Hon Charles Rolls, Monmouthshire
Hon. Charles S. Rolls
The first pilot to fly across the channel and back in a single journey. A man with a real zest for life filled with victorian confidence!
It may have been luck more than judgment but while most of his playboy peers were wasting their privileges, Charles Rolls' interest in the emerging transport technologies would make his name a byword for excellence.
Rolls, from Monmouthshire graduated from Cambridge with a degree in engineering while Queen Victoria was still on the throne.
A man with a real zest for life filled with victorian confidence, by the time Victoria had passed-on in 1901 he and his associates had forced an increase in the national speed limit up by a massive 200 percent (from 4 to 12 miles per hour), speed freaks! Twelve miles per hour wasn't enough, Rolls was also a founding member of the Royal Aero Club and began flying balloons and planes.
Rolls began one of the first British car dealerships, importing and selling French built automobiles. It was this business that would bring him to the attention of Henry Royce. Royce had a well established electrical and mechanical company. He had been trading since 1884 but only began building cars twenty years later in 1904.
Almost straight away the two men began to work together, Royce building and Rolls selling. By 1906 they had formally bound their names as the new Rolls Royce company and launched their classic Silver Ghost.
Although Rolls had a Cambridge education the company was founded on Royce's engineering know-how.
Rolls knew what he wanted, what the market wanted and Royce knew how to give it to him. As a partnership they created a company that would dominate the luxury car and aero engine markets for decades.
This would be enough for most people but Rolls was an adventurer, he wanted to fly. In 1910, just months before he died he became the first man to fly across the channel and back in a single journey. Indeed, his love of the new 'sport' led to his death after falling just twenty or so feet to the ground when his biplane failed. He is thus Britain's first aircraft fatality.
Images courtesy of Rolls-Royce, many thanks.
Connection: From Monmouth, Wales, son of Lord Llangattock.
Ernest Willows, Aviator of note.