He has a Wikipedia article on his life, but I cannot substantiate much of it, and have reached the conclusion that it ought to be ignored in considering the life of G S M Nathan. In fact his whole life is difficult to substantiate, and most of the reported events in his life spun from what has come from Spanish Civil war stories. Nathan appears to have spun a tale of his past as he wanted it to be seen. Vi ritually every writer includes the "fact" that Nathan was "the only Jewish Officer in the Brigade of Guards". He was never an officer in the Brigade of Guards, and he was baptised a Christian, though his father was Jewish.
1896 Dec 21. born Hackney as Samuel George M Nathan. According to his friend, Jason Gurney, he "was a Jew of working-class origins but was almost totally unconcerned with Judaism or class sympathy."
1897 Jan 24. Baptised, which casts doubt was to his "Jewishness". The baptism is at St Marks, Bow. Although he is listed in "Jews who served in The International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War" By Martin Sugarman. It turns out that George Nathan's mother was Christian. His father was Jewish. The Nathans had lived in London at least since the late 18th century. George Nathan was raised nominally C of E, but at various points in his life, he considered himself Jewish. On his WW1 enlistment papers he listed himself as Church of England, but by 1917, when he was commissioned, the Jewish Chronicle (which recorded the activities of English Jewish army personnel) listed him as commissioned, missing in action, and also as a POW. During the Spanish Civil War, he always told people he was Jewish, from the East End of London.
1901 census living with his parents at 6, Lilyville Road, Fulham
1911 census. Living with his parents at 5 East St Walworth S E
1913 May 10, George Nathan enlisted in DCLI (he lied about his age as he is only 16) He was a Jewish Butcher's apprentice
1913 Oct 12. Appointed L/Cpl
1913 Nov 10. Army record says he reached 18 years old (he was 16 and a half)
1914 Aug 13, the 1st Btn DCLI in mobilising for war drafted in 650 reservists. En route to France, on the 13th of August, they stopped at Dublin, and a rear party, including George Nathan, were sent to the camp at the Curragh to pack up regimental property.
1914 Sep 4. Promoted Cpl
1914 Dec 6. Transferred to the Div Cyc Co when it was formed (early '15?). The date of entry into theatre more or less coincides with that of the 48th (South Midland) Division; a Territorial Division which included the 1/5th - 1/8th Royal Warwicks and included a Divisional Cyclist Company which left on 14 May 1916. Extending the hypothesis above it's quite possible he was a member of Divisional Cyclist Company with the number 114 when he landed in France with the Division; was renumbered 137 when either the Company 'left' and as he was commissioned on1st April 1917 would have been around for the renumbering of the TF in early 1917. There's also a note he was A/Sgt.
1915 Mar 25. Landed in France. His medal card indicates that he held the rank of Acting Sergeant at this point
1915 Aug 1. To hospital with heat exhaustion
1915 Aug 7. Back with unit.
1915 Aug 30 To hospital with piles
1915 Sep 18. Rejoined unit in the field
1916 Feb 6. 7 days leave
1916 Jun 16 Appointed A/Sgt
1917 Jan 21. To Cadet School
1917 Apr 9. Commissioned into R Warwickshire Regt, - Sgt G S M Nathan from Army Cyclist Corps. According to Monks book, With the Reds in Andalusia, 1985, "He rose from private to company sergeant major and "after three years and 334 days in the service, he was commissioned in the field on 9 April 1917" to to become "the only Jewish officer in the Brigade of Guards". He was never in the Brigade of Guards, though he was Jewish. Neither was he a CSM
1917 Apr 22. He joined the 1st Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the field. Battalion at Ambrines cleaning up & OC Company inspections. 58 Other Ranks joined from Base. 2nd Lieutenants GSM Nathan, AH Willes, AW Dacombe, HAL Mason & HJ King joined battalion.
1917 Apr 23 . Battalion marched to Beaufort. Billeted in houses & barns. 1 other rank evacuated sick
1917 Apr 24. ‘A’, ‘B’ & ‘C’ Companies bath at Avesnes le Comte.
1917 Apr 25. Training
1917 Apr 26. Training & Inter Company football matches.
1917 Apr 27. Training. 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers arrived an billeted in same village. Officers & N.C.O.’s attend lecture & demo by C.R.E. IV Division at trenches near Ambrines.
1917 Apr 28. Battalion marched Avesnes-Habarh-Ndyelette to ‘Y’ huts 1 mile west of Etrun
1917 Apr 29. Battalion marched along main St Pol-Arras road to Arras. Shelled around midnight.
1917 Apr 30 Battalion prepares for trenches.
1917 May 1. Artillery bombarded enemy front line and support trenches. Enemy retaliated with artillery bombardment on support trenches. Enemy sniper activity all day. Artillery activity from both sides all day. Captain A J Roberts wounded. 1 Officer killed, 1 Officer wounded, 11 other ranks wounded (3 died since)
1917 May 2. Aircraft active from both sides. Two enemy machines brought down during the morning. Our front line evacuated to allow ‘heavies’ to bombard the Chemical Works Cemetery & Chateau all day. Front line re occupied at dusk. Enemy artillery bombarded support trenches. Captain G W Cox rejoined Battalion from 4th Infantry Base and took command of ‘B’ Company. All companies in position for assault at 11:30pm. Enemy aircraft flying low our trenches. 6 other ranks wounded (1 died since)
1917 May 3. He was captured in Roeun France, less than one month after being commissioned. He was reported missing during a General attack by the 3rd Army on enemy's position Fresnes-Les-Montabon-Plouvain, with the 1st Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment as part of the 10th Brigade. Battalion involved in 3rd Army assault at Chateau near Roeux. The 1st wave got through to the 1st objective but became isolated and were therefore taken. 1 Officer killed, 5 Officers wounded, 4 Officers missing, 5 other ranks killed, 58 other ranks wounded (4 died since), 112 other ranks missing (includes 3 wounded & missing). It looks like 'D' Company became isolated at the 1st objective so he was most likely with 'D' Company.
1918 Jul 18. Major Morris (Tanks), Capt. Young, Lieutenants Nathan, Goldstein and Mann, all went to a new Camp at Stralsund on the Baltic. They had all tried to escape recently at different times and go to a sort of Strafe Camp on an island. AS THEY ARE FIVE RATTLING GOOD MEN THEY WILL NOT MIND." The bit in capitals is what the German censor obliterated with his blue pencil. From Memoir of the Trenches, Tanks and Captivity 1914 – 1919 by Frank Vans Agnew (Ed. Jamie Vans) is to be published in about April 2014 by Pen & Sword Books.
1918 Oct 9. The undermentioned 2nd Lt. to be Lt. : R. War. Regt. G. S. M. Nathan.
1918 Dec 12. He was repatriated.
1919 Jul 10. He was posted to India with 2nd Warwickshire Regiment (Hence Poona on Medal Card) "Poona" on George Nathan's metal card. Apparently, the place where George Nathan was posted (he was, at one point in Khanspur) was quite dull no wars, just a quiet colonial community. He was in in India about a year. A General D.A.H. Day (I think) as I can't really read his signature approved George Nathan's application to retire to the Reserve of Officers and leave India.
1920 Aug 28. Returns from India
1920 Aug 26. War. R.—Lt. G. S. M. Nathan retires from British Army, receiving a gratuity.
1920 Oct 20. Joins ADRIC posted to G Coy in Killaloe, Clare as a Section Leader. Service No 785. R Warwick Regt.
1920 Dec 15. Reverts to T/Cadet but appears to stay in G Coy
Raid 27 Feb 21
1921 Feb 22. Nathan was named in the Witness Statement by Mrs Clancy, as being in charge of a raid on Michael O'Callaghan's house
1921 Feb 27 In charge of a raid on the home ex-mayor Clancy's home (WS of Mrs Clancy)(and his statement to British Court of Inquiry) I am not clear why but was an acting DI for this raid, although he had reverted to T/C in December
1921 Mar 7. He has been fingered by historians as the man who murdered the Mayor of Limerick along with another man from G Coy ADRIC The mayors of Limerick, the ex-mayor and another man were murdered in 3 separate shootings, believed to have been carried out by the same 2 men (Nathan and another man from G coy ADRIC. There was a local rumor that the other ADRIC man was Leslie Ibbotson)
1921 Apr 30. Posted to Depot
1921 May 2. He resigns from ADRIC (or is dismissed) and returned to London. "permitted to resign on completion of 6 months service"
1921 May 10. Warwick. R.—Lt. G. S. M. Nathan relinquishes his commn. He immediately joined the ranks of the West Yorkshire Regiment. He was stationed in the UK and stayed in the Army until about October, 1922. The Depot, West Yorkshire Regiment is the address on the back of his Medal Card.
1922 Oct 24. Leaves the British Army at his own request
During the Twenties he worked at a variety of jobs; he was doorman at Peter Jones; he got involved in an attempt to form a union and lost his job. a butcher in south London. His physical appearance at that period has been described as being rather gaunt, long nose, thin head and good shoulders; but his mixture of civilian and military clothing, his sweater and cheap shoes, made him look like a hard up story from the queue of the unemployed.
1925 Oct 26. Re-joined the British Army as a Private soldier in Royal Fusiliers
1926 May 25. GSM Nathan (Fusilier No. 4527170) was sentenced to be discharged with ignominy from the Royal Fusiliers by Court Martial.
1928 Feb 25. George S Nathan, born circa 1897 in England. Travelled Third Class, Paid by self. Religion given as C of E. Arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on the SS Alaunia having sailed from Southampton. He listed his former occupation in England as 'Adgent' and intended occupation as 'Farming' in Canada. Presumably this is when he is said to have been " a hobo in Canada". He was carrying 25 pounds sterling and gave the Next of Kin: Mother, Mrs J M Apthorpe?, 14 Bradbourne St, Parsons Green SW6. Passport no. 4-402, issued in London 10.2.28.
1932 Nov 17. George S Nathan, born circa 1897. Occupation Salesman, travelling Third Class. Last resided in Canada, left Halifax, Canada on SS Newfoundland of Furness, Withy & Co. Ltd. bound for Liverpool, England. His address given on returning to the UK in 1932 was 14 Bradbourne St Parsons Green, London.
1933 Sep 16. George Nathan, departed Southampton for Montreal on Aurania. Born circa 1897 Occupation. Salesman.
1936 Dec. He wrote to the British Legion in 1935, the year before he left for Spain. Nathan decided to join the International Brigades and was a captain in the British contingent of the XV International Brigade, fighting on the Republican side. Later on he was promoted to Major and Chief of Staff to the 15th battalion. Nathan was apparently liked and admired by his men. Fred Copeman described him as "efficient, capable, with loads of courage; above all, a typical British officer ... who when giving orders left those receiving them under no illusions as to what was required." Jason Gurney added: "He is the only personality serving with the International Brigades who emerges as an authentic hero figure, with a mythology of his own. A number of individuals of all nations behaved magnificently but none of them had the essential larger-than-life quality that distinguished George Nathan."
British and Irish International Brigadiers compiled by the Security Service
Jason Gurney, who worked closely with Nathan during the Spanish Civil War argued that: "It has often been said that he was a homosexual. While it is true that he did build up a personal entourage of chauffeur, batman and so forth which may have been suspect, he always behaved with such admirable personal discretion that there was certainly never any overt suggestion of homosexual tendencies."
The XV Brigade also contained a number of I.R.A. Civil War veterans who fought side by side with the British - one of the most notable being Frank Ryan, from Elton, Knocklong, Co. Limerick. Nathan told the Irish that he had served in military intelligence with the Crown forces in Co. Limerick. He told them also that 'We have grown up politically. We are Socialists together now'.' Although there was some friction between the Irish and the British, Ryan and Nathan got along well.
He appears to have been CO of 11th battalion and of the 14th Brigade, and First CO of the Dumont Battalion on Madrid and Cordoba fronts
1937 Jul 14, he rallied a battalion of fleeing republican Spanish soldiers, during the battle of Brunete; later that day he was hit by a bomb fragment and died. Peter O'Connor, from Waterford, recorded in his diary that 'Major Nathan, one of the greatest soldiers taking part in the first fight against Fascism was killed today in an aerial bombardment'.
1937 Jul 16. George Montague Nathan was killed by a random bomb from a Junkers Ju 88 as the International Brigades at the Battle of Brunete. According to Kenneth Sinclair Loutit: "At the end of a day when, ignoring the fire directed at him, he once again, swagger stick in hand, strolled down a faltering, badly defended, Battalion position. He had been showing the crumbling Spanish infantry that holding on was easy. As always he was impeccable in his turn-out and that day, true to the tradition of the Brigade of Guards, he died with his boots clean. Hit by mortar fragments, he knew that his number was up and he asked those near him to sing him out with the marching songs of his second and final love, the International Brigade." He appears to have actually died in Madrid. He was accorded a funeral with full military honours and is said to be buried under olive trees close to the River Guadarrama
Ernesto Viñas,who has studied the Brunete battlefield extensively,reports that he has found a document in the civil register of Torrelodones saying that Nathan’s grave is in the village cemetery. Torrelodones, midway between Madrid and Brunete, was one of the villages on the road used for the evacuation of the dead and wounded.
There is as much mystery in where Nathan died as in where he lived.