Noor Inayat Khan
- Category : Law-Spy-Counter-agent
- Type : ME
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Tension 4
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.
Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan was the eldest of four children. 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. 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. 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, 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, 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 Noor joined the Physician network led by Francis Suttill. 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.
Khan was betrayed to the Germans, either by Henri Déricourt or by Renée Garry. Around 13 October 1943 Inayat Khan was arrested and interrogated at the SD Headquarters at 84 Avenue Foch in Paris. Though SOE trainers had expressed doubts about Inayat Khan's gentle and unworldly character, on her arrest she fought so fiercely that SD officers were afraid of her. She was thenceforth treated as an extremely dangerous prisoner. There is no evidence of her being tortured, but her interrogation lasted over a month. During that time, she attempted escape twice. Hans Kieffer, the former head of the SD in Paris, testified after the war that she did not give the Gestapo a single piece of information, but lied consistently.
Although Inayat Khan did not talk about her activities under interrogation, the SD found her notebooks. Contrary to security regulations, she had copied out all the messages she had sent as an SOE operative. Although she refused to reveal any secret codes, the Germans gained enough information from them to continue sending false messages imitating her. London failed to properly investigate anomalies which should have indicated the transmissions were sent under enemy control. And so three more agents sent to France were captured by the Germans at their parachute landing, among them Madeleine Damerment, who was later executed.
On 25 November 1943, Inayat Khan escaped from the SD Headquarters, along with fellow SOE Agents John Renshaw Starr and Leon Faye, but was captured in the vicinity. There was an air raid alert as they escaped across the roof. Regulations required a count of prisoners at such times and their escape was discovered before they could get away. After refusing to sign a declaration renouncing future escape attempts, Inayat Khan was taken to Germany on 27 November 1943 "for safe custody" and imprisoned at Pforzheim in solitary confinement as a "Nacht und Nebel" (condemned to "Disappearance without Trace") prisoner, in complete secrecy. For ten months, she was kept there handcuffed.
On 11 September 1944 Noor Inayat Khan and three other SOE agents from Karlsruhe prison were moved to the Dachau Concentration Camp. In the early hours of the morning of 13 September 1944, the four women were executed by a shot to the head. Their bodies were immediately burned in the crematorium. An anonymous Dutch prisoner emerging in 1958 contended that Inayat Khan was cruelly beaten by a high-ranking SS officer named Wilhelm Ruppert before being shot from behind. She was 30 years old.