Monday, 14 January 2013

Noor Inayat Khan ... The Spy Princess

Tribute to an Indian princess who died for our freedom: Sculpture unveiled of spy tortured and executed by Nazis after refusing to betray Britain
Noor Inayat Khan was one of Churchill's elite band of women spies
Spy was the first radio operator to aid the French Resistence
Despite being tortured and interrogated by Gestapo she never gave up her loyalty to Britain
Shot by firing squad in 1944, Noor's last word was 'Liberte'
PUBLISHED:  8 November 2012

A beautiful Indian princess, she  sacrificed her life for Britain as a  wartime secret agent.
With astonishing courage, Noor Inayat Khan evaded the Gestapo before being betrayed, tortured and, after refusing to reveal any information, executed at Dachau concentration camp.
Her last word as the firing squad raised their weapons on September 13, 1944, was 'liberté'.
Yesterday, seven decades after her death aged 30, a statue to the forgotten heroine was unveiled in London by the Princess Royal.
The bronze bust commemorating Britain’s only female Muslim war heroine is the first stand-alone memorial to an Asian woman in the UK.
It stands in Gordon Square near the house where Noor lived and from where she left on her last mission, unable to tell her mother she might never return.
Princess Anne said  stories such as Noor’s are ‘remarkable in their own right’ but have a real connection to make with the modern age through their ‘multi-cultural aspect’.
She hoped the statue will 'remind people to ask: Who was she? Why is she here? And what can we achieve in her memory?'
Noor was part of an elite band of women in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the first woman radio operator to be flown into occupied France to aid the Resistance.
Born in Moscow to an Indian father and an American mother, Noor was a descendant of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ruler of Mysore. The family lived in London, moving to Paris when Noor was six.
She studied the harp, gained a degree in child psychology and wrote children’s stories.
When Paris fell to the Nazis in 1940, she returned to London and volunteered for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.
Recruited by the SOE in 1942, she was sent to Paris in June 1943 with the codename Madeleine.
Many members of the network  were soon arrested, but Noor chose  to remain in France, trying to send messages back to London while  avoiding capture.
That October she was betrayed by a Frenchwoman and arrested by the Gestapo. She was kept in chains and in solitary confinement. Her captors kicked and interrogated her but she revealed nothing.
When posthumously awarded the George Cross, Britain’s highest civilian decoration, for her gallantry in 1949, the citation read: 'She refused to abandon what had become the principal and most dangerous post in France, although given the opportunity to return to England, because she did not wish to leave her French comrades without communications.'
Noor was one of only three women in the SOE to be awarded the medal. The other two – Violette Szabo and Odette Hallowes – have been more widely known and celebrated until now.
Campaigners spent years raising £60,000 for Noor’s statue, by London-based artist Karen Newman, from public donations and enlisted the support of politicians including David Cameron, who said it was ‘impossible not to be moved’ by her bravery.
Shrabani Basu who wrote a biography of Noor in 2006 called 'Spy Princess' and spearheaded the campaign to get her formally recognised, said: 'I realised how much Noor's story had touched ordinary people, especially the young.
'I felt it was all the more important to remember Noor's message, her ideals and her courage in the troubled times we live in.'
Noor's brother Hidayat Inayat Khan, 95, was unable to travel from his home in The Hague, Netherlands, to attend the ceremony due to old age but said in a message read by his grandson Omar:
'May the inhuman suffering of all those - who like my dear sister perished under the brutal cruelty of the oppressor - not be in vain.'
Her cousin Mahmood Khan Youskine, 84, who spent holidays with her in France as a child, did make it and said: 'I remember her as a very refined girl who believed in freedom as a spiritual condition.
'Later I think she decided freedom had to be a political and social experience too.
'Sometimes it can take time to gain clarity on the past, but I appreciate it enormously that she is now being given recognition in the heart of London.'
Veterans of both the SOE and WAAF including Irene Warner, 91, who trained with Noor, were among the 300 throng.
She remembered her as 'quiet and shy but very nice' and said she 'certainly deserves recognition'.
General Sir David Richards, the Chief of Defence Staff, said in a message in the programme: 'We owe our freedom to women like Noor Inayat Khan.'
After the unveiling, a bugler played the Last Post before a minute's silence was observed. Noor was also posthumously awarded France's Croix se Guerre after the war. A film of her life is planned for release next year on the centenary of her birth.

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Noor Inayat Khan, Hindustani: (Urdu): نور عنایت خان, (Devanagari): नूर इनयात ख़ान GC (2 January 1914 – 13 September 1944) was an Allied SOE agent during the Second World War..
Usually known as Noor Inayat Khan (but also known as "Nora Baker" and "Madeleine", she was of Indian Muslim origin. As an SOE agent during the Second World War, she became the first female radio operator to be sent from Britain into occupied France to aid the French Resistance.

Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan was the eldest of four children. Her siblings included Vilayat (born 1916), Hidayat (born 1917), and Khair-un-Nisa (born 1919). She was of royal Indian descent through her father, Hazrat Inayat Khan, who was born to nobility and came from a princely Indian Muslim family. (his mother was a descendant of the uncle of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore). He lived in Europe as a musician and a teacher of Sufism. Her mother, Ora Meena Ray Baker (Ameena Begum), was an American  from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who met Inayat Khan during his travels in the United States. Ora Baker was the half-sister of American yogi and scholar Pierre Bernard, her guardian at the time she met Hazrat Inayat Khan. Noor's brother, Vilayat Inayat Khan, later became head of the Sufi Order International.
In 1914, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, the family left Russia for London and lived in Bloomsbury. Noor attended nursery at Notting Hill. In 1920, they moved to France, settling in Suresnes, near Paris, in a house that was a gift from a benefactor of the Sufi movement. After the death of her father in 1927, Noor took on the responsibility for her grief-stricken mother and her younger siblings. The young girl, described as quiet, shy, sensitive, and dreamy, studied child psychology at the Sorbonne and music at the Paris Conservatory under Nadia Boulanger, composing for harp and piano. She began a career writing poetry and children's stories and became a regular contributor to children's magazines and French radio. In 1939 her book, Twenty Jataka Tales (ISBN 978-0892813230), inspired by the Jātaka tales of Buddhist tradition, was published in London.
After the outbreak of the Second World War, when France was overrun by German troops, the family fled from Paris to Bordeaux and from there by sea to England, landing in Falmouth, Cornwall on 22 June 1940.

 Although Noor Inayat Khan was deeply influenced by the pacifist teachings of her father, she and her brother Vilayat decided to help defeat Nazi tyranny: "I wish some Indians would win high military distinction in this war. If one or two could do something in the Allied service which was very brave and which everybody admired it would help to make a bridge between the English people and the Indians."
On 19 November 1940, she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), and as an Aircraftwoman 2nd Class, she was sent to be trained as a wireless operator. Upon assignment to a bomber training school in June 1941, she applied for a commission in an effort to relieve herself of the boring work there. Later she was recruited to join F (France) Section of the Special Operations Executive and in early February 1943 she was posted to the Air Ministry, Directorate of Air Intelligence, seconded to First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY), and sent to Wanborough Manor, near Guildford in Surrey, and from there to various other SOE schools for training, including STS 5 Winterfold, STS 36 Boarmans and STS 52 Thame Park. During her training she adopted the name "Nora Baker".
Her superiors held mixed opinions on her suitability for secret warfare, and her training was incomplete. Nevertheless, her fluent French and her competency in wireless operation—coupled with a shortage of experienced agents—made her a desirable candidate for service in Nazi-occupied France. On 16/17 June 1943, cryptonymed 'Madeleine'/W/T operator 'Nurse' and under the cover identity of Jeanne-Marie Regnier, Assistant Section Officer/Ensign Inayat Khan was flown to landing ground B/20A 'Indigestion' in Northern France on a night landing double Lysander operation, code named Teacher/Nurse/Chaplain/Monk. She was met by Henri Déricourt.
She travelled to Paris, and together with two other women (Diana Rowden, code named Paulette/Chaplain, and Cecily Lefort, code named Alice/Teacher) Noor joined the Physician network led by Francis Suttill, code named "Prosper". Over the next month and a half, all the other Physician network radio operators were arrested by the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). In spite of the danger, Noor rejected an offer to return to Britain. She continued to transmit as the last essential link between London and Paris. Moving from place to place, she managed to escape capture while maintaining wireless communication with London. "She refused to abandon what had become the most important and dangerous post in France and did excellent work."

Inayat Khan was posthumously awarded a British George Cross and a French Croix de Guerre with Gold Star. As she was still considered "missing" in 1946 she could not be recommended for the Member of the Order of the British Empire but was Mentioned in Despatches instead, in October 1946. Inayat Khan was the third of three Second World War FANY members to be awarded the George Cross, Britain's highest award for gallantry not in the face of the enemy.[14] At the beginning of 2011, a campaign was launched to raise £100,000 for a bronze bust of her in central London close to her former home. It was claimed that this would be the first memorial in Britain to either a Muslim or an Asian woman,  but in fact Inayat Khan was already commemorated on the FANY memorial in St Paul's Church, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London, which lists the 52 members of the Corps who gave their lives on active service.
The unveiling of the bronze bust of Inayat Khan by HRH The Princess Royal Anne took place on 8 November 2012 in Gordon Square Gardens, London

In World War II, 37 women were dropped in occupied France to work as Special Operations Executive agents and 'set Europe ablaze'. 13 never returned. They were executed in Hitler's concentration camps. This is the fascinating story of eight of those female agents, all striking beauties (despite the need to be inconspicuous), all from civilian life, who were warned of the likelihood of arrest, torture and a brutal death before they volunteered. None demurred. These young women were given months of arduous fitness, gun, explosives, endurance and code training before parachuting into occupied territory. But Women Who Lived for Danger also contains eight very personal tales. Why did these women volunteer? Where did they come from? Marcus Binney tells of a life of Resistance work and uncover operations, clandestine activities and even armed combat, and a constant fear of discovery. But above this book tells of extreme bravery and devotion to duty.

 Flames in the Field: The Story of Four SOE Agents in Occupied France
Flames in the field Book Review
By Brooklyn Gal (New York, NY USA)
Anyone in search of first-rate movie material--whether screenwriter, director-producer, or development company--could do worse than to check out Rita Kramer's Flames in the Field, the true story of four courageous British agents who were dropped into occupied France during World War II to organize resistance groups against the Nazis. The fact that the agents were young women only adds to the poignancy of what is at once a tale of suspense and intrigue and a tragic story of possible betrayal. Biographer Kramer (she wrote the definitive life the 19th-century educator Maria Montessori) expertly recounts how these women and their colleagues sought to carry out Winston Churchill's injunction to "set Europe ablaze," all the while unknowingly caught in a Byzantine web of scheming on both sides. Kramer's original research (both among archives and survivors) is a substantial contribution to the scholarship on the cult of intelligence, and her elegant prose and flawless sense of pace make the book a page-turner, effortlessly readable. But it's the subjects themselves, too--the men and women of a heroic time--as well as the complexity of motives and events in a situation where almost any moral choice is tragic, that make her story such a stunning tableau.

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