CHANGING HIS name to John Langford, East Prussian-born Erwin Lehmann was bodyguard to two prime ministers, the shirt manufacturer who introduced coloured shirts, and winner of the 1987 British Clothing Council Export Award.
One of the oldest children on the Kindertransport programme, he was 17 and a trainee assistant at the local exJewish-owned department store when he was imprisoned in the Kristallnacht attack. His father, an army horse breeder in earlier times, got him released on condition he left Germany within a month. He never saw his father again.
Arriving at Dovercourt, a requisitioned holiday camp near Harwich, with just eightpence, he wrote to family friends now settled in Glasgow. The Jablonskis took in seven refugee children and tried to train Erwin in Robert Jablonski’s trade of tea blending.
Erwin enrolled instead at the Royal Veterinary College in Glasgow, with help from the Jewish Refugee Committee. But his childhood dream was thwarted by internment in 1940. On release, still mad about horses, he volunteered for a cavalry regiment but was rejected as surplus to requirements and sent to the Pioneer Corps.
In 1944 he volunteered for the 6th Airborne Division. Anglicising his name, he was part of the D-Day followup forces in northern Germany. As a French and German speaker, he was temporarily diverted for an interpreter’s course in Brussels.
When war ended, he was taken off his division — which was despatched to keep the peace in Palestine — and sent to Germany as a staff sergeant in a security unit for a conference in the historic town of Potsdam, near Berlin in the Russian zone.
When the Potsdam Conference, attended by the leaders of Britain, the US and Russia, opened on July 15, 1945, he served as bodyguard for Winston Churchill.
When the results of the British general election were declared on July 26, he became bodyguard for the new prime minister, Clement Attlee, for the rest of the conference. He was natural- ised in Hamburg while still in uniform, a rare honour.
Remaining in Germany until January 1947, based at Spandau prison, he interrogated repatriated East German civilians and soldiers returning from PoW camps in Russia. He then joined a shirt-manufacturing business owned by a friend from his Pioneeer Corps days.
After 10 years as a top salesman, he set up on his own in 1957. He retired from John Langford of London in 1987 but became a consultant and sourced British-made clothing for an American firm until the end.
He is survived by his wife, Vicky, whom he married in 1948; son, Laurence; daughter, Cheryl; and three grandchildren.
John Langford: from prime ministerial bodyguard to top shirt-maker