An English Heritage Blue Plaque honours Noor Inayat Khan at 4 Taviton Street, WC1H OBT, in the borough of Camden.
Noor Khan was a female secret agent who carried out spy work in World War II. She was the first female radio operator posted to France under the Nazi occupation. It is the first time that English Heritage has granted a Blue Plaque to a woman of Indian origin.
Noor Khan was born in Russia and was a descendant of Tipu Sultan, an 18th century Muslim Ruler of Mysore. Her mother, the poet Amina Begum, was American and her father, Inayat Khan was an Indian musician and a teacher of Sufism.
Noor Khan spent her childhood years in London and later she lived with her parents in Paris, becoming fluent in French. She studied psychology at the Sorbonne, aspiring to become a writer of children’s books.
In 1939 war broke out bringing horror and havoc to so many families. Noor and her parents returned to England to fight fascism in spite of the pacifist teachings of Sufism.
Noor Khan chose to enlist in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in 1940 and applied for a commission in intelligence work in 1941. She was posted to Compton Bassett in Wiltshire for training as a wireless operator. She attained great skill in this work.
Winston Churchill had set up an independent secret service, named the Special Operations Executive (SOE). They selected Noor Khan to join them and she received paramilitary training.
In 1943 Noor Khan went to Nazi-occupied France with her radio and was the sole transmitting agent in Paris. It was planned that she would be part of a network but it collapsed. Noor remained in Paris sending messages for three months at huge risk to her life. The Gestapo were much in evidence.
Her fate was to be captured. She succeeded in escaping twice but was recaptured. Then came the isolation, the chains and the beatings. Noor Khan did not yield or co-operate with her captors. The notorious concentration camp at Dachau was her last place of imprisonment. There she was tortured and finally shot in the head. Evidence from the Nuremberg Trials confirms these facts.
At the Unveiling of the Blue Plaque, Noor Khan’s Biographer, Shrabani Basu, said,
“As people walk by, Noor’s story will inspire future generations”
Noor Inayat Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre. Hers was a life of unfaltering courage.