Noor Inayat Khan was born in Russia to an American Mother and Indian father. She was raised in France and earned two degrees before World War II one in “psychobiology of the child” and another “in Harp” (Maggs). Her family were pacifist’s although she was a descendant of “Tipu Sultan” who was her “great-great-great grandfather” (Maggs) and the ruler of the Indian Kingdom of Mysore”
(Maggs). He had fought against the British during their colonization of India. Noor was hesitant to aid the war due to India’s history with the British and like her grandfather “was not a big fan of England” (Maggs). Noor finally made her decision to help in the hopes that “if an Indian were to perform an epic service for England, relations might improve between the two countries” (Maggs). Noor joined the British Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in 1940 before then joining Special Operations. Throughout her training, many believed her to be too clumsy and unable to handle what was required of an agent but none could deny her spirit. She was finally sent to Paris as “a wireless operator” (Maggs) which she excelled in where most “were captured after just a few weeks in France” (Maggs). Noor lasted five whole months. A week following her arrival “her entire network was captured” (Lee) and Noor was left as the “only link between England and the French resistance” (Lee).
Throughout her work, she convinced a German to set up her wireless antenna by convincing him it was a clothesline, she helped “in the escape of thirty airmen who had been shot down” (Maggs), continuously altered her appearance and successfully handled “many tricky operations” (Maggs). She even became “Number 1 on the SD’s Most Wanted List” (Maggs) due to their difficulty in tracking her. Sadly, she was eventually betrayed and “captured by the Germans” (Maggs) but did not stop fighting and attempted to escape twice. Noor eventually ended up “shackled in solitary confinement” (Maggs) and considered extremely dangerous before being executed “right before the end of the war” (Maggs). She revealed no information to the Nazi’s and endured their brutal interrogations. Noor’s last word was “Liberté” (Lee) and she was “awarded the George Cross in 1949 and the Croix de guerre” (Lee).
Maggs, Sam, and Sophia Foster-Dimino. Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History. Quirk Books, 2016.
Lee, Mackenzi, and Petra Eriksson. Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World. Abrams Image, 2018.