Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Noor Inayat Khan

Noor Inayat Khan, the exotic in Russia born descent of an Indian muslim prince, was the first British female Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent in WW2 to be sent to occupied France as a wireless operator. Although some officers doubted whether she was suitable for SOE operations, she was infiltrated in June 1943 under the false identity of Jeanne-Marie Regnier and codename Madelaine, to occupy the most dangerous SOE post, Paris.

While constantly relocating to avoid being captured, she transmitted German troop movements to London. Wireless operator was a high risk job, as they could only stay in the air for a few minutes. The German Sicherheitsdienst SD was very skilled in tracing clandestine radios with direction-finding equipment. They managed to track down and arrest virtually all operators. Noor was one of the few remaining. Well aware of the risks, she turned down several offers to return to London.

After four months, Noor was betrayed and consequently arrested by the SD in October 1943. She resisted her arrest so fiercely that she was treated as an extremely dangerous prisoner. Although interrogated in the Gestapo headquarters for five weeks, she never gave any information. She made two escape attempts, one just after her arrest and another on 25 November, together with two other SOE agents. Both attempts failed.

Noor was relocated to a prison in Pforzheim, Germany, where she was regarded as very dangerous and kept in chains and in solitary confinement. Ten months later, on 11 September, Noor was moved to the Dachau concentration camp, where she was cruelly beaten by an SS officer, prior to her execution in the early morning of 13 September 1944. Her last word was "Liberté". She was 30 years old. The remarkable Noor Inayat Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross as one of only four women ever to receive this award, and also the French Croix de Guerre.

More to read about Noor Inayat Khan on 64-Baker Street, Camp X, Camp Dachau website, and spy master William Sephenson on Noor. Definitely worth reading!

Update: On YouTube, there's a five-part documentary called "The Princess Spy". Click the links to view parts [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

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