The widow of the Scots prisoner of war whose ordeal in a Japanese labour camp has been turned into an epic new film hopes it will help to secure better services for modern-day veterans traumatised by their time in war zones.
Patti Lomax, who is in her late husband Eric’s home city of Edinburgh to promote The Railway Man, in which he is portrayed by Oscar-winner Colin Firth, said she hopes the harrowing portrayal of his time as a prisoner of war and its effect on the rest of his life will open up discussion on “battle stress”.
She said one of the key messages from the film – screened in Scotland ahead of its official UK premiere in London tomorrow – is that the after-effects of war could be worse for veterans without proper counselling and that it is often their families that feel the impact years later.
The Railway Man is based on the best-selling memoir of the same name by Lomax, who died last year while the film was still being edited.
Ms Lomax said: “I think the film really carries a very modern message. It shows what happens when anybody comes back from a war zone and doesn’t have counselling and help immediately. Battle stress doesn’t just go away and in fact can become much worse.
“People have seen terrible things and often don’t realise that they have a problem.
“Hopefully this film will help a little in getting people to talk about it. I think a lot of people are being very let down by our government. Physical injury seems to get some attention, but psychological injuries are more or less ignored. I’ve just come back from Australia and they seem way ahead of us.
“It needs to be taken a lot more seriously and there needs to be a lot more support for the charities in this country that are trying to do something about it. It’s all too easy to send people away to war without thinking that it has an effect.”
In the movie, released in the UK next month, Portobello-born Lomax is shown battling mental illness decades after the war. The captured signals officer was lucky to survive after suffering beatings and waterboardings when guards found a radio he had helped build.
Lomax only finds closure after returning to Thailand to confront his chief tormentor, Takashi Nagase, who advised on the production before passing away two years ago. Mrs Lomax added: “There are still some very relevant issues over torture in there, in particularly over waterboarding, which Eric was very upset about when it was reported that President Bush had given permission for its use.
“He wrote a newspaper article at the time describing what it was like and how people would say anything under those circumstances just to get it to stop.”
Mrs Lomax said her husband had not been remotely “star-struck” at meeting Firth when he had been cast in the film because he had never heard of him.
The actor paid the couple two visits at their home in Berwick-upon-Tweed before filming got under way.
Despite being seriously ill, Lomax made it on to the set, close to his home in Berwick, to watch Firth filming one of the final emotional scenes.