Fred Roe was born in Cambridge, England, the son of Robert Henry Roe, painter and engraver. He studied at Heatherley School of Fine Art under Seymour Lucas.
Roe exhibited at the Royal Academy and other leading galleries from 1887. He was elected to the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour in 1909 and became a member of the Royal British Colonial Society of Artists in 1920.
He developed a successful career as a painter of historical genre subjects often connected with the Tower of London. He painted Joan of Arc and incidents in the life of Lord Nelson. He was also an accomplished portrait painter.
As well as his oil and watercolour paintings, he is also known for his book illustrations and portraiture. Examples of his genre paintings can be found in many public collections including the National Portrait Gallery and the National Maritime Museum in London and the Auckland City Art Gallery in New Zealand.
Roe died in London on the 16th August 1947.