Noor Inayat Khan was born on this day in 1914 in Moscow, Russia.
A direct descendant of India's last Muslim ruler, Tipu Sultan, her father was a Muslim mystic invited to Nicholas II's court by Grigori Rasputin. She moved to Paris as a youth, and after receiving her education there joined Paris Radio as a resident writer of children's stories, publishing Twenty Jataka Tales in 1940.
When the arrival of the Nazis, however, Noor moved to London and joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and secretly infiltrated France under the code name "Madeleine" in June 1943 as a resistance radio operator, the British War Office's first woman spy in Nazi-occupied France. The War Office ordered her to return after growing concerned about her safety, but she refused on the grounds that she was the last radio operator in the resistance.
Later that fall, she was finally captured by the Nazis, refusing to give them information or to sign a declaration that she would cease her activities -- although they did manage to break her coded messages and send false messages back to London, culminating in the arrest of 3 more British spies. She was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Karlsruhe, and eventually taken to Dachau concentration camp, where she was executed on September 13, 1944 for her refusal to cooperate. She was posthumously awarded the George Cross, the Croix de Guerre and an MBE.
Categories: World-War-II, Trailblazing-Women, India, Literature