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An unlikely candidate.

Noor Inayat Khan was a princess, descended from royalty and daughter of a Sufi mystic. She was gently raised in Paris, taught the arts of meditation and reflection in elegant surroundings. She would seem an unlikely candidate to become a spy, but she became one nonetheless.

In the early months of the war, she escaped to London and joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. As time passed, it was noted that she possessed a critical skill she was a native French speaker. A British spy network was operating in France, relaying messages by radio about German operations and downed airmen, and highly-proficient bilingual speakers were in short supply. And so Noor was recruited and quickly agreed. While it was true that she spoke fluent French and was eager to help, she was a delicate little thing, gently reared in a beautiful Parisian home. Some wondered if could she stand up to the hiding and the constant threat of discovery? And what if the Gestapo were to catch her…would she reveal everything?

Despite the reservations, Noor was flown to France, the first female undercover radio operator. What awaited her in Paris could scarcely have been predicted. She arrived in the very week that the existing spy ring was raided, and every operator arrested. She was not included simply because the Gestapo didn’t know about her yet! And so Noor, code name “Madeleine”, found herself the only British radio transmitter in Paris. She was ordered back to London, the danger now too great, but she refused! There was work to be done, evil to be stopped! She worked nonstop for months doing the work of six operators, moving cleverly from place to place throughout the city.

The Nazis knew about the elusive “Madeleine” and could even hear her transmissions, but because she changed locations so frequently, they could not locate her. They might never have found her were it not for the fact that she was betrayed by an acquaintance for 100,000 francs. She was arrested and brutally tortured by the Gestapo, but spoke not a word. She was then sent to a Berlin prison, where she was shackled and chained to a wall for ten months, unable to feed or clean herself. Noor Inayat Khan, princess and freedom fighter, turned 30 years old in that Berlin prison and despite the brutality and the constant beatings, her secrets remained firmly locked inside. She was finally transferred to Dachau, where she was shot in the head by SS guard, Wilhelm Ruppert, who later reported her final word as “Liberty!”

In the end, this delicate little slip of a girl was stronger than steel, stronger than anyone could have imagined. What an incredible hero! On January 16, 1946, the French awarded Noor Inayat Khan their highest civilian honor, the Croix de Guerre. Three years later in 1949, England awarded her the George Cross.


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