Primrose Hill director Gurinder Chadha supports campaign for memorial to Indian World War II spy princess
Bend It Like Beckham film director Gurinder Chadha is one of hundreds of people supporting a campaign to erect a statue in memory of a Second World War heroine who saved thousands of lives as a British secret agent.
Noor Inayat Khan, died aged 30, after she was captured by the Nazis and executed at the notorious Dachau concentration camp in 1944.
She was the first woman to be sent as a radio operator to France. Other women were normally sent as couriers. She was also the last radio operator left on the continent before the D-Day landings and was a critical link between the French underground resistance and British headquarters.
Director Ms Chadha, who lives in Primrose Hill, said: “History is littered with all kinds of forgotten heroes and Noor is one of them.
“Without Noor’s involvement and her espionage activities, many more British soldiers would have died. Her bravery is an inspiration. Even though she was captured by the Germans and she was tortured, she never revealed any secrets.”
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Princess Anne will unveil the bronze bust on November 8 in Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, nearly 70 years after Noor’s death.
The Muslim princess descended from the Tipu Sultan of India, who was also known as the Tiger of Mysore, but was born in Russia where her father was based at the time. She later lived with her family in Gordon Square for a few years when she was a child.
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The family then moved to France where she had a flourishing career as a writer. They then fled to the UK after the Germans occupied France. Miss Khan, who obtained a British passport when she was 18, decided to volunteer for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1940.
Ms Chadha said she got involved because she had been inspired by the story, saying: “Everything I do is about redressing the imbalance among women and girls.
“I think she slipped out of what was expected from her culture to stand up for what she believed in and what she wanted to fight for.
“She believed in a different world from what the Nazis wanted and she was prepared to live and die for that.”
Mimi Romilly, of Kentish Town, who featured Miss Khan in an exhibition called Notable Asians in Camden and wrote a song about her, said: “I grew up near her so I spent a lot of time around that area. Her story is incredibly inspiring.”
Shrabani Basu, founder of the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust, campaigned to raise funds for the bust after she published a biography of Miss Khan called Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan.
She said: “I’m absolutely delighted. She was a very determined and focused person. Even though she was a Sufi and believed in non-violence she felt she had to make a stand and fight fascism.”
Miss Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre, a French military decoration translated as the Cross of War, in 1949.