KNOWN as the “spy princess”, she wasn’t taken seriously by the men in suits who trained her. But secret agent Noor Inayat-Khan broke new ground as a Muslim and a woman, becoming the first female radio operator sent to Nazi-occupied France.

Now the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation has launched an online exhibition celebrating Noor’s life and legacy.

Noor Inayat-Khan: A Woman of Conspicuous Courage has been developed by members of the Girlguiding Association, who have turned the story of this inspiring Second World War heroine into an online experience and learning resource - for young women, shaped by young women.

She was born in Moscow in 1914, to an Indian Muslim family who moved to London when she was an infant. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and was trained as a wireless operator and later recruited to join F (France) Section of the Special Operations

She was an unlikely candidate for espionage but she did it with a “steely strength of will”. Armed with a false passport and a pistol, she was sent to Nazi-occupied France. During her mission she was captured and tortured but never gave anything away and was executed by the Nazis in 1944. In 1949 Noor was posthumously awarded the George Cross.

As a young refugee in London, Noor faced many prejudices, even as she was being trained as a secret agent. The exhibition reveals how her Special Operations assessors initially had little faith in her. She was quiet and timid, so people sometimes doubted her abilities, but she worked hard to gain the skills to be a wireless operator behind enemy lines and held together the tattered remains of the Paris resistance in some of the darkest hours of war.

She mastered the complex technology of radios, coded messages, and Morse Code. She became known as “Madeline of the Resistance”. She risked her life in a highly dangerous job, usually alone, evading capture for months.

This interactive digital resource gives the public chance to put code-breaking skills to the test and discover the scientific and technical skills of a wireless radio operator in the field. The CWGF has also created learning resources for schools, encouraging youngsters to learn more about the role of women during the war, as well as Noor’s story. The project has been funded by the AIM Biffa Award History Makers Scheme.

Julian Evans, Director of International and Community Engagement at CWGC, said: “Noor’s story is an inspirational one and we believe it important, as custodians of the memorial on which her name is inscribed, give it greater prominence. Thanks to the award from AIM/Biffa we have been able to do this in an innovative way, by creating a digital exhibition.”

Jasmine Theti, 15, a member of the Girlguiding Association said: “We must never forget her and the sacrifice she made. I loved learning Morse Code, although I wouldn’t have liked sending messages in a cold Parisian park whilst looking over my shoulder all the time. Noor was an inspiration.”

* For more about Noor visit