland Georges Garros.

In Cannes he completed his secondary studies and had decided to study law. But in 1909, when she was 18 years old, attended an event that would change his destiny: the Champagne Aviation Week, where the latest advances in the thriving aeronautical industry were exhibited. It was there that he made the decision: I was going to be a pilot.

At the age of 19 he learned to fly and made his first takeoffs in a Demoiselle monoplane. In seven months he obtained his license and continued to gather flying hours and experience. Soon He began competing in races throughout Europe., such as Paris-Madrid and the European Circuit (Paris-London-Paris), where he obtained second place. He also achieved the altitude record twice.

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His competitive spirit led him to face a historic feat: crossing the Mediterranean Sea on a non-stop flight. On September 23, 1913, the 24-year-old Garros took off in a Morane-Saulnier monoplane from Saint-Raphael, southern France, bound for Tunisia. A straight line flight of 756 km over the water, at 3 thousand meters high.

Although he had engine problems shortly after takeoff, Garros went ahead and achieved the feat. After almost 8 hours of flight, he landed in Tunisia, with only 5 liters of gasoline in the plane’s tank. His last name was consolidated in the list of idols of the time.

On September 23, 1913, Garros became the first man to cross the Mediterranean Sea non-stop.

But a year later, in 1914, the First World War and Garrostrue to his spirit, he enlisted in the French Air Force, where he would become a national hero.

Defeated enemies and an invention that changed the aviation industry

Unlike most pilots – who flew biplanes – Garros began fighting in a monoplane. At that time, aviation was still I hadn’t found a way to install machine guns that will shoot at the enemy without first hitting the propeller of the plane itself.

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For this reason, war pilots carried weapons with them to shoot themselves. This included revolvers and even stones and other projectiles that were thrown manually.

Garros, together with engineer Raymond Saulnier, devised and developed a solution that would revolutionize aerial combat. A synchronization system that allowed, when firing the submachine gun from the cockpit, the ammunition to pass between the propeller blades.

With this sophisticated mechanism Garros took off into combat and became a lethal threat to France’s enemies. In April 1915 he shot down three German planes, an impressive number for the combats of the time.

The synchronization mechanism that Garros devised revolutionized war aviation.

But on the 18th of that month, his plane was hit by German anti-aircraft artillery and fell to the ground. Garros saved his life. But the Germans captured him and also captured his plane.which hid the secret mechanism that the pilot had devised.

He was the Belgian engineer Anthony Fokker –emblematic surname of aviation- who deciphered and replicated the system devised by Garrosand in a few weeks the German air force also had the synchronization mechanism.

Meanwhile, and for three years, Garros remained a prisoner in a camp in Magdeburg. He managed to escape from prison along with his colleague and compatriot Anselme Marchal, disguising himself as German soldiers and deceiving the prison guards. When he returned to Paris, he was greeted as a hero. However, the war continued and Garros wanted to fly again.

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There were only five weeks until the war ended and three days before Garros turned 30 years old. On October 5, 1918, it took off for the last time. A German Fokker D VII shot him down and this time the pilot was unable to save his life. The war ended and the legend was born.

Roland Garros Stadium: a name for the glory of France

In 1927, the French team of the Davis cup, led by “The Musketeers” René Lacoste, Henri Cochet, Jacques Brugnon and Jean Borotra, prevailed over the United States on North American soil. The next year, Both countries met again in the finalwhich on this occasion was to be held in France.

By then, Paris did not have any sports complex that would host a final of such prestige and call. So, quickly, the municipality of Paris began the construction of a stadium that could also host the French Open, a tennis tournament that had existed since 1891.

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What would the place be called? Emile Lesieur, an old friend of Garros, proposed that it be named after the legendary driver. The complex was then called Stade Roland Garros.

In the 1928 final, France defeated the United States for the second consecutive time, this time in French territory and paying tribute to one of the greatest heroes of the history of the country.

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Since then, the French Open, whose full name is French International Tennis Championships at Roland-Garrosbegan to be called, simply, the Roland Garros tournament.

2024-05-20 09:43:39
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