Railway Man widow calls for VJ Day respect

Patti and Eric Lomax at home in Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Patti and Eric Lomax at home in Berwick-Upon-Tweed

A plea for greater recognition for VJ Day has been made by the widow of former PoW Eric Lomax, author of best-selling book The Railway Man.

Patti Lomax has called for VJ Day on August 15 to be given the same respect as VE Day.

“We want to help people realise the historical significance of this date; it’s the true end of the war yet there seems to be a danger of the day being totally forgotten,” she said. “The Far East was so far away and unknown, the men came home with scarcely any acknowledgement unlike VE Day.”

It was not until after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the declaration of war on Japan by the Soviet Union, that Japan finally surrendered, allowing the surviving prisoners working on the notorious Death Railway to return home.

Around 60,000 Allied prisoners were forced to work by the Japanese on the railway between Thailand and Burma. Over 12,000 died during its construction and it also claimed the lives of an estimated 90,000 Asian labourers.

Many surviving prisoners were permanently scarred by their terrible experiences and the celebrations of their return, and those of PoWs who slaved in mines in Japan, were muted compared with VE Day.

In Edinburgh on Saturday the 70th anniversary will be marked in a special service at the Canongate Kirk followed by a civic reception hosted by the Lord Provost while in London there will be a service of commemoration at St Martin in the Fields Church in Trafalgar Square, a flypast and traditional Drumhead Service on Horse Guards Parade, and a VJ veterans and civilian internees parade down Whitehall followed by a Royal British Legion reception at the Palace of Westminster

In Berwick, adopted home town of Lomax and Patti, the occasion is being marked with a service of commemoration at 10am Berwick Parish Church, with battalion colours being presented and a minute’s silence.

VJ day has a particular significance for Berwick as the 9th battalion of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers took part in the Battle of Singapore in 1942, and spent the remainder of the war in Japanese POW camps. Many Far East veterans from this and other regiments retired to the area.

In the evening (7.30pm)there will be a special charity screening of The Railway Man film, in aid of Combat Stress, the UK’s leading veteran’s mental health charity.

It will be preceded at 6pm by a chance to see Mike Finlayson’s documentary Enemy My Friend? of Lomax’s meeting with one of his Japanese torturers, over 40 years after the brutal events in Japan.

“On VJ DAY we honour all our countrymen who served the Crown in the Far East during the Second World War and had to live with the consequences,” said Patti.