Roland Garros

Reunion’s famous aviator
©Lionel Ghighi

Key dates


Roland Adrien Georges Garros was born on 6 October 1888 at Rue de l’Arsenal (now “Rue Roland Garros) in Saint-Denis, Reunion Island.

  • 1908: he graduates from HEC.
  • 1910: he obtains his Aéro-Club de France pilot’s licence.
  • 1913: he achieves the feat of flying across the Mediterranean Sea, non-stop from Marseille to Bizerte in Tunisia.
  • 1918: he dies in air combat at Vouziers
  • 1928: Emile Lesieur, the Stade Français chairman, pays tribute to his friend Roland Garros and requests that the stadium at Porte d’Auteuil be renamed Roland Garros.

His motto: “Victory belongs to the most obstinate”

© Aéroport La Réunion Roland Garros

An outstanding career

Today, the famed personality from Reunion is associated with the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament: the Roland Garros French Open in Paris.

Yet Roland Garros was, above all, an extraordinary pilot, an aviation pioneer and a World War I hero. For his flight across the Mediterranean, he was awarded the status of Officer of the French Legion of Honour.

Roland Garros was born in Saint-Denis on Reunion Island. At the age of 4, he left his home island with his parents to live in Vietnam. Aged 12 years, he left for mainland France to attend school at the Collège Stanislas. He had a passion for sports and enjoyed many during his studies, including football, tennis and cycling (he became French champion in 1906). A brilliant student, Roland Garros passed the competitive exam to enter HEC, from where he graduated in 1908. At the age of 22 years, he attended an airshow in Reims and found his calling – aviation!

An extraordinary pilot

Reunion’s local lad fulfilled his dream in 1909 at the Air Locomotion Show where he purchased a flying machine of that period: a Santos Dumont “Demoiselle”. He learned to fly it solo, then took his pilot’s exam before tackling world records and building a whole collection of achievements.

On 23 September 1913, for example, when he was 25 years old, he successfully made the very first non-stop flight across the Mediterranean, from Marseille to Bizerte in Tunisia, in a monoplane. The journey took 7 hours and 53 minutes. Jean Cocteau dedicated a text to him, “Le Cap de Bonne-Espérance”.

When the first world war broke out, Garros enlisted and set up a revolutionary system for shooting through the propellersof single-seater fighter planes, a feat that won him a number of battles.

Roland Garros diedthe day before his 30th birthday, in WWI air combat in 1918. He remained extremely fond of his home island throughout his life.

Roland Garros left his mark on the history of Reunion Island

  • In 1926, the city of Saint-Denis installed his statue on Place du 20 décembre 1848 in Le Barachois.
  • Reunion Roland Garros Airport . For the opening of the second runway in 1994, the air terminal was renamed “Roland Garros Airport” in homage to the aviator who was born on Reunion Island. Authentic hospitality and the experience of a lifetime await travellers visiting Reunion.
  • A number of sites on the island are named after Roland Garros: a street, a brasserie, a college, a flying club and even a post office!