Forgotten History-Noor Inayat Khan

Nowadays it has become so easy to blame Muslims for all evil in the world. And I get why people think that way, given all the awful acts of terror which have been committed in the name of Islam in the recent past and are still happening.

But the fact is the criminals who commit these acts use Islam for their own twisted political ideology and has very little to do with Islam. The biggest group of victims are Muslims themselves.

Next time you want to say that Muslims are a threat to our western freedom, spare a thought for Muslims like Noor Inayat Khan who gave her life for our Western freedom.

Khan was a wartime British secret agent of Indian descent who was the first female radio operator sent into Nazi-occupied France by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). She was arrested and eventually executed by the Gestapo.

Noor Inayat Khan was born on New Year’s Day 1914 in Moscow to an Indian father and an American mother. She was a direct descendant of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century Muslim ruler of Mysore. Khan’s father was a musician and Sufi teacher. He moved his family first to London and then to Paris, where Khan was educated and later worked writing childrens’ stories. Khan escaped to England after the fall of France and in November 1940 she joined the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). In late 1942, she was recruited to join SOE as a radio operator. Although some of those who trained her were unsure about her suitability, 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 doubleL ysander operation, code named Teacher/Nurse/Chaplain/Monk. She was met by Henri  Déricourt who turned out to be a double agent.

enri

She travelled to Paris, and with two other women, Diana Rowden (code named Paulette/Chaplain), and Cecily Lefort (code named Alice/Teacher), joined the Physician network led by Francis Suttill (code named Prosper).

Over the next month and a half, all the other Physician network radio operators were arrested by the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), along with hundreds of Resistance personnel associated with Prosper. Colonel Maurice Buckmaster, head of F Section, later claimed that in spite of the danger, Inayat Khan rejected an offer to return to Britain, although it was certainly in SOE’s interest that she stay in the field in the aftermath of the round-up of their largest network. As the only remaining wireless operator still at large in Paris, Inayat Khan continued to transmit to London messages from agents of what remained of the Prosper/Physician circuit, a network she also worked to keep intact despite the mass arrests of its members. She was now the most wanted British agent in Paris with SD officers sent out to look for her at subway stations, and an accurate description of her widely circulated among German security officers. With wireless detection vans in close pursuit, Inayat Khan could transmit for only twenty minutes at one time in one place, but constantly moving from place to place, she managed to escape capture while maintaining wireless communication with London: “She refused to abandon what had become the most important and dangerous post in France and did excellent work

Inayat Khan was betrayed to the Germans, either by Henri Déricourt or by Renée Garry. Déricourt (code name Gilbert) was an SOE officer and former French Air Force pilot who had been suspected of working as a double agent for the Sicherheitsdienst. Garry was the sister of Henri Garry, Inayat Khan’s organizer in the Cinema network (later renamed Phono).Allegedly paid 100,000 francs, Renée Garry’s actions have been attributed by some to jealousy due to Garry’s suspicion that she had lost the affections of SOE agent France Antelme to Inayat Khan

On or around 13 October 1943, Inayat Khan was arrested and interrogated at the SD Headquarters at 84 Avenue Foch in Paris.

84-avenue-foch

Though SOE trainers had expressed doubts about her 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. However other sources indicate that she chatted amiably with an out-of-uniform Alsatian interrogator, and provided personal detail that enabled the SD to answer random checks in the form of questions about her childhood and family.

kiefer

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 (this may have been due to her misunderstanding what a reference to filing meant in her orders, and also the truncated nature of her security course due to the need to insert her into France as soon as possible). 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 would have indicated the transmissions were sent under enemy control, in particular the change in the ‘fist’ (the style of the operator’s Morse transmission though according to M R D Foot, the Sicherheitsdienst were quite adept at faking operators’ fists.As a WAAF signaller, Inayat Khan had been nicknamed ‘Bang Away Lulu’ because of her distinctively heavy-handed style, which was said to be a result of chilblains.

As a result of London’s errors, three more agents sent to France were captured by the Germans at their parachute landing, among them Madeleine Damerment, who was later executed.

Sonya Olschanezky (‘Tania’), a locally recruited SOE agent had learnt of Inayat Khan’s arrest, and had sent a message to London through her fiancé, Jacques Weil, telling Baker Street of her capture and warning HQ to suspect any transmissions from ‘Madelaine’. Colonel Maurice Buckmaster ignored the message as unreliable because he did not know who Olschanezky was. As a result, German transmissions from Inayat Khan’s radio continued to be treated as genuine, leading to the unnecessary deaths of SOE agents, including Olschanezky herself, who was executed at Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp on 6 July 1944.

When Vera Atkins investigated the deaths of missing SOE agents, she initially confused Inayat Khan with Olschanezky (they were similar in appearance), who was unknown to her, believing that Inayat Khan had been killed at Natzweiler, correcting the record only when she discovered Inayat Khan’s fate at Dachau.

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” (“Night and Fog”: condemned to “Disappearance without Trace”) prisoner, in complete secrecy. For ten months, she was kept there shackled at hands and feet.

pforzheim19

She was classified as “highly dangerous” and shackled in chains most of the time. As the prison director testified after the war, Inayat Khan remained uncooperative and continued to refuse to give any information on her work or her fellow operatives, although in her despair at the appalling nature of her confinement, other prisoners could hear her crying at night. However, by the ingenious method of scratching messages on the base of her mess cup, she was able to inform another inmate of her identity, giving the name of Nora Baker and the London address of her mother’s house

On 11 September 1944, Inayat Khan and three other SOE agents from Karlsruhe prison,Yolande Beekman, Eliane Plewman, and Madeleine Damerment, were moved to the Dachau Concentration Camp. In the early morning hours of 13 September 1944, the four women were executed by a shot to the back of the head. Their bodies were immediately burned in the crematorium. An anonymous Dutch prisoner, who emerged in 1958, contended that Inayat Khan was cruelly beaten by a high-ranking SS officer named Wilhelm Ruppert before being shot from behind; the beating may have been the actual cause of her death. She may also have been sexually assaulted while in custody. Her last word has been recorded as, “Liberté”.

Inayat Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1949, and a French Croix de Guerre with silver star

              George_Cross

As she was still considered “missing” in 1946, she could not be recommended for a Member of the Order of the British Empire,but was Mentioned in Despatches instead in October 1946 Inayat Khan was the third of three Second World War FANY members to be awarded the George Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry not in the face of the enemy.

At the beginning of 2011, a campaign was launched to raise £100,000 for a bronze bust of her in central London close to her former home. It was claimed that this would be the first memorial in Britain to either a Muslim or an Asian woman,but Inayat Khan had already been commemorated on the FANY memorial in St Paul’s Church, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London,which lists the 52 members of the Corps who gave their lives on active service.

The unveiling of the bronze bust by HRH The Princess Royal took place on 8 November 2012 in Gordon Square Gardens, London.

bust

Inayat Khan is commemorated on a stamp issued by the Royal Mail on 25 March 2014 in a set of stamps about “Remarkable Lives”

stamp

 

Although Noor Khan as been remembered a lot it appears that she still has been forgotten.

In 2014 a TV movie was made in her memory called “the Enemy of the Reich”

 

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One thought on “Forgotten History-Noor Inayat Khan

  1. Pingback: Forgotten History-Noor Inayat Khan | dirkdeklein

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