The Princess Spy:
Noor-un-nisa Inayat Khan
Noor's mission in France
A. The Prosper Network
The SOE inserted
Noor into France on the night 16/17 June 1943. She flew into the occupied
territory abroad a Lysander plane. Noor was supposed to be greeted
by a landing party. The landing party did not show up for the plane,
but Noor knew her first instructions. She was to join the 'Prosper'
circuit in Paris as a wireless radio operator by linking up with her first
contacts. Luckily, Noor
made it safely to her first contacts. These contacts included Lt. Emile
Garry and his fiancee. Noor thought she was meeting an old lady on
an one on one basis. Lt. Garry's fiancee was fairly young and Lt. Garry
was present. Noor was not quite certain she was in the right place.
Passwords were finally exchanged, and Noor was gladly accepted into
the group, but it was a nervous way to begin her work.
The next day, Lt. Garry escorted Noor to Professor Alfred Serge Balachowsky.
Noor was to stay with the Professor and his wife until Noor could find
a place of her own. Staying with the Balachowskys was a stroke of good
luck which helped prevent an early capture of Noor by the Gestapo. This
is because the timing of her
insertion into Prosper was dreadful; less than a week after she arrived,
the Germans arrested almost all of the major agents of the circuit including
Major Francis Suttill, the agent codenamed Prosper.
Because Noor was staying with Balachowskys,
she escaped and began broadcasting to London the sad news of the destruction
of the circuit. She used the code name 'Madeleine' and her radio operation
became the 'Poste Madeleine.' At the time, she believed she was the
only wireless radio operator in Paris. That was not quite true, but
Noor believed it. One other Paris wireless operator evaded the Germans,
and he also sent confirmation of the German raids back to England.
Francis Suttill, aka 'Prosper'
After the destruction of most of the 'Prosper' circuit, Noor then began
working for the remaining fragments of the network. Most notably she
was the wireless transmitter for the 'Cinema' and 'Phono' circuits. She
also operated a mail drop for what was left of the Prosper network. She
found a room within a building used to house German soldiers. She
used this room because the room had access to a window and there was a tree
nearby outside the window. There was a story about Noor enlisting
the help of a German soldier to help her install her antenna in the tree.
The soldier complied with her request thinking he was helping her
string up her clothesline for her laundry. Whether the story was truthful
or not really does not matter. Noor was constantly surrounded by the
Germans and constantly needed to think fast to evade capture.
B. Making Mistakes
Noor continued to make mistakes throughout
her operational phrase. She made three glaring errors during the
time before her arrest.
Noor's first mistake was that she was occasionally careless with her codebooks
and other espionage equipment. She would accidentally leave this equipment
out where anyone could see it. This was extremely dangerous simply because the Germans paid
well for information which led to the capture of any British agent. This first happened only a couple days after
Noor arrived in France. She left her codebook out, and Professor Balachowsky
found it. Luckily, the Professor was part of the resistance movement
and simply returned the code book to Noor. Of course, he was fairly
upset because if the Germans captured Noor's codebook, then he would be in
danger of arrest. He made his displeasure known to Noor.
Her second glaring error occurred with her documentation of messages she
sent to London. She would write down everything both in clear format
and in coded format. The problem with this documention was that once
she was captured by the Germans, then the Germans would be able to decode
all sorts of messages. The documentation would give the code away.
This was what eventually happened. Not only did the Germans break
the code, they began to use Noor's radio against the British by posing as
Noor and sending messages for more men to be sent into France. Of course,
these additional agents were quickly captured by the Germans.
Noor can hardly be blamed for the third mistake. The British placed
Noor within a few miles of her childhood home at Fazal Manzil in the Surenses.
It was understandable then when she returned to this area many times
during the war, despite the fact that most people knew her and many were
willing to betray her for a price. Many of her neighbors were willing
to hide her, but not to help her in other ways. She walked very dangerous
grounds when she visited the Surenes. In the end, Noor's betrayal came
not from a childhood acquaintance, but rather the sister of a fellow agent.
Still, the visits to Fazal Manzil and the Surenes were dangerous.
C. Betrayal: Noor is sold into
captivity for a measly 500 pounds
It was commonly believed Noor was betrayed by the sister of a fellow
British agent. A lady named Renee Garry was tried after the war on
the charge of betraying Noor to the Germans. She was barely acquitted
of the charge by receiving not guilty decisions from five of the nine judges
listening to the case. Renee Garry was the sister of Lieutenant Emile
Henri Garry, the head agent of the 'Cinema' and 'Phono' circuits. Noor
worked as the wireless operator for both circuits and would occasionally
stay at Garry's house. Emile Henri Garry was later arrested himself
and executed at Buchenwald during September 1944.
The story of the betrayal begins with a lady codenamed 'Renee' approaching
the German officer Hans Kieffer about a possible deal. Kieffer sent
an officer named Ernst Vogt, using the codename 'Andre', to meet 'Renee.'
Jean Overton Fuller, Noor's biographer, tried to keep Vogt's identity
hidden for some time by simply calling him 'Ernest' and therefore Vogt will
be referred to as 'Ernest' here. At the meeting between Ernest and
Renee, Ernest learned Renee would expose a British radio operator if the
Germans were willing to pay her 100,000 francs or about 500 pounds at the
time. Ernest quickly agreed--he would have paid more. Renee
was paid half before the arrest. She then showed Ernest where Noor
kept her wireless transmitter and other equipment. The opportunity
for arrest came a couple of days later. Renee knew Noor would be
returning to the Garry's residence, and that the Garry's would not be home.
Ernest took a Frenchman named Pierre Cartaud, or Peter as he preferred
to be called, to the house of the Garrys. Peter hid until Noor arrived,
and then he surprised her by attempting to arrest her. She fought
bravely including biting him severely. Peter finally produced a revolver
and forced Noor to stay some distance away from him yet maintaining her
as a prisoner. Then he called for assistance. Ernest came to
help arrest Noor. He found a scared Peter holding the revolver in
one corner of a room and Noor sitting on a couch on the other side ready to pounce on her captors. Peter called
Noor a 'tigress.' She was taken to the prison cells located on the
fifth floor of 84 Avenue Foch in Paris.