Did you shop at Langer’s Army and Navy Stores,…

Langer's Army and Navy stores

05 February 2020

Black Country Living Museum is looking for memories from the 1960s of Langer’s Army and Navy Stores, Stourbridge as part of its ambitious new development project BCLM: Forging Ahead. The shop will be recreated and set in 1963 as part of the new 1940s to 1960s town providing the opportunity for visitors to learn about the impact of World War II in the Black Country, the experiences of prisoners of war and the buying and selling of military surplus.

Langer’s Army and Navy Stores was opened at 55 Enville Street in 1953 by Herbert Langer, a former German prisoner of war who decided to return to the Black Country after the war. The shop had distinctive signage featuring a soldier, sailor and airman, as well as large outdoor displays of goods that would take hours for Mr Langer to put up and take down.

A huge amount of military surplus became available in the years following World War II and the Korean War, which caused a boom in the military surplus trade. There were large numbers of uniforms available, which retailers such as Langer’s could buy in bulk at auction to sell on to customers seeking affordable but good quality clothing, often for workwear. Langer’s also sold items such as work gloves for workers in local factories alongside household items such as buckets, baths and brooms.

Herbert Langer was born in 1925 in Berlin, Germany. He trained as a chef during the 1940s and was conscripted into the German army towards the end of the war. He was shot in the left knee in battle and was captured and imprisoned initially in Texas, USA before being transferred by boat to a POW camp on Bromley Lane, Wordsley. Whilst imprisoned, Herbert became the camp chef and was, like many prisoners, involved in an informal trade in military equipment and clothing.

The Bromley Lane camp was an open camp, occupied first by Italian then German prisoners. Inmates were able to go out and work for one shilling a week. Whilst many of his fellow prisoners worked at local glassworks or brickworks, Herbert took on a job caring for the grounds of Wordsley Rectory. He was later allowed to live in an outbuilding there, in the care of Reverend R. H. Fowler.

At the end of the war, Herbert was repatriated to Germany but he missed the Black Country so much that he returned after two years. He became a naturalised British citizen in 1954.  In 1949 Mr Langer was deployed to work in Billy Evan’s Hardware Store, Cradley Heath. In 1952, Billy Evans opened another store at 55 Enville Street selling hardware, workwear and haberdashery yet died six months after the shop had opened. Langer purchased the shop in 1953 from Mr Evans’ widow and renamed it Langer’s Army and Navy Stores. He met his wife Annie in the late 1950s, they married in December 1970 and had their son, Steven, in 1971.

The store traded for around 60 years, eventually expanding into the neighbouring terrace, through to 63 Enville Street. Herbert Langer died in 2004, aged 79. The shop building has now been demolished, replaced by retirement homes. The business has moved to Comberton Hill Kidderminster where Steven Langer, Herbert’s son, continues to trade

To help us in our recreation, we would love to talk to anyone with memories of Langer’s. Do you remember the shop? Did you buy military surplus or workwear there? Do you remember Herbert Langer?

How to contact us

If you or anyone you know remembers this shop, please get in touch via:

  • Tel: 0121 557 9643
  • Email: [email protected] 
  • Post address: Collections Team, Black Country Living Museum, Tipton Road, Dudley, West Midlands DY1 4SQ