Baker Street Wiki
Baker Street Wiki

Von Bork was a German spy working in the United Kingdom on the eve of the First World War, and the main antagonist of the short story "His Last Bow". He was known as one of the Kaiser's most effective operatives in Britain until he crossed paths with Sherlock Holmes.

His Last Bow[]

Around 1910, the German government sent von Bork to England as a spy. He settled on the coast near Harwich, and quickly integrated himself into local society. Over the next four years, von Bork developed a reputation as one of the Kaiser's best agents, not only collecting information but implementing plots to destabilize the country.

In August 1914, war between the United Kingom and Germany now seems imminent. Von Bork meets with Baron von Herling, the chief of the German legation, to discuss the situation. Von Bork informs the baron that his wife and household have already evacuated to the Netherlands with some of his less important papers. He then shows him the hidden safe containing his most important secret dossiers, which he intends to place under the protection of the embassy. Von Herling argues Britain may yet stay out of the war, but von Bork insists that the country will not ignore its obligations to Belgium. Nevertheless, von Herling dismisses Britain as unprepared for war. He claims the British lack the necessary will and armaments to fight; moreover, the Germans used Irish nationalists and militant suffragettes to stoke domestic unrest. Von Bork notes that he is only waiting for one last dossier from his source, a fanatical Irish-American named Altamont, before leaving. Von Herling congratulates him, then leaves, explaining that he is needed in London due to the political situation.

Altamont arrives shorty after von Herling's departure, bearing a small package containing a dossier on British naval signals. Von Bork shows him in, and Altamont is surprised to see the now-exposed safe. Von Bork explains that the safe is practically impenetrable, using a double-locking mechanism requiring a word and a number to open. He smugly reveals that the password, which he presciently set four years ago, is "August 1914". Altamont explains that he plans to return to America immediately, as several of Von Bork's agents have recently been arrested. Von Bork is shocked to hear of the most recent arrest and Altamont's claim that agents have been following him. Altamont insists that they have been compromised be working with a double-agent. Von Bork pays Altamont and retrieves the package. Upon opening it, however, he is surprised to find it is a book called A Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, before being knocked out with chloroform.

His Last Bow 02

Von Bork captured by Holmes

While von Bork is unconscious, "Altamont", revealed to be Sherlock Holmes, goes through the papers in his safe with Watson. Von Bork's housekeeper, Martha, another accomplice in his plan, checks in the unconscious man, and Holmes assure her that he is all right. The German awakes shortly afterwards, swearing vengeance on "Altamont", which the detective dismisses, noting that figures like Professor Moriarty and Sebastian Moran had done the same. Holmes informs Von Bork that Altamont was a fiction, but declines to reveal his name. Instead, he identifies some of his cases that related to Von Bork, such as his work for the the late King of Bohemia when von Bork's cousin Heinrich was the Imperial envoy, and preventing the assassination of von Bork's uncle, Count von und zu Grafenstein, at the hands of the Nihilist Klopman. Von Bork realizes that Holmes is the famous detective, and despairs that all the information he received from him is compromised.

Holmes and Watson carry von Bork to a car waiting to take him and his documents back to London. Von Bork insists that the arrest is illegal, as Holmes is a private citizen, and that his "kidnapping" would constitute an act of war. He threatens to call for help, but Holmes warns him that in the prevailing political situation he would likely be lynched by the locals for espionage. Instead, Holmes insists they will take him to Scotland Yard, and taunts von Bork to call for Baron von Herling to get him out.


Von Bork was a sporting young man. Von Herling describes him as "a hard-drinking, night-club, knock-about-town, devil-may-care young fellow". He described himself as a "born sportsman", enjoying yachting, polo, hunting, boxing, and horse-racing with his English marks. In spite of working against him, his housekeeper, Martha, nevertheless describes him as a "kind master, after his lights" and seems concerned for his welfare after Holmes drugs him.


  • Von Bork is chronologically the last of Holmes' canonical foes.
  • Holmes' handling of von Bork has been frequently questioned by critics, who have wondered why Holmes revealed himself to be a double-agent and that the information he provided to the Germans was worthless.