Have you ever been afraid? Not just a bit scared or worried but really, really afraid? Terrified perhaps? What about the deep, instinctive fear that comes from being surrounded by strangers who, even though they don’t know you at all wish only to do you harm?
How many of us can honestly say they know what that feels like? How many of us would willingly choose to put themselves in such a situation?
Our next hero wasn’t a uniformed soldier giving her all on some battle-scarred battlefield surrounded by flashing artillery and the unburied corpses of fallen comrades. She was an altogether different kind of warrior with an altogether different method of operation.
Noor Inayat Khan was a courageous young Muslim woman who despite her light brown skin (a considerable handicap in Nazi occupied Europe) chose willingly to serve undercover in occupied France on behalf of Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE). With full knowledge of the horrors that would await her if captured she trained as a radio operator and worked alongside the French resistance. She operated right under the noses of both the German army and the universally dreaded Gestapo, Hitler’s sadistic secret police force. The dangers were immense and the likelihood of survival once discovered were microscopically small.
Without the remarkable contribution of special agents such as Noor Inayat Khan and her comrades and the information they channelled both to and from the Allies and the French it is likely that the war in Europe would have cost many more innocent lives and the Germans would have been able to divert more resources to other theatres of war. The constant harassment of occupying forces by resistance fighters and saboteurs, supplied and orchestrated from London was a vital part of the war effort but it wasn’t without cost. Noor was captured, tortured and abused before being shipped off to Dachau concentration camp where, brutalised and starved she was finally executed in 1944. Her sacrifice, though not as dramatic as the battlefield exploits of decorated commandos or battle-scarred Brigadiers was every bit as tragic and every bit as altruistic as theirs.
When you buy your poppy this year, wear it proudly in memory of Noor Inayat Khan
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