Eric Lomax

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Eric J Lomax
Eric Sutherland Lomax

(1919-05-30)30 May 1919
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died8 October 2012(2012-10-08) (aged 93)
OccupationMilitary officer, author
Known forThe Railway Man

Eric Sutherland Lomax (30 May 1919 – 8 October 2012)[1] 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 PEN/Ackerley Prize.

Early life[edit]

Lomax was born in Edinburgh on 30 May 1919. He left the Royal High School, Edinburgh aged 16, after entering a civil service competition and obtaining employment at the Post Office.[2][3] On 8 April 1936, he became a sorting clerk and telegraphist in Edinburgh.[4] On 10 March 1937, he was promoted to the clerical class.[5]

Military service[edit]

In 1939, aged 20, Lomax joined the Royal Corps of Signals before World War II broke out.[6] 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.[7] He was a Royal Signals officer attached to the 5th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

As a lieutenant, he had been captured by the Japanese following the surrender of Singapore in February 1942.[6] He, along with the other Far East Prisoners Of War (FEPOW), undertook a forced march to Changi Prison.[3] He was then taken to Kanchanaburi, Thailand[1] and forced to build the Burma Railway.[6] In 1943 he and five other prisoners were tortured by the Kempeitai and convicted of "anti-Japanese activities" after a clandestine radio was found in the camp. He was transferred to Outram Road Prison in Singapore for the remainder of the war.

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".[8] He was awarded the Efficiency Medal (Militia) in 1949[9] and was granted the honorary rank of captain.[10] He retired from the Army in 1949.[2]

Later life and death[edit]

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.[2]

Lomax was the first patient of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. His later life included reconciliation with one of his former torturers, interpreter Takashi Nagase of Kurashiki, Japan. Nagase 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.[11] The meeting between the two men was filmed as a documentary Enemy, My Friend? (1995), directed by Mike Finlason. The film received several awards.[citation needed]

Lomax's death, at the age of 93, was announced by the BBC on 8 October 2012. He died in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland.[1]

Personal life[edit]

A keen railway enthusiast and transport photographer, Lomax joined the Stephenson Locomotive Society in 1937,[12] and his enthusiasm for railways stayed with him to his death.

He 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).[13]

In 1980, Lomax met British-born Canadian nurse Patricia "Patti" Wallace who was 17 years his junior. She moved from Canada to the United Kingdom in 1982. Lomax left Nan several months later and married Patti in 1983.[13]

Autobiography and film[edit]

Lomax's autobiography The Railway Man was published in 1995. John McCarthy, a journalist who was held hostage for five years in Lebanon, described Lomax's book as, "an extraordinary story of torture and reconciliation".

Lomax's story was made into the BBC television drama Prisoners in Time in 1995, starring John Hurt as Lomax, Randall Duk Kim as Nagase, and Rowena Cooper as Patti.[14]

A film adaptation was released in 2013. Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, the film stars Colin Firth and Jeremy Irvine as the older and younger Eric Lomax respectively,[15][16] and Nicole Kidman as Patti, the woman who befriended and later married Lomax.[17][18] 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.


He was a council member of The Freedom Association.[18]


  • The Railway Man (ISBN 0-09-958231-7)


  1. ^ a b c "BBC News – Eric Lomax: The Railway Man author dies aged 93". 8 October 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Childs, Martin (10 October 2012). "Eric Lomax: War hero whose experiences in the Far East became a bestselling memoir". The Independent. London.
  3. ^ a b van der Vat, Dan (9 October 2012). "Eric Lomax obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  4. ^ "No. 34282". The London Gazette. 8 May 1936. p. 2991.
  5. ^ "No. 34387". The London Gazette. 9 April 1937. p. 2280.
  6. ^ a b c Yardley, William (9 October 2012). "Eric Lomax, River Kwai Prisoner Who Forgave, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  7. ^ "No. 35056". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 January 1941. p. 547.
  8. ^ "No. 37720". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 September 1946. p. 4574.
  9. ^ "Viewing Page 385 of Issue 38517". 21 January 1949. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Eric Lomax". The Daily Telegraph. London. 9 October 2012.
  11. ^ Andreae, Christopher (9 August 1995). "Prisoner of War Learns To Forgive, Reconciles With His Interrogator". Christian Science Monitor. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  12. ^ "E S Lomax - Obituary".
  13. ^ a b "The Railway Man's forgotten family: 'We were victims of torture too'". The Guardian. 28 December 2013.
  14. ^ "Prisoners in Time". Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  15. ^ McClintock, Pamela (9 September 2011). "Toronto 2011: Colin Firth Set to Star in World War II Drama 'The Railway Man'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 10 September 2011. Jonathan Teplitzky begins shooting the big-screen adaptation of Eric Lomax's real-life account in February
  16. ^ Miller, Daniel (31 October 2011). "'War Horse' Star Jeremy Irvine to Play Young Colin Firth in 'The Railway Man'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
  17. ^ "Colin Firth 'overwhelmed' by Scot's film story". BBC News. 27 April 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  18. ^ a b Simon Richards, 'Two TFA Council Members Making the News', Freedom Today: The Journal of the Freedom Association, Spring 2012, p. 5

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