- René François Artois (Gorden Kaye) – The local café proprietor, whilst trying to remain impartial, has been dragged into the war by both sides. The Germans are threatening to shoot him if he does not secretly hide stolen valuable paintings; the Resistance is using his café as a safe-house for shot-down British airmen. On top of that, he is trying to keep his passionate love affairs with the café serving girls secret from his wife. When caught in the arms of another woman, René invariably responds with the phrase "You stupid woman! Can you not see that..." followed by a convoluted explanation, which Edith always believes, leading to an apology from her. René does not care much for his mother-in-law, often referring to her as a "silly old bat!" Each episode starts with scenery, costumes or props from the end of the previous episode, and (usually) René opens each episode with a monologue to the camera starting "You may be wondering why..." and proceeding to describe the situation he finds himself in, and to summarise the previous episode.
- Edith Melba Artois (Carmen Silvera) – René's wife, and the café's resident cabaret performer. However, her singing is so bad and tuneless (as René was heard once to comment "my wife, who cannot carry a tune in a bucket...") that locals stick cheese in their ears to block out the noise. Whilst René refers to her as stupid, she is also the subject of much romantic wooing by the local undertaker Monsieur Alfonse and the Italian Captain Alberto Bertorelli. Whenever she finds René embracing one of the waitresses, she always asks "René! What are you doing 'olding that servant girl in your arms?" However, on one occasion in a later series, Edith asks Yvette the waitress to explain the situation instead.
- Madame Fanny La Fan (Rose Hill) – Edith's mother. She lives in the attic of the café, which is also where the British airmen and the Resistance's radio (complete with "Ze flashing knobs") are hidden. When she wants attention she bangs her walking stick on the floor, and cries out "Will nobody 'ear the cries of a poor old woman?" She is partial to a glass of gin, and occasionally fills in for her daughter as part of the café cabaret, although her singing is just as bad (if not worse). She also hates the Gestapo, as evidenced by saying "The Gestapo, I spit on zem", which she then actually does.
- Yvette Carte-Blanche (Vicki Michelle) – A waitress at the café. She is in love with René, and wants to elope with him to Geneva in Switzerland, but is unable because René has to stay loyal to his wife. She is also responsible for 'entertaining' the German officers, upstairs at the café with wet celery and a flying helmet, and sometimes with an egg whisk. In her intimate moments with René, she throws her arms around him and rumbles an elongated, deep growl of "Ooooooh, René." Often clinched in the kitchen, "I was just 'anging up ze knockwurst when I remembered all ze 'appy times we 'ad in 'ere."
- Maria Recamier (Francesca Gonshaw) (series 1 to 3) – Another waitress, who is also in love with René. She has no idea that Rene loves Yvette, and also believes that Rene should run away with her. She is short statured and many of the jokes play on her small size. "May I get you something... that is not on a high shelf?" When she speaks she has the tendency to spit when she gargles her "r"s. She gets "lost in the post" in the episode 'Camp Dance'.
- Mimi Labonq (Sue Hodge) (series 4 to 9) – The replacement waitress for Maria, she is also short statured. She is a member of the Resistance who has a bloodthirsty hate of the Germans, with a secret mission to kill the "German swines", often after wooing them – her address on her card was "straight up the stairs first on the left past the linen cupboard". She also has a bit of a fancy for René.
- It is heavily hinted that the waitresses supplement their income by prostitution with the Germans, and Yvette frequently entices Colonel Von Strohm with the promise of using "the flying helmet and the wet celery". How these are used is never made clear.
- Michelle "of the Resistance" Dubois (Kirsten Cooke) – Leader of the local "French Charles de Gaulle (the one with the big 'ooter) Resistance", she is responsible for devising elaborate plans to help British airmen escape, and to blow up German ammunition trains and lorries. Whenever she concocts a plan, she gathers everyone around and issues her instruction, "Listen very carefully, I shall say 'zis only once!", followed by the vital information. Whenever her plans are thwarted by someone's stupidity, she rebukes that person, "You fool!" She pretends to fall in love with René, but only to stop him leaving the Resistance. Michelle is also the only French character in the series who speaks English (see Languages below).
- Monsieur Roger LeClerc (Jack Haig) (series 1 to 5) – The Resistance's forger, 'master' of disguises (all of them unconvincing), and café piano player. He is responsible for delivering to the cafe various goods such as batteries, bombs, and radio equipment. This is undertaken by LeClerc in a variety of disguises, ranging from an onion seller to a lost mountain hiker. On delivery LeClerc always says, "It is I, LeClerc" accompanied by a raising of his glasses, presumably to reveal his identity. He seemed to think he was good at disguise even though he was always instantly recognisable (René once remarked: "Ze man of a thousand faces, every one ze same!") He is also the childhood sweetheart of Madame Fanny, who often popped up out of her bed whenever Fanny said "Ze flashing knobs!", only to be pushed back down.
- Monsieur Ernest LeClerc (Derek Royle (series 6), Robin Parkinson (series 7 to 9)) – This character was introduced after the sudden death of Jack Haig (the actor who played Roger LeClerc), as his brother. He had many of the same characteristics, and was also the childhood sweetheart of Madame Fanny. The character switch was explained by claiming that Roger had tried to get his brother out of prison, but ended up taking his place. When Royle died after only one series, the series' producers chose to replace him this time with a different actor playing the same character.
- Monsieur Alfonse (Kenneth Connor) – "Alfonse, undertaker, swiftly and with style." He is in love with Madame Edith, often wooing her with flowers and the prospect of living above the mortuary. He has a serious heart condition, causing his "dicky ticker" to go into overdrive when he glimpses the women's underclothing. He often helps the resistance. When he heard that René was to remarry Madame Edith he challenged him to a duel, which Rene eventually escapes from disguised as a woman. René was thereafter proclaimed by Alfonse as the Hero of the Resistance – "The bravest transvestite in all France". Alfonse was later to have remarried them himself, in his capacity as Deputy Mayor, only to faint due to his "dicky ticker". He had set up a tunnel from his mortuary to the British POW camp to smuggle in the airmen. Funds for the Resistance were borrowed from him but forged by LeClerc on their return, unfortunately leading him to feel generous and spend it on a party at the café.
- Major-General Erich Von Klinkerhoffen (Hilary Minster) – A ruthless commander. He always threatens to have French peasants shot when the resistance attacks the Germans. He occupies a rather grand chateau, where he is wooed by the serving girls as part of a Resistance mission to steal the knackwurst. He is later implicated in a plot to blow up Hitler. This was a conversation misheard by the Gestapo of a plan for a birthday party, with Hitler's painting at the head of the table, and the "blowing-up" was actually the sound of bursting cases of balloons.
- Colonel Kurt Von Strohm (Richard Marner) – The corrupt German town commandant. He is kept occupied by hiding valuable local paintings and antiques, which he intends to sell after the war. He frequently visits the cafe, where the waitresses provide him with much entertainment. He always gets René to do his dirty work, threatening him with the line "Othervise I vill have you shot!" Hans – "He vould, he did it before!" Overweight, bumbling and greedy, the Colonel often promises René a cut of the profits but was quick to take them away. "Ve are vinning ze var. I am a German officer and I can shoot anyone I like!"
- Lieutenant Hubert Gruber (Guy Siner) – A German officer on leave from the Russian front, with a crush on René. He is also responsible for forging certain pieces of art. He has the effeminate manner of a stereotypical homosexual, and a "little tank" (which we later find out to be called Hubert Jr.), driven by the unseen Clarence.
- Captain Hans Geering (Sam Kelly) (series 1 to 3, series 4, series 7) – Original assistant to Colonel Von Strohm, he is lenient for a German officer (e.g. he is not shocked to discover that his uniform is being made by a Jewish tailor). He frequently visits the café. He is mistaken for a British Airman in 'Camp Dance' and sent to England. He returns briefly in one episode of series 7, having accidentally become a trusted member of British intelligence. He is astonished to discover that his friends Rene and Edith are actually the mysterious 'Nighthawk', but happy in his new life. He was noted for his odd pronunciation of 'colonel'. It usually sounded like "Colon-Nell". Whenever the Germans have to salute the Führer, Geering often heralded him by saying "-tler!" instead of the full salute, which when said incredibly fast sounded like 'clop' (it was humorous because with a whole group of Nazis, there were several 'Heil Hitlers' followed in the background by a 'clop'). In a 2007 BBC special, Kelly said about his character "Hans was just too lazy to say the whole sentence". However, he does actually say the full "Heil Hitler" but with an exaggerated emphasis on the "-tler!" Rumours that the actor refused to give the regular salute are false. Indeed, in the second series episode "Herr Flick's Revenge" and the third series episodes "Flight of Fancy", "Pretty Maids All in a Row" and "The Great Un-Escape", the Hans Geering character gave the full "Heil Hitler" salute. Kelly also went on to play Hitler himself in Stalag Luft in 1993.
- Captain Alberto Bertorelli (Gavin Richards series 4 to 6, Roger Kitter, series 7) – An Italian who has come to the local town as Benito Mussolini has joined the war. He has an eye for the ladies and is known as a womaniser, often using the phrase "Da Beautiful-a Liedee I kiss-a de 'and-a". When saluting the Führer, Bertorelli instead says "Heil-a Mussolini", and when things go wrong he always says "What a mistake-a to make-a!" His Italian troops are unprofessional and always run away. In greeting, he kisses everybody except Gruber whom he knows about and so shakes his hand. Famously asked about his medals: "The first row are for service in Abyssinia. The second row are for service in North Africa". The last row? "They are for servicing Fiats!" Later he put on a big feast for Madam Edith and was seen to put some of the olive oil on his hair.
- Herr Otto Flick (Richard Gibson series 1 to 8, David Janson series 9) – The local Gestapo officer who tries to show as little emotion as possible. He was dressed in a long leather double-breasted coat over a pinstriped suit, with a wide-brimmed leather hat, leather gloves and octagonal steel-rimmed glasses. He fancies the equally blonde Helga Geerhart, whom he plans to marry after the war. He is the godson of Heinrich Himmler. He has a considerably exaggerated limp, and frequently used the word 'Gestapo' as an adjective: "My powerful Gestapo binoculars", "My Gestapo staff car", etc. In one episode he answers the phone by announcing himself as "Flick, the Gestapo"; after a short period he is forced to explain to the caller that he said 'Flick, the Gestapo' and not 'Fick ( Fuck ) the Gestapo'. Herr Flick often hits von Smallhausen on the head with his cane, saying "Wrong!" When Flick wants Helga to kiss him he will say in a stern manner "You may kiss me!" In the episode "Pigeon Post" it is revealed that he has the same taste in undergarments as Helga. Inviting Helga to the Gestapo dance, he explained their song: "You put your left boot in! You take your left boot out! You do a lot of shouting and you shake your fists about! You light a little smokie and you burn down ze town! Zat's vot it's all about! Ahh...Himmler, Himmler, Himmler...". The change of actors in the final series was explained as Flick having had plastic surgery to avoid capture by approaching Allied forces.
- Private Helga Geerhart (Kim Hartman) – The Colonel's secretary, and lover of Herr Flick. She is well built, and known for a tendency to take off her clothes for tenuous reasons, showcasing a vast range of erotic lingerie. This could be seen as a parody of Jane, a British comic strip character popular during World War II, who was always losing her clothes and constantly being captured or found in lingerie. She says, "When he's like this I always find it's best to strip off and ask questions later". When inquiring how they are going to be together after the war, he says: "I will take you for long walks on a short lead". Helga's attempts to seduce Herr Flick usually have no effect. Typically these include a particularly vigorous kiss. When announcing visitors to the Colonel's office, Helga always yells at the top of her voice, for example, "GENERAL ERICH VON KLINKERHOFFEN!" and "GO A-VAY!" Helga was a Lance Corporal for several episodes.
- Herr Engelbert Von Smallhausen (John Louis Mansi) (series 2 to 9) – Herr Flick's assistant. Dressed exactly like Herr Flick but only half as tall. He also copies his exaggerated limp. He often suggests stupid plans and ideas, only for them to be put down by Herr Flick. He once delivered an out-of-date ransom note from the Resistance saying "It vas tied around a brick and thrown at my head – I have only just regained consciousness!" He once turned up at Herr Flick's dungeon banging on the door without success. The door then exploded and he entered over the wreckage to say apologetically "I lost my key!" He is often sent on spying missions or to eavesdrop on the radio, but he likes listening to Tommy Handley. When once hypnotised he revealed that his real name is Bobby Cedric Von Smit.
- Officer (Captain) Crabtree (Arthur Bostrom) (series 2 to 9) – A British spy posing as a French police officer. Unfortunately, he has a terrible grasp of French which means that sometimes he is quite incomprehensible, most famously in his usual greeting: "Good moaning!" Despite this, the Germans never seem to suspect him. To quote a notable example: "I was pissing by the door when I heard two shats. You are holding in your hind a smoking goon. You are clearly the guilty potty!" Another, during an air raid, is: "They have had a direct hot on the pimps!" "The pimps?" "The pimps! The pimps in the pimping station! No water is being pimped through the poops!" To repair the airmen's air balloon: "You must get your hands on girl's knockers. At least farty, maybe fifty." And: "I am mauving in a ginger fashion becerrs my poloceman's pints are full of dinamote!" He then unbuttoned his flies and slowly pulled out several large knockwurst in front of the watching café. After Crabtree was introduced in the series, Yvette frequently announced him as "That idiot British Officer who thinks he can speak French". He says, "I admit my Fronch cod be butter." Another example came when Officer Crabtree mistook Captain Alberto Bertorelli for a German officer, addressing him with a raised hand and: "Hole Hotler!" (as taken from script) instead of "Heil Hitler!" When Captain Bertorelli pointed out he was actually an Italian, Officer Crabtree responded with: "Hael Missuloni!" instead of "Hail Mussolini!"
- RAF Flight Lieutenants Fairfax and Carstairs (John D. Collins and Nicholas Frankau) (series 1–7, series 9) – Two British airmen trying to get back to England, their plane having been shot down. Emerging from where they are hiding, they say "Hello!" with an exaggerated English accent. When talking to one another, Fairfax or Carstairs always starts with the words "I say Fairfax/Carstairs...". On discovery of the tunnel to the POW camp, all the cafe staff were trapped there including the Resistance and the hostage German officers, who then all had to adopt exaggerated English accents as POWs, with large moustaches and flying helmets. On inspection by the German camp guards, they stood to attention saying clichés like "Toodle pip! Good Show! Bang on! Old fruit!" Humour is also derived from the French not being able to understand what the British airmen are saying, and vice-versa, when in the show the conversations are all in English.
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