MEMORIES of Stourbridge's old Army and Navy Stores are being sought as part of an ambitious new development project at the Black Country Living Museum.

Museum bosses hope to bring the former Langer's Army and Navy Stores back to life in a recreation as part of the tourist attraction's Forging Ahead project - to give visitors chance to learn about the impact of World War II in the Black Country, the experiences of prisoners of war and what was once a thriving trade in military surplus.

The store which used to stand in Enville Street was opened in 1953 by Herbert Langer, a former German prisoner of war who decided to return to the Black Country after the war.

It had distinctive signage featuring a soldier, sailor and airman, plus large outdoor displays of goods that would take hours for Mr Langer to put up and take down.

A large array of military surplus became available in the years after World War II and the Korean War, which led to a boom in the trade of military surplus.

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 heavy duty gloves for factory workers - along with household items such as buckets, baths and brooms.

Mr Langer, who was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1925, was inspired to open the store after he became involved, like many POWs, in an informal trade in military equipment and clothing while being held as a POW in an open camp in Bromley Lane, Wordsley.

Conscripted into the German army towards the end of the war after training as a chef in the 1940s, a young Mr Langer ended up in the Black Country after he was injured in battle and captured. He was briefly held as a prisoner in the USA before being transferred by boat to England.

While imprisoned, he became the camp chef and - as it was an open facility and inmates were able to go out and work for a shilling a week - he got a job caring for the grounds of Wordsley Rectory and was later allowed to live in an outbuilding there in the care of Reverend RH Fowler.

At the end of the war, he was repatriated to Germany but he missed the Black Country so much he returned after two years - and he became a naturalised British citizen in 1954.

In 1949 Mr Langer was deployed to work in Billy Evans’ Hardware Store, Cradley Heath; and in 1952 Mr Evans opened another store at 55 Enville Street selling hardware, workwear and haberdashery. But he died six months after the shop opened so Mr Langer bought the shop and renamed it Langer’s Army and Navy Stores.

The store traded for around 60 years, eventually expanding into the neighbouring terrace, through to 63 Enville Street.

Mr Langer passed away in 2004, aged 79, and the shop building was demolished to make way for retirement homes.

Mr Langer's son Steven, however, moved the business to Comberton Hill, Kidderminster, and continues to trade.

Jenny Gilbert, researcher at Black Country Living Museum, said “Langer’s Army and Navy Stores and the story of Herbert Langer’s World War II journey from Germany to the Black Country gives us a new angle for exploring the impact and aftermath of World War II in the Black Country.

"Very little is known about military surplus stores like Langer’s so we are really excited to hear the memories of past customers and staff.

"All of these memories will help us to recreate the shop as closely as possible.”

Anyone who remembers the shop or Herbert Langer is urged to get in touch with the museum by emailing or call 0121 557 9643.