June 2, 1910
Charles Stewart Rolls, who had already distinguished himself in the automotive world when he cofounded the Rolls-Royce car manufacturing firm more than five years earlier, achieved another notable transportation milestone when he made the first non-stop double-crossing of the English Channel via plane. The 32-year-old Rolls piloted a Wright Flyer biplane over the English Channel from England to France and then back to his native coast.
This historic flight, which also marked the first eastbound plane crossing of the English Channel, took about 95 minutes altogether. “MR. ROLLS’ WONDERFUL ACHIEVEMENT,” proclaimed a headline in the London Standard newspaper the following day. The London-born Rolls was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Aero Club for his feat.
Just a little over month later, however, Rolls died after his Wright Flyer crashed during a flight demonstration at Hengistbury Airfield in the town of Bournemouth in southern England. The crash occurred after that biplane’s tail had broken off in the skies above the airfield. Rolls was the first Briton and only the 11th person worldwide to be killed in an aeronautical accident involving a powered aircraft.
One of the subsequent memorials to Rolls was a statue created for display in the town of Monmouth in Wales. Along with owning an ancestral estate located just north of the town, Rolls’ family had long been major benefactors for that region of the United Kingdom. Monmouth’s borough council therefore decided shortly after Charles Rolls’ two-way crossing of English Channel to honor that accomplishment with a statue of him. After Rolls’ untimely death the following month, the council agreed to use the planned statue to commemorate both events.
This statue was unveiled in 1911 in Monmouth’s Agincourt Square and it remains standing there today. The eight-foot (2.4-meter)-high statue depicts Rolls inspecting a model of his biplane. The following words appear on the base of the statue: “He was a pioneer in both scientific and practical motoring and aviation and the first to fly across the channel from England to France and back without landing. He lost his life by the wrecking of his aeroplane at Bournemouth July 12, 1910. His death caused worldwide regret and deep national sorrow.”
For more information on Charles Stewart Rolls, please check out https://doverhistorian.com/2014/02/21/charles-rolls-the-first-two-way-non-stop-english-channel-flight/
Additional information on the statue of him in Monmouth is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Charles_Rolls,_Monmouth
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