Eric Lomax dies at 93; ex-POW’s act of forgiveness set stage for memoir ‘The Railway Man’

“Some time the hating has to stop,” reads the last line of “The Railway Man,” a moving tale of wartime torture and forgiveness by former British prisoner of war Eric Lomax.

Lomax was a British army officer when he was captured by Japanese forces during the fall of Singapore in 1942. The Scotsman endured horrific conditions and savage beatings as he and thousands of others were forced to build the infamous Burma-to-Siam railroad, which formed the basis of the 1957 film “The Bridge on the River Kwai.”

He went more than 45 years without speaking to a single Japanese person, Lomax later said. After years of suppressed rage, he tracked down the interrogator who repeatedly tortured him, setting the stage for the dramatic act of forgiveness at the heart of his celebrated 1996 memoir, “The Railway Man.”

His story is being made into a film of the same name, scheduled to be released next year and starring Colin Firth.


Lomax, 93, died Oct. 8 in Berwick-upon-Tweed in northern England, according to his publisher, Vintage Books.

“He lived long enough to see some early images from the film,” Andy Paterson, who is producing “The Railway Man,” told the British Press Assn., “and to share our hopes that this new version of his story will help ensure that the men who suffered with him ... would never be forgotten.”

Lomax was born May 30, 1919, in Edinburgh and returned there in 1945 after more than three years of torture by the Japanese.

While building the Burma-Siam railway, he was one of several prisoners of war held responsible for surreptitiously making and operating a radio. His crime had been to draw a map, and he was subjected to extreme thuggery and torture for it, Lomax said.

“The traditional POW attitude,” Lomax told the Christian Science Monitor in 1993, was “don’t forget, don’t forgive.”

After decades of hate, Lomax decided to face his interrogator, Nagase Takashi, whom he had tracked down, in 1993.

“I learnt that he was still alive, active in charitable works, and that he had built a Buddhist temple,” Lomax wrote on the website of the Forgiveness Project, a United Kingdom-based charity that promotes reconciliation. “After our meeting, I felt I’d come to some kind of peace and resolution. Forgiveness is possible when someone is ready to accept forgiveness.”

Lomax is survived by his wife, Patti; a daughter from his first marriage, Charmaine; and his stepchildren, Graeme, Nicholas, Mark and Jennifer.