Charles Rosenthal was born in Berrima, NSW, on 12 February 1875. His father, Carl Johann Christian Rosenthal, was a school teacher, his mother was Emilie Clov. He received his education from his father until he was articled to an architect in Geelong at the age of fifteen. Charles finished his training in Melbourne in 1895 then moved to Perth to work with the Department of Railways and Public Works. Later, he worked at Coolgardie. He returned to Melbourne in 1899, joining an architectural firm who sent him to manage their Sydney office in 1900.
On 11 September 1897 Charles married Harriet Ellen Burston in Brighton, Victoria. They had three children: Charles Burston (born in Brighton in 1899), Alvord (1901 in Petersham), and Christian (born in 1907 in Mosman).
Rosenthal became involved in the affairs of his profession, and in music. With his fine bass voice he was in the front rank of oratorio singers in Sydney. He was also in the army and held the rank of Captain in the Australian Garrison Artillery. At some point in time he acquired a house in Valley Heights where he lived. The house was known as Terranora. In later years it was known as Green Acres and became the site of Roy Deane’s Orchid Farm.
While living in Valley Heights, Rosenthal’s energy and wide interests characterised his life. Apart from commitments in Sydney he was involved in the community life of Springwood.
He was elected President of the Rifle Club in 1906 and 1907, and opened the new range in October 1906. The new Rugby Football Club elected him Vice President in 1909, and he also played cricket. Rosenthal held the position of Vice President of the Springwood School of Arts and in his capacity as architect, submitted plans for the new School of Arts building. These plans however, were not accepted.
Charles took some interest in the politics of local government. He gave support to the candidature of J.T. Wall in the first elections for the Kanimbla Shire Council. In the Blue Mountains Shire elections of 1908 he nominated but was disbarred because he was in arrears with his council rates. He stood again in 1911, but was fourth in the final count and was not elected.
His diverse interests saw him as one of the founders of the Aerial League of Australia in 1909, and a pupil of the W.E. Hart’s Australian Flying School at Penrith. He also offered to teach scouts the art of map reading and signalling. Rosenthal’s performance as a singer, performing with the Philharmonic Society, and as an organist and choir master at Dulwich Hill Holy Trinity Church, made him popular for local performance. He sang at the 1909 Empire Day celebrations and also at the official opening of the Glenbrook School of Arts. On Empire Day 1911 he made a patriotic speech to the Springwood Public School.
Rosenthal was one of the most remarkable leaders of his time. His energy and optimism, his courage and breadth of interests found him at the forefront of any action in which he was involved. At the outbreak of war in 1914 he sailed with the first convoy as Lieut-Colonel, commanding the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade. He established his reputation at Gallipoli where he was twice wounded. Rosenthal, re-formed with the 4th Division, was promoted to Brigadier-General and was soon in the thick of fighting in France. It was through his outstanding leadership in the battles of 1915–8 where he gained his military honours. He was mentioned in Dispatches seven times and was awarded the CB (1915), the CMG (1917), the KCB (1919), the DSO (1918), the Belgian Croix de Guerre (1917), the French Croix de Guerre (1918) and the Legion d’Honeur (1919).
Rosenthal returned to Sydney to restore his architectural practice and continued to pursue his other interests. He was Commander of the 2nd Division 1936–7, Alderman of the Sydney Municipal Council 1921–4, member for Bathurst in the Legislative Assembly 1922–5 and member of the Legislative Council 1936–7. He made a brief return to Springwood in 1923 to open the gates of remembrance at Christ Church of England.
He became a leader in his profession: twice president of the Institute of Architects 1926–30, a fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects and life fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. In 1937 he was posted as Administrator of Norfolk Island, which he governed through World War II, leaving this office in 1945.
He did not return to Sydney until 1948 when he married for a second time in 1953. His wife was Sarah Agnes Rosborough (nee McKinstry). He died at Green Point in May 1954, and was awarded full military honours at his cremation.
Lindsay Paish in The Making Of A Mountain Community: A Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District.
More on Rosenthal:
The Argus, 31.3.1923, p. 12 – Sir Charles president of the King and Empire Alliance of New South Wales. Addressing a meeting of the British Empire League, stressed the need for leading business men to take an active part in public life. He stated there was a need to co-ordinate loyalist organisations so that they could speak with one voice. Those present included the president of the British Empire League was Mr. Thomas Ryan, Rev. James Thomas, Mr. James Roland, F. Jowett, Rev. A.W. Thom, Philip Glass and Sir John Monash and members of most of the loyalist associations of Victoria.
The Argus, 4.1.1921, p. 6 – Major General Sir Charles Rosenthal named as a possible new divisional commander. Instead of command going to permanent officers it was suggested that divisional commands might be given to several citizen soldiers like Major General Sir Thomas Glasgow and Sir John Gellibrand, commissioner of Police in Victoria.
The Argus, 7.5.1921, p 19 – Burning of the Union Jack caused a wave of indignation among returned soldiers who fought under the flag. A meeting held at the Town Hall was filled to capacity with an estimated 15,000 people standing outside. The convenor of the meeting was Mr. W. Scott Fell, while the main speaker was Major General Sir Charles Rosenthal.
The National Anthem was sung by those assembled. Fell stated his disgust at the burning of the Union Jack and the red flag being flown in the Domain. The following motion was agreed to with great enthusiasm: That this meeting of Sydney citizens express its abhorrence of the disgraceful acts of those disloyalists who on May 1 publicly insulted the Union Jack and paraded the red flag in Sydney. That the meeting affirms its loyalty to the King George V, as head of the British Empire, and pledge itself to use every endeavour to crush the act of disloyalty in Australia and to maintain at all times the Empire’s unity.
In separate articles the Argus reported that in Sydney the Royal Agricultural Society had debarred the St. Patrick’s Committee from use of the showgrounds in the future and stated that any act of disloyalty to King and Empire would receive the same treatment. In Perth an Empire Loyalty League had been formed.
The Argus, 14.5.1921, p. 20 – A request for the Ministry to take action to prevent the red flag being exhibited in the Domain in the future was made by a deputation from the Returned Soldiers Imperial League which waited on the Acting Premier (Mr. Dooley) The deputation consisted of General Sir Charles Rosenthal (vice president), Messrs. R. Hastings (secretary), T.V. Roberts and C. Davis. Rosenthal stated that he felt it would be unwise to allow the red flag to be flown in view of the state of public feeling.
Dooley argued in favour of the flag stating that it had a long tradition with English Conservatives, and many loyal men had marched behind the red flag including Mr. Hughes, Mr. Andrew Fischer and Mr. J.C. Watson. He stated, in Europe it was the flag used by the people to denote international emancipation of workers, and as a symbol of an endeavour to substitute production for use over production for profit. Dooley stated that even the Salvation Army used the red flag. Dooley stated that until the red flag was outlawed in England it was not his intention to prohibit the red flag in Australia. Dooley said he would not do anything that would interfere with liberty of speech or opinion. It would seem that Dooley accused J.C. Watson of marching behind the red flag when he was connected with the labour movement but Watson pointed out that labour colours were blue and white.
It would seem that the red flag was causing consternation at that time, so much so that carriers of the flag were given an armed guard in the Domain. Ernest Edward Judd caused panic when he drew a revolver on a crowd of people hostile to his “red” sympathies. He was taken to the police station and charged with a breach of the Gun Act.
The Canberra Times, 14.10.1926, p. 9 – Sir Charles Rosenthal addressed an audience at the Lyceum Hall Sydney and stated that he hoped licenses for the sale of spirituous liquors would not be extended to Canberra. He suggested that the question whether Canberra should cease to be dry should be put in front of the people to decide not only those living in Canberra. It would seem Rosenthal’s view was based on the idea that Canberra would only become one of the finest cities of the world but if the residents all remained sober.
The Canberra Times, 3.5.1927, p. 4 – The impending transfer of the seat of Government to Canberra celebrated by the Federal Capital League at a dinner at the Hotel Australia, Sydney. Many prominent men were among the guests including Sir Charles Rosenthal, Hon. W.M. Hughes, Mr. W.A. Holman, Mr. T.R. Bavin, Sir William Vicars, Mr. T. D. Mutch (State Minister for Education) and many others. Hughes declared ‘Canberra’ to be one of the ‘most beautiful places in the world.’
The Canberra Times 30.5.1930, p. 1 – Sir Charles Rosenthal of Sydney and Goulburn, architect, sequestered his estate. His liabilities amounted to £9,000
The Canberra Times 16.7.1930, p. 3 – Examination in Bankruptcy. Rosenthal stated he was bankrupt in Western Australia 32 years earlier when he was a draftsman in the public service. He received a certificate of discharge for his liabilities that amounted to several hundred pounds. He said the cause of the latest financial distress was partly due to his involvement in an insurance company in Melbourne that had gone into liquidation. Secured creditors amounted to £7,100 while the value of his securities and a policy on his life amounted to about £11,000.
The Canberra Times 4.4.1946, p. 2 – The Governor General and the Duchess of Gloucester gave a luncheon party at Admiralty House where several notable men and their wives were entertained. Later, Their Royal Highnesses received Sir Charles Rosenthal and Lady Rosenthal who remained to tea.
There is also speculation that D.H. Lawrence used Rosenthal as a model for Benjamin Cooley in his novel Kangaroo.
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Oil on canvas painting from collection of Australian War Memorial Museum Canberra, ART02988, John Longstaff artist, 1919.
 A.J. Hill, ‘Rosenthal, Major General Sir Charles,’ Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 11, Melbourne University Press, 1988, pp. 451-453.