Lifestyle & Belief

Indian WWII "spy princess" is honored with a London monument


Hon. Assistant Section Officer Noor Inayat Khan (code name Madeleine), George Cross, MiD, Croix de Guerre avec Etoile de Vermeil. Noor Inayat Khan served as a wireless operator with F Section, Special Operations Executive.


Imperial War Museum

Noor Inayat Khan was a young and bookish Indian children's writer when World War II broke out—and then decided to dedicate her life to the fight against fascism, serving as a radio operator in Paris under German occupation.

Now, a monument has been unveiled in her honor in London, 68 years after her execution at the Nazi Dachau prison camp in Germany.

Recruited by the Special Operations Executive, according to the BBC, Khan was sent to Paris to work radios.

It was a dangerous assignment: she was only expected to live a mere six months, according to the Guardian. Furthermore, Khan was the only woman who performed such service in the occupied city.

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Khan died at the age of 30, when she was executed at the Dachau prison camp. Her final words, allegedly, were "Liberte." She gave up no secrets to the enemy, despite repeated torture. 

She was awarded England's George Cross and France's Croix de Guerre posthumously, according to the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust, recognizing her extraordinary bravery.

Khan's story had faded into history, but that changed on Thursday, when a bust of Khan was unveiled in London by Britain's Princess Anne, near Khan's England home. It's Britain's first monument to an Asian woman, according to the Guardian.

"Nothing, neither her nationality, nor the traditions of her family, none of these obliged her to take her position in the war," said Madame de-Gaulle Anthonioz on the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust website.

"However she chose it. It is our fight that she chose, that she pursued with an admirable, an invincible courage," she added.

According to the BBC, around 2.5 million volunteer Indians fought on the British side in WWII, the largest volunteer army in history.