Indian-origin spy executed by Nazis during WW2 may feature on British pound

Updated on Oct 21, 2018 07:52 AM IST

Noor Inayat Khan, a British spy of Indian-origin during World War 2, is among leading figures likely to figure in a new £50 note to be issued by the Bank of England.

A bust of Noor Inayat Khan in central London.(AFP/File Photo)
A bust of Noor Inayat Khan in central London.(AFP/File Photo)
Hindustan Times, London | By

Noor Inayat Khan, the unlikely British spy of Indian-origin during World War 2, is among leading figures likely to figure in a new polymer £50 note to be issued by the Bank of England, attracting much support from MPs and others in an online petition.

The bank will seek nominations from the public shortly, but some campaigns have already hit the headlines. No living figures, apart from Queen Elizabeth, can figure on currency notes, according to the bank’s rules.

Contenders include former prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and Clement Atlee, scientist Stephen Hawking and Noor Inayat Khan (1914-1944), who worked for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in France, was betrayed to the Germans and executed in Dachau.

No non-white or member of ethnic minority groups in the UK has so far figured on currency notes. Khan’s growing supporters include Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of Parliament, and Conservative peer Sayeeda Warsi.

Tariq Ahmad, minister in the Foreign Office, tweeted: “Honour to lend support to a great campaign...to recognise a brave British Muslim woman — Noor Inayat Khan as the face of £50 note — she served our nation with courage against Nazi tyranny.”

Tugendhat said: “The new £50 could have anyone on it, I’m backing Noor Inayat Khan. She volunteered for SOE, served bravely as an agent in occupied Europe, was eventually captured and murdered. A Muslim, a woman, a hero of WW2. This would celebrate her courage and all SOE.”

Khan was born in Moscow and her father, Inayat Khan, was a descendant of the Tipu Sultan family and lived in Europe as a musician and teacher of Sufism. Her mother, Pirani Ameena Begum, was an American whom her father met while travelling in the US.

Khan’s story was set out in a book by journalist-author Shrabani Basu in 2008, Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan. Her statue was unveiled by Princess Anne at Gordon Square Gardens in November 2012.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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