Eugéne Adrien Roland Georges Garros was a French pioneer aviator, fighter pilot during WWI. He was born on October 6th 1888 and passed away on October 5th 1918, at the age of 29, shot down and killed near Vouziers, Ardennes (France) a month before the end of WWI and one day before his 30th birthday. His adversary was claimed to be Hermann Habich from Jasta 49, flying a Fokker D.VII.
It was during his holiday in the summer of 1909 that he saw the Grande Semaine d’Aviation de la Champagne. After attending, he knew he had to be an aviator. His career started that very same year on the controls of the Demoiselle monoplane, an aircraft that flew only with a small lightweight pilot. He entered various European air races such as the 1911 Paris to Madrid air race and the circuit of Europe (Paris-London-Paris), in which he finished second. On September 4th, 1911, he set an altitude record of 3,950m. The record was then broken a year later by Phillip von Blaschke, who had flown to 4,360m. Roland did not back down, and regained the title after flying to an altitude of 5,610m.
He flew the fast Marane-Saulnier monoplanes, and on September 23rd, 1913 he gained fame for flying the first non-stop flight across the Mediterranean Sea from Fréjus-saint Raphaël in the South of France to Bizerte in Tunisia in a Morane-Saulnier G. The flight started at 5:47 am and lasted nearly eight hours. The flight was not a piece of cake and Garros had to solve 2 engine malfunctions. The following year, Garros joined the French army at the outbreak of World War I. Reports published in August 1914 claimed Garros was involved in the first air battle in world history and that he had flown his airplane into a Zeppelin, destroying the airship and killing its pilots and himself. This story was later contradicted by reports that stated that Garros arrived alive and with good health in Paris.
In the early stages of WWI, one of the biggest problems was mounting a forward-firing machine gun on combat aircraft. Garros made several attempts at shooting down german aircraft. None of those attempts ended in success due to the difficulty in hitting an aircraft with hand-held carbines. He visited Morane-Saulnier in 1914 to discuss this problem. Various solutions were put to test but not all turned into success. Nevertheless, Garros achieved the first-ever shooting down of an aircraft with a workable installation on his Morane-Saulnier Type L. The Aero Club of America awarded him a medal for this invention three years later. Despite his efforts on shooting down aircrafts, he was hit by ground fire and crashed into German-controlled territory. He failed to destroy his aircraft before being captured and the German ended up copying the mechanism by building similar ones.
After almost three years in captivity in various german camps, Garros managed to escape on February 14, 1918. He made it to London via the Netherlands and rushed to return to France in order to rejoin the military.