History's HEROES? 1914 - 1944

Noor Inayat Khan

Should Noor Inayat Khan be considered a hero?


Arguments for
  • She was brave.
    Despite the risks Noor Inayat Khan was willing to go to France to help the Resistance. In the two months after she arrived, all the other network radio operators in her group were arrested by the Sicherheitsdienst. In spite of this she carried on transmitting messages.
  • She had a sense of mission and purpose.
    Realising she was the last link left between Paris and London, Noor twice refused the offer to return to Britain. She realised how vital her unique service had become and refused to abandon what had become the most dangerous undercover position in France.
  • She had initiative and survived several months on the run.
    Transmitting from a series of different houses and apartments, trying to avoid the direction-finding trucks. Several times she just managed to elude the Gestapo.
  • She twice tried to escape captivity.
    Just hours after her arrest, she tried to climb through a fifth floor window and the second time, along with fellow SOE Agents John Renshaw Starr and Leon Faye, she made it outside the building but was captured nearby.
  • She withstood long periods of interrogation and solitary confinement.
    For five weeks Noor was interrogated daily. Despite increasing pressure on her, she steadfastly refused to tell them anything other than her adopted name, Nora Baker, and that she was a WAAF officer. She still refused to give information when she was moved to Pforzheim prison, although she was shackled and kept in solitary confinement.
  • Noor died with great dignity.
    Despite her cruel treatment she maintained her calmness and dignity. When she was taken out and forced to kneel, she was reported to have called out "Liberte", just before being shot in the back of the head.
Arguments against
  • Refusing to return to Britain was arrogant.
    She should have agreed to the offer to return to Britain. By refusing to do so, she was implying that she knew best, when her superiors could see the whole picture, and thought she should come home.
  • She threw her life away.
    By remaining in France, she threw her life away - she was bound to be caught pretty soon. She could have been more useful returning to Britain and continuing to work for the war effort in the further roles SOE would have given her.

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