Military Award Winners: Noor Inayat Khan. GC. MBE. 1914-1944 - Capture, the Gestapo, the Camp, the Bullet.
She Fought and Died for Freedom.
So who was Noor Inayat Khan? She was a woman who was born to wealth and all that it brings. She was born in Moscow on 1st January 1914. The daughter of highly regarded parents, her father was a leader in the Sufism movement, as well as a musician. Her mother was an American from New Mexico, who met her husband while he was working in the USA. In the early part of 1914 the family left Russia to live in the UK. In the early 1920s the family moved again, this time to Paris. They settled there and in 1927 after the death of her father Noor took control of the family. She had been making a living as a children's writer.
The War Begins.
The second world war started in1939 and in 1940 the family fled France for Britain, landing in Falmouth, Cornwall on 22 June. A strong and independent woman, Noor felt that she had to do something towards the war effort. So at the age of 26 she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. ( WAAF ). She undertook several courses and displayed a particular ability as a wireless operator. This would prove to be her destiny and her downfall. Although influenced by the pacifist teachings of their father. She and her brother Vilayat, both wanted to bridge the gap between the Indian and English speaking peoples. Before them they felt lay an opportunity.
Special Operations Executive.
As an Aircraftwoman 2nd Class, Noor went for wireless operator training and assigned to a Bomber Training School. In 1942 she was recruited into the Special Operations Executive. (SOE) Several instructors expressed doubts about her ability to undertake hazardous duties. She had failed in some respects during her training, however she had excellent language skills and was fluent in French. The need for radio operators in France was great and so along with two other women agents, Noor was flown into France by a small Lysander aircraft on the night of 16th/17th June 1943.They were met by another agent Henri Dericourt. This man was an SOE Officer and an ex French Air Force Pilot. Since the war, he has been thought to have been a double agent working for the Germans. Over the next few weeks many radio operators were caught by the Germans, as well as the Vichy authorities. The situation became very dangerous but despite offers of withdrawal back to England, Noor stayed on refusing to abandon her post.
Betrayal And Capture.
On the 1st October 1943. Noor was betrayed. Although not proven it was thought by some to have been Henri Dericourt. She was arrested by the Gestapo and taken to the Gestapo headquarters at 84 Avenue Foch, an address which struck fear into the hearts of many who passed through its doors. Here she was interrogated for a month. At one point having requested a bath she tried to escape through the bathroom window. Guards were outside and she was caught as she climbed through it. After another attempt to escape, Noor was moved to Germany at the end of November 1943. She was held in a prison in Pforzheim, here she was kept in solitary confinement. It is likely that Noor suffered indignity and torture in this place. It is known that she was treated as a dangerous prisoner and her hands and feet were in chains. During this confinement she was treated as a 'Nacht und Nebel' prisoner, condemned to 'disappearance without trace'. Not a time a place or a name was ever given to her captors.
On the 11th November 1944 Noor was moved to the Dachau concentration camp. Here she was to endure two days of vicious beatings by SS Guard Wilhelm Ruppert, she gave nothing away. After two days along with three other female agents, Noor was taken to the gates of the camp. All four of these most courageous women, were then marched across to a small copppice of woodland. Here they were executed by a shot to the head from behind.
Three More Women Of Courage.
It is only right to mention here the names of the other women murdered alongside Noor. Yolande Beekman, Eliane Plewman and Madeleine Damerment. Upon Noor's arrest she had left notebooks behind, via the information within Madeleine had been identified and captured. These four courageous women all did their duty as they saw it. So did many thousands more who fought and died without mention.
Awards and Mentions.
Britain: George Cross. ( The highest award for gallantry not on the field of battle). / MBE. Member of the Order of the British Empire. / Mentioned in Despatches.
France: Croix de Guerre with Gold Star.
World War II.
© 2012 Graham Lee