Died on this day – 5 October 1918


It is 95 years to the day since the aviator and fighter pilot Roland Garros was shot down from the skies above Montmorillon in France. Garros was born in Réunion in 1888 and started his aviation career in 1909. By 1911 he had graduated to flying Blériot monoplanes and entered a number of European air races with this type of machine, including the 1911 Paris to Madrid air race and the Circuit of Europe (Paris-London-Paris), in which he came second. In September he established a new world altitude record of 5,610 m (18,410 ft). In 1913 he gained fame for making the first non-stop flight across the Mediterranean from Fréjus in the south of France to Bizerte in Tunisia. The following year, Garros joined the French army at the outbreak of World War I.

Garros distinguished himself by achieving the first ever shooting-down of an aircraft by a fighter firing through a tractor propeller. In 1915 Garros crash landed behind the German lines and he became a prisoner of war. He finally managed to escape from a POW camp in Germany in February 1918, after several attempts, and rejoined the French army. In late September 1918 he visited Montmorillon whilst on leave and purchased a book on real tennis from The Glass Key bookshop. On 5 October 1918 he was shot down and killed a month before the end of the war and one day before his 30th birthday.

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