Please Don’t Be A Bystander

Picture From The Telegraph

Picture From The Telegraph

William Grove is 84.  He served in the air force in World War II and now lives in London.  This week he stepped up when a situation called for it.  Two young men were attacking a jeweler’s storefront with sledgehammers.  The store was on a busy high street and many people were simply walking past or stopping to watch what was happening.  Some were even watching from their office through the safety of their own window.

Grove went up to one of the would-be-robbers and grabbed him by the head, taking off his balaclava.  The two men were apparently so shocked by the act that they dropped their sledgehammers and ran away.

These are his words: “My reaction was natural and instinctive, you can’t have this sort of thing going on.  I’m not a hero just a responsible citizen, a hero is somebody who jumps into the Thames to rescue a drowning child. My part was so small, it was all over in three minutes. Whether I would do it again next time I don’t know, but this hasn’t put me off.”

Nick Thompson was watching from an office across the street. “It was a busy day on the high street and there were crowds of shoppers watching. But these days people don’t want to have a go in case a robber has a weapon. Here, you could see that there were two robbers holding big sledgehammers. Everyone was standing back when this old guy at the bus stop decided he was not just going to stand there and watch. He must have been around 80. He went over and started flapping at one of the robbers. He grabbed him from behind around his shoulders and managed to pull his balaclava off his face. If he had hit the old man with the sledgehammer, he could easily have killed him. The old man risked his life against someone much younger and bigger. He is a hero. He gave a little smile and rightly looked quite pleased with himself. Then he calmly walked back to the bus stop, boarded a bus and toddled off as if he had done his job. There were a good 50 people watching all this unfold and even more people must have passed by as it was going on. But this old man was the only one with the guts to intervene. I thought it was brilliant. We were all amazed. He put everyone else to shame.”

I am bowled over by this kind of story.  Grove knew something needed to be done and he did it.  What’s interesting is that the witness completely understand why the man is a hero and recognizes the lack of action from the bystanders, but was one of those bystanders himself.

I urge you to do everything you can to remove the bystander mentality from your life.

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3 Responses to Please Don’t Be A Bystander

  1. Matt Langdon November 2, 2008 at 10:47 am #

    More comments from the hero at

    But modest William said: “The bravery thing has been exaggerated – please play it down. They were just incompetent.”

    He said: “I didn’t have time to be scared.”

  2. Matt Langdon November 9, 2008 at 6:06 pm #

    The guys and girls at Rabbits and Chesire Cats have had a discussion on William Grove.


  1. W10, #10: THE BYSTANDER CHOICE « rabbits and cheshire cats - November 5, 2008

    […] Matt Langdon’s “Hero Workshop” blog where he wrote an interesting story (link to his “Please Don’t Be A Bystander” entry) about an 85 year old man in England who single-handedly stopped 2 sledgehammer-wielding thieves […]