Eric Sutherland Lomax (30 May 1919 - 8 October 2012) was a British Army officer who was sent to a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in 1942. He is most notable for his book, The Railway Man, about his experiences before, during, and after World War II, which won the 1996 NCR Book Award and the J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography.
Lomax was born in Edinburgh on 30 May 1919. He left school at 16 and joined the Post Office. On 8 April 1936, he became a sorting clerk and telegraphist in Edinburgh. On 10 March 1937, he was promoted to the clerical class.
In 1939, aged 19, Lomax joined the Royal Corps of Signals before World War II broke out. Following time in the 152nd Officer Cadet Training Unit, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 28 December 1940. He was given the service number 165340. He was a Royal Signals officer attached to the 5th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. As a lieutenant, he was captured by the Japanese following the surrender of Singapore in February 1942. He, along with the other prisoners, undertook a forced march to Changi Prison. He was then taken to Kanchanaburi, Thailand and forced to build the Burma Railway. On 12 September 1946, it was gazetted that he had been mentioned in despatches "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services while [a Prisoner] of War". He was awarded the Efficiency Medal (Militia) in 1949 and was granted the honorary rank of captain. He retired from the Army in 1949.
Later life and death
Unable to adjust to civilian life, Lomax joined the Colonial Service and was posted to the Gold Coast (now Ghana) until 1955. After studying management he worked for the Scottish Gas Board and Strathclyde University. He retired in 1982.
Lomax's later life included reconciliation with one of his former torturers, interpreter Takashi Nagase of Kurashiki, Japan, on the bridge over the river Kwai, which was built by prisoner-of-war labour. Takashi had written a book on his own experiences during and after the war entitled Crosses and Tigers, and financed a Buddhist temple at the bridge to atone for his actions during the war. The meeting between the two men was filmed as a documentary Enemy, My Friend? (1995), directed by Mike Finlason. The film received several awards.
Lomax married his first wife Agnes ("Nan") on 20 November 1945, just three weeks after being liberated. They had three children, Linda May (b. 14 December 1946, d. 13 December 1993), Eric (b. 18 June 1948, died at birth) and Charmaine Carole (b. 17 June 1957).
In 1980, Lomax met Canadian nurse Patricia "Patti" Wallace who was 17 years his junior. Patti moved from Canada to the United Kingdom in 1982. Lomax left Nan several months later and married Patti in 1983.
Autobiography and film
Lomax's autobiography The Railway Man was published in 1995. John McCarthy, a journalist who was held hostage for five years, described Lomax's book as "an extraordinary story of torture and reconciliation". It was made into a television drama Prisoners in Time starring John Hurt as Lomax in 1995.
The book has now been made into a big-screen film of the same name. Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky (director of Better Than Sex), the film stars Colin Firth and Jeremy Irvine as the older and younger Eric Lomax respectively, and Nicole Kidman as Patti, the woman who befriended and later married Lomax. The film moves between Lomax's time as a FEPOW on the Burma Railway and his later life around the time of his reconciliation with his captor.
- The Railway Man (ISBN 0-09-958231-7)
- "BBC News - Eric Lomax: The Railway Man author dies aged 93". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-10-08.
- van der Vat, Dan (9 October 2012). "Eric Lomax obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
- The London Gazette: . 8 May 1936. Retrieved 2012-10-10.
- The London Gazette: . 9 April 1937. Retrieved 2012-10-10.
- Yardley, William (9 October 2012). "Eric Lomax, River Kwai Prisoner Who Forgave, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
- The London Gazette: . 24 January 1941. Retrieved 2012-10-10.
- The London Gazette: . 10 September 1946. Retrieved 2012-10-10.
- "Viewing Page 385 of Issue 38517". London-gazette.co.uk. 1949-01-21. Retrieved 2012-10-08.
- "Eric Lomax: War hero whose experiences in the Far East became a bestselling memoir". The Independent. 10 October 2012.
- Andreae, Christopher (9 August 1995). "Prisoner of War Learns To Forgive, Reconciles With His Interrogator". Christian Science Monitor.
- "The Railway Man's forgotten family: 'We were victims of torture too'". The Guardian. 28 December 2013.
- "The moment PoW victim forgave Japanese torturer: How moving memoir of pain and reconciliation has been turned into an inspirational new film". Daily Mail. 29 December 2013.
- "Prisoners in Time". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2012-10-08.
- McClintock, Pamela (September 9, 2011). "Toronto 2011: Colin Firth Set to Star in World War II Drama 'The Railway Man'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 10, 2011. "Jonathan Teplitzky begins shooting the big-screen adaptation of Eric Lomax's real-life account in February"
- Miller, Daniel (2011-10-31). "'War Horse' Star Jeremy Irvine to Play Young Colin Firth in 'The Railway Man'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- "Colin Firth 'overwhelmed' by Scot's film story". BBC News. April 27, 2012. Retrieved April 27, 2012.
- Simon Richards, 'Two TFA Council Members Making the News', Freedom Today: The Journal of the Freedom Association, Spring 2012, p. 5
- Prisoner of War Learns To Forgive, Reconciles With His Interrogator, Christian Science Monitor, August 9, 1995
- IMDB Profile
- Pathe News footage of the Burma Railway