British female secret agent remembered with Blue Plaque

Second World War “unlikely” spy Noor Inayat Khan is being honoured with a Blue Plaque.

The English Heritage tribute will mark the London family home which Khan left, for Nazi-occupied France, as an undercover radio operator in 1943.

Khan, of Indian and US descent, served in the Special Operations Executive – set up by Sir Winston Churchill in 1940.

She was the first female radio operator to be flown into Nazi-occupied France and “Britain’s first Muslim war heroine in Europe,” English Heritage said.

After being arrested by the Gestapo, Khan escaped from prison but was recaptured shortly afterwards.

She was killed at Dachau concentration camp in 1944, having refused to reveal, despite repeated torture, anything to her captors, even her real name.

Shrabani Basu, Khan’s biographer, who is unveiling the plaque on Taviton Street in Bloomsbury, said: “When Noor Inayat Khan left this house on her last mission, she would never have dreamed that one day she would become a symbol of bravery. She was an unlikely spy.

“As a Sufi she believed in non-violence and religious harmony. Yet when her adopted country needed her, she unhesitatingly gave her life in the fight against Fascism.

“It is fitting that Noor Inayat Khan is the first woman of Indian origin to be remembered with a Blue Plaque. As people walk by, Noor’s story will continue to inspire future generations.

“In today’s world, her vision of unity and freedom is more important than ever.”

The plaque will be unveiled at the address that Khan scratched on the base of her feeding bowl to communicate to another prisoners after being captured by the Gestapo.

It comes after English Heritage admitted the proportion of women celebrated by the scheme is “still unacceptably low”.

Only 14% of more than 950 London blue plaques celebrate women.

Plaques planned this year will include tributes to secret agent Christine Granville and artist Barbara Hepworth.

The charity said that “if we are to continue to see a significant increase in the number of blue plaques for women, we need more female suggestions”.

The unveiling will take place at 7pm on Friday on English Heritage’s Facebook channel.