Week One: Separation

Noor Khan was a British secret agent for SOE (Special Operations Executive) during the Second World War. She was the first female wireless operator to be sent out to help the resistance movement in France. The Resistance was made up of groups who were against Nazi rule and their occupation of France.

Noor helped the resistance by receiving and sending secret messages back to London. She was eventually captured by the Nazis, and for many months her family did not know what had happened to her. Noor Khan was executed in a concentration camp in 1944 and her last word before she died was liberte meaning freedom. For her outstanding bravery, she was awarded the George Cross after her death.

HS 9/836/5 (105) Request for information from Vilayat Khan on the whereabouts of his sister Noor Khan

Transcript

HM ML 206

c/o GPO London

July 16th

To F.O. Atkins

Dear Madam,

I must apologise for worrying you again of news of my sister, but so much time has now passed since the collapse of Germany that I have lost in my own mind any hope of ever seeing my sister again.

But surely, is there so far no clue at all as to her whereabouts? I don’t suppose there is any chance that she should still be in a D.P. [Displaced Persons] camp, since I understand that all British have been retrieved.

I been asked by Major Mckenzie not to make any enquiries through the Red Cross on security grounds; does this still apply?

Is it not possible at this stage to know something of the circumstances of her capture and the work she was doing?

Yours sincerely,

Vilayat

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Ideas for your letter:

This letter is all about people who care about each other being separated. Can you think of a time during Lockdown when you were separated from someone you cared about? How did you feel? What did you miss about them? Can you write a letter to them to explain how it felt to be separated and what you were most looking forward to doing with them, when Lockdown ended?

What does this letter tell us?

What is this letter about? Read through the letter: can you work out what Noor Khan’s brother, Vilayat, the writer, wants and why he is separated from someone he loves?

Vilayat Khan has written to Vera Atkins (she was an SOE intelligence officer who helped prepare SOE women for their missions). It was written in 1945, nine months after Noor’s family had found out that she was missing. Vera Atkins replied almost immediately and said that she was still waiting for news too, and that Vilayat could now make his own enquiries to see if he could find out what had happened to Noor. It took a further two years for Noor’s family to find out what had happened to her.