The Bank of England has asked people in the United Kingdom to vote for whose face will be on their £50 note and in the lead is Noor Inayat Khan. But who is she and why do they want her face on their money?
Noor Inayat Khan was the first Muslim heroine of World War II. She was a British spy who was sneaked into France to help the Resistance. She was captured and tortured by the Gestapo and put to death in 1944. Her bravery won her a posthumous George Cross.
A statue erected in her honour in London’s Bloomsbury in 2012 was said to be Britain’s first memorial to a Muslim or an Asian woman.
The British government plans to roll out their new notes in 2021 and the Bank of England has asked the public to nominate their heroes to appear on the new currency, reported The Sun.
It wants a figure who “made an important contribution to our society and culture”. But it is likely that the bank will choose a woman after critics slammed the lack of women on other notes.
“It’s a phenomenal story. You don’t think about the money in your purse… when you think about young girls taking a minute to think about the fantastic work that she did and the ultimate sacrifice she made,” UK Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani told The Telegraph. “It’s also interesting and important to note her faith, which drove her to make this ultimate sacrifice and serve her country.”
Who was Noor Inayat Khan?
Noor, also known as Nora, was born in Moscow in 1914 and was the daughter of a Sufi mystic of Indian heritage and his American wife.
The family moved to London when she was a baby, and later to Paris with her three younger siblings. She studied music at the Paris Conservatory and began a career as a poet and children’s author.
When WWII broke out, the family fled to England and Nora joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force to help defeat the Nazis.
As a fluent French speaker she was recruited to the F section of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive and trained as a field radio operator. Her dangerous mission was to act as field agents’ radio link back to London – with the constant risk she would be caught by signal tracker units.
Codenamed Madeleine, Nora touched down in Northern France in June 1943 and made her way to Paris to join a ring of agents conducting covert operations. In October that year she was betrayed to the Germans, probably by one of her comrades.
She was arrested and interrogated – and tried to escape twice. An SS intelligence chief later testified that she did not give the Gestapo any information about her secret work.
She eventually escaped across the Paris rooftops with two other SEO agents but was recaptured and locked in chains for 10 months. In September 1944 she and three other women were sent to the Dachau concentration camp and executed.