Sunday, 22 July 2012 INDEX

Electric Liz
In the early months of the Second World War, even after the so called phoney war, there wasn't much hatred of the Germans, my father says. They were clearly the enemy, or at least the opponents, but people had yet to develop a passionate loathing for the Nazis. That came later.

At the time my dad was about 12 or 13 years old and living in West Norwood, south London. He says that even when the Luftwaffe bombed the area people bore it with resignation. That was just what happened in wars.

All that changed when they killed Electric Liz.

My dad happened to be there at the time when the German plane appeared over Norwood High Street. He jumped over a wall and hid. Liz did not.

When the plane had gone her dead body was lying in the street.

Electric Liz was something like a street person. My dad doesn't know how she got her name but it might have been through begging for small change for the meter.

In those days most people had to put a coin in the slot to get both gas and electricity.

However she got the name, Electric Liz was a street person, not exactly homeless but as close to it as may be. She looked like a tramp, a destitute person.

Clearly she was also a character. Everyone in West Norwood knew her.

If she had survived the war, the National Health Service, would probably have done its best to help her. Today, of course, we are far more enlightened than in those post war years, and there are again thousands of street people all over the country (though I believe they have been cleared away for the duration of the Olympics where I live in north east London).

The death of Electric Liz really brought home the horrors of war to Norwood High Street and from then on my dad says, people really hated the Nazis.

They must have known before that war is always about killing and being killed, but the English are a soft lot and it takes the death of an innocent to raise their passions.

Posted by Jonathan Brind
Sunday, 22 July 2012 INDEX