A profile in Courage ~ Noor Inayat Khan
Also known as MADELEINE of the French Resistance
Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan, GC, MBE, CdG.

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Princess Noor is one among many brave souls who paid the ultimate price, enabling us to be born into a free world.

She came to life on the second day of 1914, in the Kremlin. Her father,a Mohammedan mystic, was sharing his message of peace and love with those who would listen. However, the turmoil leading up to the Russian Revolution forced them to seek asylum elsewhere.

Following many adventures, they arrived in Paris where Noor, some years later, entered the Ecole Normale de Musique. She had been employed for some time as a writer of children's stories for Paris radio, when armed aggression made it imperative for this peaceful family to flee their home once again.

Settling in London, "Nora Baker"(a.k.a.Noor) enlisted in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), and was deemed suitable for clandestine operations in occupied France. Becoming skilled in wireless telegraphy, she then embarked upon a rigorous and detailed training program designed to increase her chances of survival in enemy territory.

However, when landed in France, Noor soon discovered that the integrity of her 'support network' had been severely compromised. Agents were being captured in great numbers. London offered a chance to exit, but she refused, not wishing to leave her comrades bereft of 'vital' radio links to headquarters.

Incredibly enough, the Princess eluded the dreaded Gestapo for many months, cycling, with transmitter in tow, from one 'safe house' to another......It was even reported that she solicited the help of an enemy officer to string up her antenna - telling him, of course, that it was a clothes line!

A very brave girl indeed!

"Madeleine" (Noor's code name) ultimately became the 'Sole Communications Link' between her unit of the French Resistance and 'home base', across the channel. Although, eventually the sad day did arrive of her betrayal and capture, finally ending in the most tragic consequences.

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"Madeleine" an excerpt from the book: A MAN CALLED INTREPID by: William Stevenson (no relation to the subject) This is a very informative biography of Sir William Stephenson. Courtesy: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers New York & London. 1976

"Madeleine" was a young woman of haunting beauty, the center of cruel controversy after her death. "She should never have been sent to France", declared a fellow agent, quoted in the official British history of these operations. "She was a splendid, vague, dreamy creature, far too conspicuous - twice seen, never forgotten - and she had no sense of security...."

An attempt was made to stop her mission when spy school instructors said nothing could hide her striking appearance. She would certainly attract German officers, which was not the idea. A writer of children's books, she had lived in a fairy world that left no room for cynicsm or distrust. Her cover name was taken from one of her stories - the last that she read over Radio Paris to French Children in freedom.

She was born in the Kremlin, incredibly enough, a descendant of the Tiger of Mysore, the last Muslim ruler of South India. Her father had been invited to teach Sufism to the Tsar in 1912. Her real name was Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan, "Light of Womanhood".

Her American mother was the niece of the founder of Christian Science. She had been raised by her father, the leader of an Islamic religious movement, to believe that love and tolerance were the only weapons against inhumanity. This doctrine - Sufism, which was to become fashionable in the west during the 1970's - had been banned in Germany as "alien to German culture". She still believed Sufism would overcome Nazism, just as nonviolence in India must overthrow British Imperialism.

Bill Stephenson, the Canadian "Spy Master" and top man in British Intelligence during the war, had met Princess Noor in India in 1934. He sensed steel within her seemingly timid personality. She was nineteen years old then, stunningly pretty, gifted with an innocence which he judged could never be corrupted.

He was leading a mission of technical experts studying India's resources and potential for self-development. He met her on a tiger shoot arranged by her father's fellow Muslim Air Vice-Marshall Nawab Haji Khan, chief of the Chamber of Princes and Nawab of Bhopal. The pomp and ceremony of the jungle shikaris amused both the girl and Stephenson. They talked about a future India where the gap between rich and poor might be narrowed through love and compassion.

The Nawab was a close friend of Stephenson's and later, on active service with the RAF, he learned that the Canadian kept a fatherly eye on the girl. It was in this way that Noor entered the world of Baker Street armed with credentials. She could not remain in the RAF, however. The regular services had a reputation against women taking part in military operations.

Noor was provided with a new identity that fitted her personality and resembled her true background. She became Jeanne-Marie Regnier, a children's nurse, known henceforth as "Madeleine". She needed ration books and identity papers. These were manufactured by the forgery experts in Toronto.

She required a wardrobe of essential clothing from Paris. This was assembled by a Jewish 'manufacturer' who, having escaped himself from Europe, managed an establishment in Montreal of expert tailors and seamstresses, who worked for purely nominal wages, had been enrolled in the armed forces, and were sworn to secrecy. Their skill lay in doctoring refugee clothing. There were, for example, a half dozen ways that a button might be stitched onto a coat, depending on where it was tailored in Europe. A wrongly sewn button could dispatch agents to death.

Madeleine learned what was in store. She was destined to join the biggest, busiest, and most hazardous of the networks, PROSPER, covering a vast part of France, with headquarters in Paris. Its demands were unsatiable. Its rural circuits were disrupting lines of communication by sabotage. Its guerillas were arming for the day of liberation. It needed guns, explosives, booby traps, and money in an unending stream.

Madeleine took frightful risks. This became clear after the war when the story was pieced together. What seems incredible is that the girl continued to function for so long after the rest of the agents had been wiped out. She took a few precautions: dyed her hair, made use of a dozen apartments scattered around Paris from which she could transmit.

She was working with a rebuilt circuit, a group of saboteurs, when arrested. Her interogations are now a matter of record, in evidence given at war-crime trials and in post war questioning of German officers. She was almost killed in one escape attempt.

Her requiem did not appear until four years after the end of the war. Even then, it broke the tradition that British secret operations remain a closed book. Madeleine was one of the exceptions made, when parts of a story become public and may lead to false conclusions.

On April 5th, 1949, the long silence was ended by the notice that she had been awarded the highest honour the British could pay - the George Cross.

This book is still available or you may find it at your local library!

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