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Scout group finally reach Swiss camp following Heathrow hell

PUBLISHED: 17:15 28 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:27 28 July 2019

A scout group from Gorleston has finally reached Switzerland after becoming stranded in Heathrow Airport. Picture: Shelly O'Keefe

A scout group from Gorleston has finally reached Switzerland after becoming stranded in Heathrow Airport. Picture: Shelly O'Keefe

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A scout group from Norfolk has finally reached its destination after becoming stranded at Heathrow Airport.

Scouts from 1st Gorleston Scout Group were caught up in chaos at Heathrow Airport following severe thunderstorms. Picture: Shelly O'KeefeScouts from 1st Gorleston Scout Group were caught up in chaos at Heathrow Airport following severe thunderstorms. Picture: Shelly O'Keefe

The travelling party from 1st Gorleston Scout Group arrived at Heathrow in the early hours of Friday morning, ready for a long-awaited trip to the Kandersteg International Scout Centre, Switzerland.

But after severe thunderstorms disrupted air traffic control, the group was told its 9.30am flight had been cancelled and they could not fly for another three days.

A scout group from Gorleston has finally reached Switzerland after becoming stranded in Heathrow Airport. Picture: Shelly O'KeefeA scout group from Gorleston has finally reached Switzerland after becoming stranded in Heathrow Airport. Picture: Shelly O'Keefe

The news came as a bitter blow to the 42 scouts, explorers and networkers, who had been planning and fundraising since 2015.

"When we left Great Yarmouth there was pouring rain and lightning, but at least we were on our way," said group leader Shelly O'Keefe. "Little did we know how much it would change our next few days.

Scouts from 1st Gorleston Scout Group were caught up in chaos at Heathrow Airport following severe thunderstorms. Picture: Shelly O'KeefeScouts from 1st Gorleston Scout Group were caught up in chaos at Heathrow Airport following severe thunderstorms. Picture: Shelly O'Keefe

"At the airport British Airways told us to find a space, stay together and they would keep us updated. They offered to pay for a charter coach but couldn't find a company who would take us."

There began an intense operation to get the group to Switzerland, but efforts from scouting commissioners across the country were proving fruitless.

Scouts from 1st Gorleston Scout Group were caught up in chaos at Heathrow Airport following severe thunderstorms. Picture: Shelly O'KeefeScouts from 1st Gorleston Scout Group were caught up in chaos at Heathrow Airport following severe thunderstorms. Picture: Shelly O'Keefe

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But finally there came a breakthrough, when airline staff discovered they could get all 42 passengers on a flight leaving at 9pm on Saturday night.

Scouts from 1st Gorleston Scout Group were caught up in chaos at Heathrow Airport following severe thunderstorms. Picture: Shelly O'KeefeScouts from 1st Gorleston Scout Group were caught up in chaos at Heathrow Airport following severe thunderstorms. Picture: Shelly O'Keefe

"The BA staff saw it as a personal challenge to help us," added Mrs O'Keefe. "We were adamant that, because we'd started the adventure together, we would finish it together.

"They provided vouchers for every single meal and brought us blankets, roll mats and wash kits - I cannot stress how good BA were.

Scout Hannah was treated to a moment in the cockpit for her birthday. Picture: Shelly O'KeefeScout Hannah was treated to a moment in the cockpit for her birthday. Picture: Shelly O'Keefe

"They bent over backwards for us and I honestly think that scouting ethos of being good to others really paid off."

Having finally touched down in Geneva, the scouts faced several more hours travelling via train and bus, but have already enjoyed a first day packed with activities and unique opportunities.

A scout group from Gorleston has finally reached Switzerland after becoming stranded in Heathrow Airport. Picture: Shelly O'KeefeA scout group from Gorleston has finally reached Switzerland after becoming stranded in Heathrow Airport. Picture: Shelly O'Keefe

Despite the miserable airport experience, Mrs O'Keefe said the group and called upon some old-fashioned scouting spirit to keep themselves motivated.

"There has not been one moan or groan from anyone," she added. "Their attitude has been absolutely superb.

"It would have been easy for them to say 'let's just go home'. In reality, it's been a proper adventure."

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