- Parker, R.G., OBE, Captain, RAN (Rtd)
- Biographies and personal histories, Naval history
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Geranium, HMAS Norman I, HMAS Anzac I, HMAS Australia II, HMAS Canberra I, HMAS Parramatta I, HMAS Westralia I, HMAS Melbourne I, HMAS Vendetta I, HMAS Napier, HMAS Nestor, HMAS Stuart I, HMAS Nizam, HMAS Success I, HMAS Waterhen, HMAS Cerberus (Shore Establishment)
- December 1975 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
ALVORD SYDNEY ROSENTHAL was born in Sydney on 16th January 1901. He came from a distinguished military family, being the younger son of Major-General Sir Charles Rosenthal, a Divisional Commander in France in World War
Educated at The King’s School, Parramatta, young Rosenthal entered the Royal Australian Naval College at Jervis Bay in January 1915 as a Cadet-Midshipman in the Third Entry. The 1915 Entry consisted of 31 cadets, several of whom were to distinguish themselves later, including Vice Admiral Sir Roy Dowling, and Commander Jefferson Walker (lost in Parramatta).
Commander Donald Clarke, also of the 1915 Entry, recently wrote: ‘I recall Rosenthal as a dominating personality in our group of cadets, he was popular, energetic and powerfully built‘. The First Entry had been in 1913, which had meant that Rosenthal’s elder brother had had to join the Royal Navy, rather than the Royal Australian Navy, in 1912. Around this pre-1914 period, several Australian brothers were split between the two navies, as the RAN was not inaugurated until 1911.
When Rosenthal joined the College in 1915, his father was serving at Gallipoli, and his elder brother was at sea with the RN as a midshipman.
After four years of intensive training, Rosenthal, known to his friends as ‘Rosy’, passed out of Jervis Bay in December 1918, and in January 1919 sailed for England in the Transport Marathon to gain seagoing training with the Royal Navy. Those cadets who had joined in 1913 and 1914 had been appointed to battleships of the Grand Fleet. Those of Rosenthal’s year missed the War, but were able to gain valuable experience in its aftermath. After six weeks at Whale Island Gunnery School in Portsmouth, the midshipmen were drafted to the Fleet. Rosenthal’s first ship was the battleship Ramillies, one of the five ships of the Royal Sovereign Class, completed in 1917.
When he joined Ramillies on 7th May 1919, the ship formed part of the guard on the German Fleet at Scapa Flow. He had missed the actual surrender of the German High Seas Fleet in November 1918, but both his father and his brother had witnessed the historic ceremony from the Australian cruiser Melbourne.
The scuttling of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow was the highlight of Rosenthal’s service in Ramillies, and made a profound impression on the young midshipman. A number of men from the scuttled ships were picked up by Ramillies and taken to Invergordon. The body of one captain who had been killed by his own crew was also taken onboard.
On 21st June 1919, the First Battle Squadron was at sea in the Pentland Firth for torpedo exercises. At 1220 the Flagship received a signal from the destroyer Wescott in Scapa Flow that the German battleship Frederick Der Grosse was sinking at her moorings. Ramillies, Revenge and Royal Sovereign arrived in time to see Seydlitz capsize and sink. It was a dismal end to a fleet that had fought so well.
After visits to various seaside resorts in January 1920, the First Battle Squadron made rendezvous off Plymouth with the Atlantic Fleet for the Spring Cruise, which was planned to cover northern Spain, Gibraltar, Las Palmas and Algiers, but for the First Battle Squadron the Cruise actually extended for more than a year. The midshipmen were to see the grim aftermath of war in the Middle East and to witness at close hand revolution, fire, famine, and wanton slaughter, before they returned to Devonport.
Rosenthal’s first taste of action took place when the First Battle Squadron was ordered to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea to protect Allied interests against the Turkish Nationalists, and also to protect the White Russian Army retreating from the Bolsheviks. On 16th March 1920 the British and Allied warships lay off Calata in the Bosphorus, and Allied troops marched in to occupy the town. Four thousand seamen and Marines were landed from the ships. Landings were also made at Trebizond on the southern coast of the Black Sea. Here all the Marines and four companies of seamen took a fort and blew up its guns.
The First Battle Squadron returned home in August 1920, and for the rest of that year they did the round of the Home Ports.