Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan
by Jean Overton Fuller
Noor Inayat Khan (1914–1944) was the Special Operations Executive’s (SOE) first woman wireless transmitter in German-occupied Paris during World War II. Posthumously awarded the George Cross MBE and Croix de Guerre with Gold Star for her outstanding wartime service and heroism on behalf of the Allied cause, Noor’s remarkable and inspiring life have been commemorated in numerous war memorials, World War II histories, and several films.
Born in 1914 to an American mother, Ora Ray Baker, and an Indian Sufi father, Hazrat Inayat Khan, Noor was raised in France, studying musical composition, piano, and harp under Nadia Boulanger at the École Normale de Musique, and child psychology at the Sorbonne. Her stories for children appeared in Le Figaro and were broadcast over Radiodiffusion Francaise, and her first book, Twenty Jataka Tales, was published in London. Her career as a writer was interrupted by the German invasion of France in 1940.
The Inayat Khan family sought refuge in England, and Noor enlisted in the WAAF where she trained as a wireless transmitter. Her Parisian background and wireless skills led to her recruitment by the SOE. After further training, in June, 1943, she was secretly flown back to France where she began her undercover work for the Allied cause under the code name “Madeleine.” Constantly on the move between multiple locations and using false identities, Noor transmitted messages for the SOE’s French and RF (République Française) sections, and for De Gaulle’s Free French network. Betrayed by an acquaintance, she was captured by the Gestapo in October, 1943, and held for prolonged interrogation at the Sicherheitsdienst headquarters in Paris. After repeated escape attempts, she was considered to be a dangerous prisoner and was transferred to Pforzheim prison in Germany, where she was held in maximum security and solitary confinement. As the war drew to an end in the fall of 1944, Noor was transported to Dachau. Her last word before execution was “Liberté!”
This new edition of Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan: Madeleine includes previously unpublished material including a retrospective by Noor’s brother Vilayat Inayat Khan, an account of the friendship of Noor and the author, and further research on Noor’s life and the SOE.