Recently, Jason Kenney, national defence minister, announced 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 Rolette served during the War of 1812, including commanding the ship General Hunter.
“Lieutenant Rolette served our country with great distinction throughout the War of 1812. Naming a Royal Canadian Navy ship after him honours the bravery and valour this great French-Canadian 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,” said Kenney.
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.
Just before the outbreak of the War of 1812, Frédérick Rolette was posted to Amherstburg, Ontario, as a lieutenant in charge of the brig General Hunter.
When word of the outbreak of war reached Amherstburg on July 3, 1812, 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 onboard 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.
“Throughout the War of 1812, Lieutenant Frédérick Rolette’s decisive and daring actions served this country well. 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, Lieutenant Rolette is an excellent choice. His leadership and courage model what it means to be a member of the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Vice Admiral Mark Norman, commander Royal Canadian Navy.
Lieutenant Rolette was very 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 was severely wounded, burned by an explosion and the ship was a broken, unmanageable, and sinking wreck.
When the war ended, Lieutenant Rolette returned home to Québec City to a hero’s welcome and was presented with a fifty-guinea sword of honour by its citizens in recognition of his service. Through the research and efforts of the Naval Museum of Québec, the Royal Canadian Navy (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.
In a statement his descendants Yolande, Colette, Pierre and Jean Chatillon said they were very proud to learn that a Royal Canadian Navy ship will be named after their illustrious ancestor.
The family feels that for various reasons, Lieutenant Rolette’s exploits are not as well-known as those of other celebrated naval officers. But, thanks to the honour conferred on him, he will receive the recognition due to him and take his place among Canada’s most famous heroes.
The family thanked the Government of Canada and the Royal Canadian Navy for choosing the name of Frédérick Rolette to join the other prestigious names given to the Harry DeWolf-class Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship.
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 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.