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Friday, November 9, 2012

Princess Royal unveils the bust of Noor Inayat Khan

Seven decades after her death aged 30, a statue to the forgotten heroine was unveiled in London by the Princess Royal. On 8th Nov. 2012, in a quiet and beautiful public garden in central London, a bust was unveiled  by Princess Anne.  It stands in Gordon Square near the house where that person  lived and from where she left on her last mission, unable to tell her mother she might never return.  Princess Anne said  stories such as this person’s  are ‘remarkable in their own right’ but have a real connection to make with the modern age through their ‘multi-cultural aspect’.  She hoped the statue will 'remind people to ask: Who was she? Why is she here? And what can we achieve in her memory?'

While the Britons ponder on these lines, there is an Indian connection, and hence We Indians ought to know about this person whose sculpture was unveiled.  She was  one of Churchill's elite band of women spies; Spy was the first radio operator to aid the French Resistence ; despite being tortured and interrogated by Gestapo she never gave up her loyalty to Britain.  She was shot by firing squad in 1944,  and her last word was 'Liberte' – it is the tale of a  beautiful Indian princess, who   sacrificed her life for Britain as a  wartime secret agent.

Born in Moscow to an Indian father and an American mother, Noor Inayat Khan, reportedly  was a descendant of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ruler of Mysore. The family lived in London, moving to Paris when Noor was six. She studied the harp, gained a degree in child psychology and wrote children’s stories.  When Paris fell to the Nazis in 1940, she returned to London and volunteered for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.  Recruited by the SOE in 1942, she was sent to Paris in June 1943 with the codename Madeleine.  Many members of the network  were soon arrested, but Noor chose  to remain in France, trying to send messages back to London while  avoiding capture.

Daily Mail reports that over 400 distinguished guests filled leafy Gordon Square to pay tribute to the WWII heroine, who was shot in Germany's Dachau concentration camp in 1944 at the age of 30. The guests included MPs, peers, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, war veterans, former agents who served alongside Noor as members of the top secret Special Operations Executive (SOE) and even the RAF pilots who flew the agents on their deadly missions.

Noor Inayat Khan,  an Allied heroine of the Second World War was born in 1914 and passed away in 1944, at a tender age of 30.  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,  Noor and her brother Vilayat decided to help defeat Nazi tyranny.  She joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF),  and was trained to be a wireless operator. Upon assignment to a bomber training school in June 1941, she adopted the name "Nora Baker".  In Oct  1943 Inayat Khan was arrested and was treated as  an extremely dangerous prisoner.  She did escape in Nov 1943 only to be captured immediately and on 11th Sept 1944, Noor Inayat Khan and three other SOE agents from Karlsruhe prison, were executed by a shot to the head.  She was only 30.
in a traditional style........

Inayat Khan was posthumously awarded a British George Cross, appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire and Mentioned in Despatches and awarded a French Croix de Guerre with Gold Star. The unveiling of a Memorial for Inayat Khan by HRH The Princess Royal took place  on 8 November 2012 in Gordon Square Gardens, London.

In September 2012, producers Zafar Hai and Tabrez Noorani have obtained the movie rights to the book Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu.  In Sept 2008,  in the BBC TV show Mastermind, Christopher took  Noor Inayat-Khan as his specialist subject; he scored 17 points, getting every question correct.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
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