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Charity helping victims of torture appeals for members through new film

PUBLISHED: 10:40 15 January 2014 | UPDATED: 10:40 15 January 2014




A charity helping torture survivors rebuild their lives is urging more people to get involved when Colin Firth’s new film about its patron hits the big screen in Norwich.

The Railway Man and Eric Lomax

The Railway Man is about former prisoner of war Eric Lomax, pictured, who struggled to overcome the trauma he suffered at the hands of his Japanese captors during the Second World War.

The film charts how the former British army officer’s relationship with his second wife starts him out on the road to recovery more than 40 years after his initial capture. The middle-aged railway and radio enthusiast Mr Lomax met his Canadian wife Patti on a train journey through Scotland in 1983 and they married shortly after.

However, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, he shut himself off from his new bride and refused to confide in her. Determined not to lose her husband, Patti turned to his friend Finlay, who finally revealed his past. She then sets about helping her husband on the path to recovery.

Mr Lomax was forced to work on the Burma Railway in Thailand – known as the Death Railway – after the surrender of Singapore in 1942. His subsequent torture happened when Japanese troops discovered a homemade radio and map of the railway and accused him of spying.

Mrs Lomax eventually helps her husband reach out to interrogator Takashi Nagase to allow him to forgive those who inflicted harm on him. Eric Lomax died in October 2012, before completion of the film, aged 93.

His journey to recovery involved a 600-mile round trip from his home in Scotland to receiving treatment at Freedom from Torture (then known as the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture) in London.

The Oscar-winning actor stars in The Railway Man, a true story about the former Freedom from Torture client Eric Lomax, who used the charity following his struggles to overcome the trauma he suffered during the Second World War.

And now, the Norwich-based branch of the charity is appealing for more members to join its efforts and this week will be raising awareness when the film shows at Cinema City, at St Andrews Hall Plain, from Friday.

Member Lester Marshall said: “Our volunteers will meet and greet people going to see the film and will also be providing some leaflets.

“I think the film will highlight post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its effects on a person and their family.”

Mr Lomax suffered torture at the hands of his Japanese captors during the war. The film, which is based on a memoir of the same name, charts the former British army officer’s relationship with his second wife Patti – played by Nicole Kidman – and his road to recovery.

The mental scars he carried from the torture he endured as a prisoner of war sees him suffer from paralysing nightmares and flashbacks to his imprisonment, where he was forced into gruelling labour on the Burma Railway in Thailand – known as the Death Railway. The film also focuses on his treatment at Freedom from Torture, known then as the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, in London.

Mr Marshall added: “People who have been tortured and suffered such unspeakable cruelty need to know that there are people in the world who care. People in Norwich have this quality of compassion towards the suffering.

“Get involved with Freedom From Torture and help with fundraising, support the events, and tell others about its work, not only to help those who need it but to show them that they are not alone. By acknowledging this and helping the healing process, I think we show the torturers that they have not won.”

Keith Best, chief executive at Freedom from Torture, added: “Eric Lomax was a patron of Freedom From Torture and I enjoyed a lively correspondence with him. He stated in our 25th anniversary review ‘my turning point came in 1987 when I came across the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture and for the first time I was able to unload the hate that had become my prison’.

“His story is an inspiration to all of how, with appropriate care, the terrible legacy of torture on the victim can be turned around.”

If you are interested in joining the Norwich group or want to help with fundraising visit Freedom From Future.

Tickets for The Railway Man are on sale at Cinema City.

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