Charles Rosenthal

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Charles Rosenthal
1919 portrait by John Longstaff
Born 12 February 1875
Berrima, New South Wales
Died 11 May 1954(1954-05-11) (aged 79)
Green Point, New South Wales
Allegiance Australia Australia
Service/branch Australian Army
Years of service 1892–1937
Rank Major General

World War I

Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order
Mention in Despatches (7)
Officier of the Légion d'Honneur (France)

Major General Sir Charles Rosenthal KCB, CMG, DSO, VD (12 February 1875 – 11 May 1954) was an Australian Major General of World War I, and later a politician elected as a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly.

Early life[edit]

Rosenthal was born in Berrima, New South Wales to a Danish-born school master and Swedish-born mother. He trained as an architect and was elected associate of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects in 1895. He became a draughtsman in the architectural division of the Department of Railways and Public Works in Perth. After becoming bankrupt and ill he returned to the eastern states in 1899. In 1906 he was made architect for the Anglican Diocese of Grafton and Armidale. He designed St Andrew's, Lismore, New South Wales, St Laurence's, Barraba, and Holy Trinity, Dulwich Hill, Sydney.[1][2]


Rosenthal joined the Australian Imperial Force in August 1914 and sailed with the first convoy as lieutenant-colonel commanding the Australian 3rd Field Artillery Brigade.[3] In 1892 Rosenthal joined the Geelong Battery of the Victorian Militia Garrison Artillery as a gunner. In 1903 he was commissioned second lieutenant in the Militia Garrison Artillery. He transferred to the Australian Field Artillery in 1908 where he was promoted as major. In 1914 he became commanding officer of the 5th Field Artillery Brigade. Thus before the war he was established as a soldier as well as a professional architect.[1][2]

Rosenthal was at the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915. He was twice wounded at Gallipoli, the second wound causing him to be evacuated to England in August 1915. He returned to Egypt when the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was expanding and given command of the artillery of the new 4th Division and was promoted Brigadier General in February 1916. He was engaged in the heavy fighting on the Somme, at Pozières and Mouquet Farm and at Ypres in Belgium. He was wounded a third time in December 1916.[1][2]

On 22 May 1918 Rosenthal was appointed to command the 2nd Division and promoted Major General. He took part in the attack at Hamel. He was wounded for a fourth time in 1918 by a sniper when on daylight reconnaissance. He returned to duty in August and was involved in the Battle of Mont St. Quentin.[1][2][4]

Rosenthal went to England in March 1919 to command all the depots of the A.I.F. during the repatriation of the troops. He returned to Australia in January 1920.[1][2]

After the war Rosenthal contemplated not returning to the profession of architecture but did so while leading an active public life. From 1921–26 and also 1932–37 he was commander of the 2nd Division, Australian Military Forces. He served as an alderman of Sydney Municipal Council in 1921–24 and was chairman of its works committee. He was also a Nationalist Party of Australia member for Bathurst in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1922–25 and a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council in 1936–37. He was twice president of the Institute of Architects of New South Wales in 1926–30 and was also president of the federal council of the Australian Institutes of Architects in 1925–28. He also served as president of the Australian Museum, Sydney.[1][2]

In 1930, during the Great Depression in Australia, he was (again) declared bankrupt.[1][2]

In 1937 Rosenthal accepted the post of administrator of Norfolk Island which he governed throughout World War II until 1945. Among other activities he raised a volunteer infantry unit.[1][2][4]

In popular culture[edit]

Rosenthal may have been a part-model for the authoritarian ex-soldiers' leader Benjamin Cooley in D. H. Lawrence's novel, Kangaroo (London, 1923).[1] Rosenthal had been founding secretary in 1921 and later president of The King and Empire Alliance, with which Robert Darroch asserts D.H. Lawrence had been in contact, probably through W. J. R. Scott. It has also been alleged that Rosenthal was involved with the Old Guard, a secret anti-communist militia, set up by the Bruce government.[5][6]

Honours and awards[edit]

Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) 1919
Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) 1915
Ord.St.Michele-Giorgio.png Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) 1917
Dso-ribbon.png Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) 1918
1914 Star BAR.svg 1914–15 Star
British War Medal BAR.svg British War Medal
Victory Medal MID ribbon bar.svg Victory Medal with palm for Mentioned in Dispatches
GeorgeVSilverJubileum-ribbon.png King George V Silver Jubilee Medal 1935
Volunteer Decoration (UK) ribbon.png Volunteer Officers' Decoration (VD)
BEL Croix de Guerre WW1 ribbon.svg Croix de guerre (Belgium) 1917
Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 ribbon.svg Croix de guerre (France) 1918
Legion Honneur Officier ribbon.svg Officer of the Legion of Honour (France) 1919



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hill, A.J. (1988). "Rosenthal, Sir Charles (1875–1954)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 12 March 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Major General Sir Charles Rosenthal". Australian Defence Force Academy. 2002. Retrieved 12 March 2008. 
  3. ^ "First World War Service Record - Charles Rosenthal". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Duffy, Michael (2002). "Sir Charles Rosenthal". Who's Who. Retrieved 12 March 2008. 
  5. ^ See, for example, the research notes of Sandra Darroch & Robert Darroch (2000–01). ""The Darroch Thesis, "DHL in Australia research, 1972–2002, Part 1: September 1972 – March 1990"". DH Lawrence Society of Australia. Retrieved 8 July 2007.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ Moore, Andrew (2001). "What if Jack Lang had not been dismissed?". NSW Constitution website. NSW Department of Education and Training. Retrieved 3 July 2007. The Old Guard was also linked to the Defence Department. Since the 'Internal Security Scheme' was an expression of the collective wisdom of generals like White, Chauvel, Monash, Lloyd, Heane, Bennett and Rosenthal, it was hardly surprising that senior military men knew where 'loyal and highly influential citizens' could be found if necessary. 
  7. ^ "No. 31150". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 January 1919. pp. 1445–1445. 


External links[edit]

Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
Valentine Johnston
Member for Bathurst
Served alongside: Dooley, Fitzpatrick
Succeeded by
Gus Kelly