Changi Chapel receives special visitor
20 November 2013
Serving alongside Australian diggers, British POW Eric Lomax suffered a torturous existence working on the Death Railway in Thailand during WWII.
Mr Lomax passed away last year at 93, but the moving story of his time at war, his struggle with PTSD and the amazing forgiveness he showed towards a Japanese interpreter was revealed in his autobiography The Railway Man in 1995. The story has now been made into a film starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth that will be released on Boxing Day.
Mr Lomax’s wife Patti made a special trip to RMC – Duntroon on November 18 for an emotional visit to the Changi Chapel, which was brought to Canberra after the war.
“Eric would have gone to this chapel in Changi I’m sure,” Mrs Lomax said. “And because my husband can’t be here today I wanted to visit it for him.”
Mrs Lomax spent an overwhelming morning visiting the Australian War Memorial to lay a wreath in memory of her husband and his fellow POWs, during her whirlwind week in Australia for the film’s premiere.
She said she hoped the film would help veterans, military members and their families know the sacrifices made are not forgotten and are respected.
“I hope the film reminds people of what happened over there. I’ve been told there are 300 veterans from the Thai-Burma Railway alive here in Australia,” Mrs Lomax said.
“The Railway Man is not just about Eric and me, but about the consequences of war. Veterans often don’t know they’re affected by PTSD and if they don’t open up then their families go through Hell.
“Most people have some connection to the military, be that family or a neighbour or friend, and so I hope this film spurs those suffering to get help.”
Mr Lomax was a 21-year-old signals officer who loved trains, and while the film features gut-wrenching scenes from prison camps and soul-destroying times depicting Colin Firth struggling with demons, Mrs Lomax wanted to remind audiences the story has a powerful and happy ending.
“I remember Eric’s meeting with the Japanese interpreter Takeshi Nagase when we travelled to Thailand to find him,” she says.
“We were overlooking all those white graves with the names and ages of those killed – they were just young boys. It really struck me that maybe we were being disloyal being there with Mr Nagase, but Eric looked at me and said ‘Patti, sometime the hating has to stop’.
“It shook me. I have had that engraved on Eric’s headstone – it shows just what he was really like.”
ADF personnel requiring further support and treatment can contact local Defence Health Facility or call 1800 IMSICK after hours (1800 467 425).
Mental Health All Hours Support Line 1800 628 036 is a confidential telephone service for ADF members and their families available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Services that can be accessed include psychology, medical, social work and chaplains.
ADF personnel who have deployed are eligible to self refer to the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service on 1800 011 046. It provides counselling and group programs to veterans, peacekeepers and eligible family members and is a free call, open 24/7.