The Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls was an accomplished cyclist and a leading pioneer
in motoring and motor racing, ballooning and aeroplaning. His exploits in the latter
led him to be the first Briton to die in a powered aircraft accident when he crashed
at Southbourne, in Bournemouth,
on 12th July 1910 during the first International Aviation Meeting in Great Britain.
The event, hosting flying competitions as well as displays, was part of the Centenary
celebrations of Bournemouth and one of the competitions was to land as close as possible
to a touch down point.
Rolls had tried to improve on an earlier attempt, which had brought him a 3rd prize,
but the recently modified tail of his aircraft, a Wright Flyer, failed and the aircraft
plunged to earth from about 80 feet. The modification gave more control but broke
up in the very gusty conditions. So died Charles Rolls at the age of 32 who, in 1906,
had co-founded the famous Rolls-Royce company with Henry Royce.
In June 1910 Rolls had used his Wright Flyer for a non stop return trip across the
English Channel. This improved on Bleriot's single crossing and raised the awareness
that Britain was ‘no longer an island’. In 2010, as part of Bournemouth’s Bi-centenary,
commemorative events included unveiling of the memorial plaque (refurbished by Rolls-Royce
plc), and a Spitfire flying display for local schoolchildren.
Each year there is a small commemoration (12.30pm) at the Memorial Plaque (out of
public view) in the playing fields of St Peter’s School. The long term aim is to
create a suitable memorial in public view close to the site of the Judges/Signal
Tower to commemorate both