Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe was born on 26 April 1877 in Manchester, England. At the age of fourteen, his family moved to Canada where Roe obtained work at an engineering firm. After about one year, Roe returned to England and became an apprentice at the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Locomotive Works. He later studied maritime engineering in London and became an engineer on the British and South African Royal Mail Company ships. During his time as a maritime engineer, Roe became interested in flying. He briefly worked for the Royal Aero Club, before temporarily moving to Denver in the USA, to help design an autogyro. Back in England, Roe built several model aircraft. He used one of those designs in a Daily Mail competition. Roe’s model competed against about 200 other designs and it claimed first prize. He used the prize money to build a full-size aircraft. In 1908, Roe became the first Briton to construct and fly an aircraft. Two years later, he founded an aircraft manufacturing company and flying school called ‘A.V. Roe and Co.’ (later Avro). Roe was responsible for designing the first aircraft with an enclosed cabin and patented the control column.
During World War I, thousands of AVRO 504 biplanes served in combat and as training aircraft. Roe sold his shares in 1928 and bought S.E. Saunders Co. The company was renamed ‘Saunders-Roe’ and would be responsible for building a variety of aircraft, including Princess flying boats. During the 1940s, two of his sons were pilots in the Royal Air Force, but neither survived World War II. Even so, Roe remained active in the aviation industry. He died on 4 January 1958.