|the-south-asian.com SEPTEMBER 2001|
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SEPTEMBER 2001 Contents
Page 3 of 5
'The Princess who would be Spy'
World War II SOE Agent
- Princess Noor Inayat Khan
1 January 1914 - 13 September 1944
From Aylesbury Noor went on to Beaulieu, in Hampshire, where thesecurity training was capped with a practice mission - in the case of wireless operators, they had to find a place in a strange city from which they could transmit back to their instructors without being detected by an agent, unknown to them, who would be shadowing them. The ultimate exercise was the mock Gestapo interrogation, intended to give agents a taste of what might be in store for them if they were captured and some practice in maintaining their cover story.
Noor's escorting officer found her 'mock' interrogation 'almostunbearable' and reported that 'she seemed absolutely terrified .... so overwhelmed she nearly lost her voice' and that afterwards, 'she was trembling and quite blanched'. her finishing report, which the official historian of F Section found in her personal file long after the war, read: 'Not overburdened with brains but has worked hard and shown keeness, apart from some dislike of the security side of the course. She has an unstable and temperamental personality and it is very doubtful whether she is really suited to the work in the field.' Next to this comment Buckmaster has written in the margin 'Nonsense'.
Events in the Paris region were rushing to a head and Baker Streetwere desperate for another radio operator to deal with the stepped-up message traffic. Noor had not finished her security course but she was the best prepared operator on hand, and it was decided to send her. She was given the cover name and identity of Jeanne-Marie Regnier, a childrens nursemaid, and the code-name 'Madeleine'. She left from Tangmere, in Sussex, by the May moon, but the reception committee was not on the ground to meet the plane, and it had to return. After the build up of tension and anxiety, the anticlimax was a distinct let down.
Then it was the next moon period. When the time came for her flight,Vera Atkins accompanied her to the airfield. They had supper in the ivy-covered cottage that was the operational headquarters for 161 Squadron. In the party were an agent bound for Marseille to do sabotage and another on her way to the south-east countryside as a courier, as well as Diana Rowden, on her way to the Jura. Whilst at the cottage Vera Atkins saw a paperback book beside one of the pilots' beds. Its title was Remarkable Women. She remembers saying that the book would have to be rewritten 'after these girls have done their stuff'. The date was 16th June 1943.
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