This year marks 100 years since the birth of Noor Inayat Kahn, known in the media as the ‘spy princess’.
In 2003, The National Archives released the Special Operations Executive (SOE) file of Noor Inayat Khan (HS 9/836/5), aka Jeanne Marie Renier, prompting great interest from the press. Her image as a fearless young woman fighting a secret war who died selflessly for her beliefs, coupled with her heritage from Indian nobility made her an intriguing heroine.
Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Kahn was born to an Indian father and American mother (Noor-un-Nisa was the name her family used to refer to her). Her father, Hazrat Inayat Khan, was the founder of the Sufi Order in London and was a teacher of Universal Sufism. Her mother was Ora Ray Baker born in New Mexico, who became Pirani Ameena Begum following her marriage.
The Inayat Kahn family lived in Paris when, in 1940, Noor escaped to England after France fell and joined the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce. She joined the Special Operations Executive in 1942 and was the first woman to be sent to France to work as a wireless operator. In October 1943 she was betrayed, captured by the Gestapo and sent to Pforzheim Prison in Germany. She was repeatedly tortured but refused to reveal any information. In September 1944 she was transported to Dachau Concentration Camp where she was executed on 13 September.