HMCS Frédérick Rolette

The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of National Defence, announced July 16, 2015, in Québec City, that an Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) will be named in honour of Lieutenant Frédérick Rolette, a Canadian-born officer and naval hero of various actions, ashore and afloat, during the War of 1812, including command of the ship General Hunter. A parallel announcement was made in Windsor, Ontario, by Jeff Watson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport and Member of Parliament for Essex, close to the sites of many of Lieutenant Rolette’s heroic actions.

“Lt Rolette served our country with great distinction throughout the War of 1812,” said Minister Kenney. “Today’s announcement, that a Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) ship will be named after him, honours the bravery and valour that he exhibited throughout his career. The Government of Canada remains committed to recognizing the service and sacrifice of all men and women in uniform, both past and present.”

Just before the outbreak of the War of 1812, Lt Rolette was posted to Amherstburg, Ont., as a Lieutenant in charge of the brig General Hunter. When word of the outbreak of war reached Amherstburg on July 3, 1812, Lt Rolette acted immediately, capturing an American vessel, the Cuyahoga, before the crew became aware that their country had declared war on Britain. This was the first action of the War of 1812 and a significant prize, because on board the Cuyahoga were American commander General William Hull’s papers and dispatches, providing the British with a great deal of intelligence on American strengths and deployment.

Lt Rolette was active in the war, conducting several daring captures of American supply vessels and participating in land battles at the Capture of Detroit, the Battle of Frenchtown, and the skirmish at the Canard River. He was the First Lieutenant (second in command) of the British schooner Lady Prevost at the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. When the captain was mortally wounded, he assumed command and fought the ship “with great skill and gallantry” until he himself was severely wounded, burned by an explosion and the ship was a broken unmanageable and sinking wreck.

When the war ended, Lt Rolette returned to Québec City to a hero’s welcome and was presented with a 50-guinea sword of honour by its citizens in recognition of his service. Through the research and efforts of the Naval Museum of Québec, the RCN was able to locate the whereabouts and current owner of this sword of honour in order to have it displayed to the public as part of the naming announcement.

“Throughout the War of 1812, Lt Frédérick Rolette’s decisive and daring actions served this country well,” said Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, Commander RCN. “As the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships are being named after Canadian naval heroes who displayed outstanding leadership and heroism while serving in the navy during wartime, Lt Rolette is an excellent choice. His leadership and courage model what it means to be a member of the Canadian Armed Forces.”

In September 2014 Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the forthcoming AOPS will be named to honour prominent Canadians who served with the highest distinction and conspicuous gallantry in the navy. The lead ship was named Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf and the class is known as the Harry DeWolf Class. Other announced ships’ names in the class include HMCS Margaret Brooke, HMCS Max Bernays, HMCS William Hall and, now, HMCS Frédérick Rolette.

On January 23, 2015 the Government of Canada announced the awarding of the build contract with Irving Shipbuilding Inc. for the construction of six Harry DeWolf-class AOPS as part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS). This contract, valued at $2.3 billion, marks the start of the construction phase under the NSPS. Construction is set to begin in the fall of this year.

The RCN will employ the AOPS to conduct sovereignty and surveillance operations in Canadian waters on all three coasts, including in the Arctic. The AOPS will also be used to support other units of the Canadian Armed Forces in the conduct of maritime-related operations, and to support other government departments in carrying out their mandates, as required.