Both were Scots who were imprisoned by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore during World War Two, and who were forced to work on the infamous railway of death, the Burma-Siam railway, that the Japanese subsequently started constructing. Both are still alive and in their nineties: Alistair Urquhart, author of the 'Forgotten Highlander' lives in Broughty Ferry, overlooking the Tay Estuary near Dundee; Eric Lomax, author of 'The Railway Man', lives in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
How do you cope with the aftermath of witnessing death and extreme trauma? Young people fighting in Afghanistan are facing the same issue today, although not on the scale of what was witnessed by Urquhart and Lomax. They belong to a generation who were expected to deal with the pain and suffering on their own........while fortunately today's veterans can expect help!
In 'Merdeka' Alick copes with what we now call PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) in his own way and without formal support.....although there are people there for him.
The Railway Man is now being made into a film, starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman. They appear to be humbled by taking on their roles...which is a good thing. Here's hoping that the film will be a fitting tribute to Lomax, Urquhart and all the others of a generation who endured incredible hardship in the Far East, and then returned to a world that virtually ignored them!