Leon BLUMENTHAL [1916-1991]

Submitted by Admin on Wed, 03/07/2012 - 12:28
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(Day & Month are approximate.)
(Day & Month are approximate.)

Tony Banham notes Blumenthal was a Private in the Stanley Platoon of the HKVDC.

Husband of Zus Blumenthal.

Photos that show this Person



I've just discovered that in the proceedings that were to lead to J. J. Richards standing trial for high treason, one of the witnesses said that during the war Richards had boasted that he he had got people released by the Japanese and mentioned 'Blumenthal' as an example (China Mail, May 14, 1946. Of course, this might have been a fabrication or related to another Blumenthal. A search in the online China Mail reveals a D. Blumenthal who owned a bakery/confectioner's who was in Hong Kong in 1937, and there might well have been others.

As I mentioned under 'Zus", Leon was an officer (Suprintendent?) at Stanley Prison after the war - we visited them often. They had an apartment there.  They moved from HK to Australia, about the 1960s, and they settled in Caloundra (Queensland), where they died - Leon 1991 and Zus in 1994.

I cannot find any list of the officers at Stanley Prison, is there such a list? I would presume it was a branch of the HK Police.  Also as mentioned, he died in Calloundra in 1991 - this should be added to the heading.


On Tuesday September 18, 1945 Leon Blumenthal was on the Vindex, anchored alongside the Royal Dockyard and expected to sail for Sydney that day. (China Mail for that day). No mention of a Mrs. Blumenthal, but the list might not be complete.

BTW, David, we have dob for the Blumenthals: 1917 for Zus, 1916 for Leon (source; link in my first post on Zus).

A couple of comments to the "List of Prison Officers in 1940":

Prison Officers - Leon Blumenthal

 I was most interested to finally see some evidence of Leon Blumenthal being employed as an officer at Stanley Prison (listed in this page as an Electrician '1938').  I had been surprised to find that he was not listed anywhere (that I could find) in the other lists of civilians etc that lived in Hong Kong during the 1940s-1950s. 


Leon Blumenthal 

Leon Blumenthal  joined the the Prisons Department on 15 Aug 1935 and retired in 1965 from the post Senior Superintendent (which was the next highest rank under the charge of Commissioner at that time).  I tried to upload a page of Prison Officers at 1965, L Blumenthal and M Blumenthal (some colleauges said Michael was Leon's son) both on the list, but not work.  If you wish to take a look, please leave your email.


It seems that Leon was the son of Nathan Blumenthal, who owned the Marcel Buffet/Cafe (I'm not sure if they were the same place) in Nathan Rd.

He had a brother David who is presumably the 'D. Blumenthal' I mentioned above.

Source: Hongkong Telegraph, June 27, 1934, page 11

I find Leon Blumenthal always a very puzzling character. He fought in the Stanley Platoon which was comprised of other prison officers during the pretty tough fighting around Stanley on 23-25th Dec.   Wright-Nooth is very disparaging about Blumenthal in Prisoner of the Turnip Heads especially in the description of the events immediately following the bombing of bungalow C where Leon was billeted and Leon Fisher in his diary refers to Blumental being locked up immediately after the war for being a Japanese stooge - no doubt unjust but it appears he was heavily involved in black market trading which I guess did not make him popular with all but at any rate one of those very interesting characters that it would be nice to learn more about.   Philip


1940 Jury List and Licensing Sessions

In 1940, Robert James Wallace was the owner of the Marcel Cafe. Address given was 70A Nathan Road.  The applicant for the liquor licence of the establsishment, 'Marcel Buffet' at 70 Nathan Road was Peter Frank Zech who was also the manager of the Palace Hotel operated by Gingles. It would appear that Marcel Buffet and Marcel Cafe were located at the same address.

Gingles took over the establishment in 1941 and called it the Gingles Annexe

David Blumenthal looks to have held on to Marcel Bakery at 70B Nathan Road in 1937. China Mail dated 9 July 1937 (see below). However, on 20 October 1937, the business of the Marcel Buffet at 70A Nathan Road was transferred to David Blumenthal, the orginal owner.

Marcel Bakery - 70 Nathan Road

Philip, you raise some interesting points.

In early 1945 my mother went into Tweed Bay Hospital for an operation. My father had some money from the sale of valuables, so he bought her an egg to help her recovery. The price was about £20 in today's money. The black market was very profitable indeed; it seems to have been the basis for at least one post-war fortune, and the man we're discussing obviously did pretty well out of it. Mutal Fielder describes seeing someone who's obviously Blumenthal with 'rolls and rolls of banknotes done up in elastic bands lying on his bed'.  It's easy to see why many people thought badly of him and the other black marketeers. But my own view is different.

It seems to me that their work was absolutely necessary and saved lives, especially in late1944 through to liberation when the rations were completely inadequate. And they were never going to sell their produce at a 50% mark up! The typical 'chain' was probably Contact In Town- to Guard - to Blackmarketeer and everyone was taking huge risks. Some internees were tortured for their role, and although I don't think reports of guards being executed are necessarily true that was always a possibility that had to be borne in mind and the risk reflected in the profit.

Having said that, I think it's obvious that those like Selwyn-Clarke who carried out relief work in a spirit of total unselfishness (and in fact knew he'd be caught and punished one day) present a much more edifying spectacle. And there are plenty of others - of all nationalities - who took huge risks to help the internees with no thought of personal gain. But even those who acted purely out of self interest played a part in keeping the death rate in Stanley roughly what it would have been for the same community in peacetime (by Franklin Gimson's estimate).

Just a thought; I wonder who were vilified more during internment in Stanley - black marketeers like Blumenthal, or those who were engaged in the practice of usury? As Phillip correctly notes, Wright-Nooth is quite disparaging in his comments on Blumenthal, and he is also quite scathing in his comments on Bradbury - an internee who was apparently heavily involved in usury and who became very wealthy as a result. Bradbury had been a butcher pre-war and cut up the tiger which was shot in the vicinity of Stanley police station by the Indian policeman.

I understand that the HK Government (after the war) stated that internees who had been "victims" of usury did not have to honour the IOU's which they had pledged - but many chose to do so as it seemed the proper thing to do.

There was a Michael Blumenthal in my brother's class at KGV in the 1940s and early 1950s. He later migrated to Australia and became an art dealer of sorts. I think he lived in Queensland. Does anyone know if he was connected to the Blumenthals mentioned in these posts?


Yes, Michael was Leon and Zus' son. I'm afraid Leon was rather unpopular amongst many of the other prison officers after the war, for his temper, his wealth from his black market dealings during the war, and for a suggestion of corruption in the prison. Please note, I am not substantiating this: I have it from two first hand accounts by other contemporary officers, but they could be wrong. He was clearly a very intelligent man, whatever his faults, and I remember him (from my childhood) as being great fun. Zus was lovely: a gentle, kind and elegant lady.