‘Allo! ‘Allo! How Herr Flick’s attempts to sabotage the war effort in St Kilda failed


GERMANY smuggled a spy called Herr Flick on to the Scottish island of St Kilda in the run up to the Great War – but he proved no better than his Allo Allo namesake.

Researchers have discovered that a radio engineer called Gustav Flick was sent to man a wireless telegraph station on the island in 1913.

Herr Flick’s mission was to relay information to the German Navy but he appears to have had little success and hated the island, leaving eight months before the start of the First World War.

Credit: BBC
Herr Flick from ‘Allo ‘Allo!Credit: BBC

Herr Flick’s intelligence appears only to have led to half-hearted shelling of St Kilda by a U-boat in May 1918.

But the radio masts escaped damage and the only casualties were a few sheep the submariners stole from another island.

Herr Flick’s story was uncovered as National Trust for Scotland staff worked to restore a 4-inch caliber gun which was placed on the island in 1918 in the aftermath of the U-boat attack.

This gun was put in place in the aftermath of the U-boat raid which took place following Herr Flick's stay on the island.
This gun was put in place in the aftermath of the U-boat raid which took place following Herr Flick’s stay on the island.

Susan Bain, property manager for the National Trust for Scotland, said: “There is often a sense of St Kilda being so remote from the world.

“But it really was pulled into the conflict, because there was naval activity off the Hebrides from 1914.”

Mr Flick was stationed at St Kilda by communications firm Marconi and helped to install two 75ft radio masts.

He left the island in January 1914, and a nurse who traveled with him wrote: “I never saw such joy in my life as in that boy’s face when he got off the island.”

No-one at the time had any idea he had been there as a spy.

When war broke out St Kilda became a “wireless telegraph” station for allied ships and was defended by a garrison of around 10 sailors.

It was armed with two Webley revolvers and 12 Lee Enfield rifles.

The island was attacked by German submarine U-90 in May 1918, and the vessel’s commander was polite enough to advise the island’s inhabitants to take cover before he started shelling.

George Geddes, a historian for the trust, said: “The widespread shelling seems to reflect the fact there were two radio masts by the factor’s house, and also that the Germans thought other buildings were a power house or barracks.”

Two boats and a few houses were damaged in the raid, and a few days later the crew of the U-90 stole seven sheep from North Rona, another island in the North Atlantic.