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Chatham POW inspires Colin Firth movie story

fred smith
fred smith

The story of a Chatham man and fellow survivors of the brutal Japanese POW regime is being retold in a film starring Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth.

Fred Smith, pictured, of Palmerston Road, spent much of his years in captivity alongside Eric Lomax, who went on to record their ordeal in the best-selling book the Railway Man.

Filming has already begun on the movie, which also features Nicole Kidman as Lomax’s wife and War Horse star Jeremy Irvine.
In his book, Lomax describes Fred, who died in 1989 aged 77, as “one of the most impressive men I was ever likely to meet”.

The pair were kept in bamboo cages, which they had to enter by means of a 2ft square doorway. It was at this camp that Lomax was to suffer the cruel water torture that would mentally scar him for life.

The pair were moved to the infamous Outram Road Prison, where both were put in Cell No 52, a stark space measuring 9ft by 6ft.
They saw men in even worse conditions than themselves, reduced to living skeletons.
Eric Lomax records in his book: “Without my cellmate a sight like this might have destroyed me. But Fred was an absolute hero and I have never forgotten him. I can still quote his Army number from memory."

The two men did meet once after the war for a reunion lunch in London.
Fred’s daughter Vanessa spoke this week of her “quiet and stubborn” father who showed little of the traumas he had been through at the hands of the Japanese.

Lomax, now 91, who Colin Firth has visited in preparation for the role, when contacted about his wartime pal told the Medway Messenger: “I hold him in the highest regard.”
For full story see Friday's Medway Messenger

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