the Hon Charles Stewart Rolls
1877 - 1910
The son of a wealthy British peer, Rolls
might have led a carefree life often associated with the young Edwardian
aristocracy. Instead, he combined an adventurous spirit with an
education and thus made a useful contribution to his nation.
Rolls went to Cambridge University where
he earned a BA, and later MA in engineering. His love for speed led him
to become a racing cyclist. Later he turned to racing automobiles along
with his friend, Moore-Brabazon.
In 1896 Rolls joined with other auto enthusiasts to break a law which
forbade automobile travel at over 4mph (6.4km/hr). Their defiance led to
a new speed limit which at 12 mph (19.3 km/hr) was 200% faster than had
previously been allowed.
In 1901 Rolls, having become an
aeronaut, helped found the Aero Club. Two years later he entered an
automobile sales venture in London selling expensive French cars. One
day a friend introduced him to F. H. Royce who was just beginning to
build quality automobiles. Royce, who had worked hard his entire life,
had little in common with Rolls yet they still became friends. In 1904
they agreed that Royce would build cars and Rolls would sell them.
Rolls-Royce was born.
Rolls continued to fly balloons when he
wasn't demonstrating his soon-to-be-famous products. His balloon flying
led to aeroplane flying and in 1910 he received certificate number 2
from the Royal Aero Club (Royal as of that year). Later in the same year
he became the first man to fly non-stop across the English Channel both
ways, but his triumph was short lived. In July 1910 he was killed when
his French-built Wright biplane broke up in mid-air. Though he came down
from only 20 feet, he cracked his skull. He became Britain's first
Charles Stewart Rolls
Charles Rolls makes his his first balloon flight, Sept. 8, 1898
Rolls completed the first double
crossing of the Channel - England/France/England on 2 June 1910 in total
flying time 95 1/2 minutes and is pictured below.
Rolls completes the first double crossing of the Channel
A French built moving tail plane was
fitted 10 July 1910 to his Wright plane. On 12 July in a 20 - 25 mph
wind he crashed when tail plane broke at the Bournemouth International
Aviation Meeting in celebration of the town's centenary. Rolls was the
first Briton to die in an aviation accident. At this time Rolls'
exploits had built up such a following in Great Britain that Lord
Montague of Beaulieu interrupted his speech in the House of Lords to
announce the death. Rolls was buried at St. Cadoc's Church 16 July 1910.
Charles Rolls, Vauxhall, 1908
Charles Rolls' fatal crash, 1910