SHE was about to be executed at the infamous Dachau concentration camp in Germany when she managed one last act of resistance.
Ordered to kneel down beside fellow members of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Noor Inayat Khan shouted “Liberte” as the Nazi firing squad raised their weapons.
Noor was one of many agents who received some of their training at SOE’s “finishing school” on the Beaulieu Estate.
She was the first female wireless operator to be parachuted into Nazi-occupied France and sent her first message within 72 hours, a feat never before achieved by an agent in the field.
Now the estate, home of the National Motor Museum, is honouring Noor by hosting an exhibition called Liberte, the last word she ever spoke.
The famous wartime agent had an Indian father and was descended from the legendary ruler of Mysore, a kingdom in southern India.
She was born in Russia on January 1 1914 but spent much of her early life in Paris. Her fluent French made her an ideal recruit for SOE, established by Winston Churchill in 1940 to carry out sabotage and subversion behind enemy lines.
On May 9 1943 Noor arrived at Beaulieu, where she was forced to endure mock interrogations as part of her training.
She was flown to France the following month but many of the people she was due to work with were arrested by the Germans, leaving her as SOE’s sole radio operator in Paris.
She told her bosses in London and was urged to return but decided instead to remain in France and help re-establish the network.
Noor did the work of six radio operators, becoming one of London’s key agents in France, and had been transmitting for almost four months when a replacement was finally found.
Arrangements were made for her to fly back on October 14 – but she never saw England again.
Returning to her flat she was confronted by a German officer and a violent struggle ensued. Noor was overpowered and could only stand and watch as the Nazis seized her transmitter and a notebook full of codes.
She was interrogated using various tactics ranging from gentle persuasion to violent threats – but gave nothing away.
On November 25 she was sent to Pforzheim prison in Germany, where she was shackled and kept in solitary confinement.
Ten months later she was transferred to Dachau and brutally tortured. The next day she and three fellow SOE agents were told to kneel down before being shot in the head. She died on September 13 1944, aged 30.
Noor had been given a life expectancy of just six weeks when she arrived in France.
A Beaulieu spokesman said: “She was successful for a while, outwitting the Gestapo by changing her appearance and transmitting from varied locations, but was eventually captured.
“She was kept in isolation, interrogated and tortured. She revealed nothing and ten months later was taken to Dachau and executed.”
Noor was posthumously awarded the two highest civilian honours that can be bestowed by Britain and France – the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre.
The exhibition is on until October 23.