Noor Inayat Khan

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An all-around inspirational woman, Noor Inayat Khan was someone whose story was lost amidst the chaos of WW2.

She was born in Moscow to an Indian father, Inayat Khan and an American mother, Ameena Begum. Her father was a musician and religious teacher. She had 3 siblings and was a descendant of Tipu Sultan, the 18th-century Muslim ruler of Mysore. They moved to England shortly after World War 1 broke out. The family were under surveillance from the British due to her father’s pro-Indian views- which was why they moved to France. When the Nazi’s captured France during World War 2, they fled, along with other French residents, to England.

In England, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as a wireless operator. She was motivated to help the war effort because she believed in standing up for people who were oppressed and needing help. After that, she was sent to France as a wireless operator working for the network “Prosper” under the code name Madeline. Her job involved waiting hours for messages and always carrying her transmitting equipment with her meaning if she was ever searched, she would be immediately identified. However, some people had doubts about how she would perform there since she was not considered “athletic” or “intelligent”. Within a mere few days, all the other agents were captured by the Nazis, leaving Noor as the only Parisian correspondent for the British. She was supposedly betrayed by a colleague who sold her information. She was taken to a concentration camp where she refused to speak at all throughout her one-year imprisonment. Her interrogator reported later that after being asked why she had joined her country’s service because her effort was in vain, she replied serving her country was recompense. 

Eventually, she was shot along with 2 other agents. Her most notable awards include:

  • The George Cross, the second-best award in the UK, was awarded for gallantry “in the presence of the enemy”
  • The Croix de Guerre, given to anyone in France fighting the Axis
  • A blue plaque, given to famous people and placed in places they had a connection with
  • A statue of her in Gordon Square, London

There are also some books and movies that are about her including; Enemy of the Reich, Spy Princess, A call to spy, Mission France, Noor-Un-Nisa Inayat Khan and the second part of Doctor Who season 12 episode 1.

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