As an Indian secret agent Noor Inayat Khan was active for the British secret service Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War. She was the first female radio operator send to France where she worked for the French resistance.
Noor Inayat Khan was born in Moscow on New Year’s Day 1914 to an American mother and an Indian father who was a descendant of the Sultan of Mysore in India. After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the family moved to London and later to France in 1920. Here Inayat Khan focused on playing music and writing children stories.
After the capitulation of France in 1940 the family fled to London, where Inayat Khan would join the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in November 1940. Here she trained to be a radio operator. She was recruited for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) at the end of 1942 and despite her lack of experience she was dropped in France on 17 June 1943. This was due to a shortage of spies and the fact that she spoke French fluently.
In France Inayat Khan became a radio operator for the Physician-network of the SOE in Paris. The goal of this network was to encourage and aid French resistance against the German occupier. Inayat Khan maintained the contact between the resistance and the SOE in London. However, a lot of members were arrested quite soon because of infiltration by the Sicherheitsdienst (intelligence agency of Nazi Germany). Despite this Inayat Khan tried to maintain contact with London all summer long. In October she was betrayed by a French woman and afterwards arrested by the Gestapo, the German secret state police.
The Sicherheitsdienst knew how to decipher the coded notes of Inayat Khan which lead them to arrest several other people. Inayahat Khan was imprisoned in the prison of Pforzheim in Germany for ten months, after which she was transferred to the Dachau Concentration Camp. Here she was tortured for two days. Together with three other SOE spies, she was executed on 13 September 1944.