Pilot recreates mission of British Asian spy Noor Inayat Khan
Noor Inayat Khan, a descendant of the 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan, was a special operations executive
Noor Inayat Khan, who was a British Special Operations Executive agent during the war, was captured and killed by the Nazis in 1944, at the age of 30. (Courtesy: Commonwealth War Graves Commission)
A British female pilot has used her scholarship towards a special flying mission to recreate the deadly mission behind enemy lines undertaken by British Indian spy, Noor Inayat Khan, during the World War II.
Fiona Smith, who won the British women pilots’ association scholarship in 2021 inviting an aviation enthusiast to carry out a ‘special mission’, decided to link this to the special operations executive (SOE).
Inayat Khan, a descendant of the 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan, was an SOE agent who had been air-dropped to a field in Nazi-occupied France to carry out covert intelligence.
“Located somewhere near the town of Angers, I was encouraged to discover there is a decent serviced airfield nearby, and a quick calculation suggested it was within reach of London within the day,” said Smith of her recent flying mission.
“My mission was clear – to fly from the south of England to Angers, lay a wreath for Noor, and fly back. As it happened, our actual flight has coincided with the 80th year of her leaving England.”
Inayat Khan was born in 1914 in Moscow to an American poet mother and an Indian Sufi teacher father.
When the World War II began, her family returned to England and despite her Sufi and pacifist views, she went on to join the women’s auxiliary Air Force in 1940 in her determination to fight fascism.
She was flown to France in a Lysander aircraft from a Royal Air Force (RAF) base to a field near Angers in June 1943 and 80 years on, has inspired a female pilot to recreate that journey.
“It is wonderful to learn of Fiona’s tribute flight for Noor Inayat Khan. It is even more special as it took place on the 80th anniversary of Noor’s departure on her dangerous mission. Noor’s story and sacrifice continues to inspire in so many ways,” said Shrabani Basu, the author of Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan, the biography of the British Indian spy who was awarded the UK’s George Cross and France’s Croix de Guerre bravery medals posthumously.
Inayat Khan never returned from that mission and was executed in Dachau concentration camp in Germany in September 1944.