Clippings bring memories of war-torn Bosnia flooding back

Herald Series: REUNITED: Former Abingdon Scout leader Kathy Hayward, right, with some of the clippings returned to her by Helen Turner, left REUNITED: Former Abingdon Scout leader Kathy Hayward, right, with some of the clippings returned to her by Helen Turner, left

FORMER Abingdon Scout leader Kathy Hayward has been reunited with a box of memories she thought was lost.

In February, Devon Scout leader Helen Turner discovered a bag in the roof of her Scout hall full of newspaper clippings about Mrs Hayward from the 1990s.

Twenty years ago, Mrs Hayward, then Kathy Chalmers, had responses from across the country with her Pass the Parcel shoebox collection for victims of the Bosnian War.

As well as collecting hundreds of tons of items, the five-year campaign, sponsored by the Oxford Mail, saw her travel to the warzone seven times.

In 1999, Mrs Hayward moved to Devon, loaned her archive to the Honiton Scouts to learn about Pass the Parcel, and never got around to picking it up.

Mrs Turner had no idea how the clippings ended up in the hut until last month when Mrs Hayward, living 10 minutes down the road in Honiton, heard about the discovery of her clippings.

On February 15, an Oxford Mail story on Mrs Turner’s search for the Abingdon Scout leader was spotted by Mrs Hayward’s daughter Natalie, who still lives in Abingdon.

So Mrs Hayward went back to the Scout hall, met Mrs Turner, and relived memories she had forgotten.

Mrs Hayward, who turned 60 in May, said: “This is the most wonderful 60th birthday present anyone could have given me.

“It is so surreal the story came to Honiton via Abingdon.

“I had forgotten about a lot of it, I even gave them a part of my diary.

“It has just blown me away.”

She added: “I put on so much mascara that day when I went to meet Helen and said I wouldn’t cry but as soon as I got out I went to the nearest toilet and started crying.

“Helen is a lovely girl. I walked in and I got this great big hug. It was something else.”

Reunited with the bag of clippings from the Oxford Mail, Mrs Hayward remembered just what a surreal and, at times, terrifying experience she had in Bosnia.

She said: “We were shot at, I’ve been through sniper alley.

“You go through a checkpoint you don’t recognise, your tyres are shot, these guys are walking around with rifles, what do you do?”

In 1993, she and Oxford Mail photographer John Lawrence travelled to Split on the Croatian coast to deliver aid. She remembered: “One night, one of the United Nations soldiers came in.

“I had never seen a grown man cry before, he was in tears.

“I said ‘what’s going on?’ and he told us he had just found about 50 refugees about a mile up the road but couldn’t bring them into the camp.

“Some of the sites were horrific.”

In September, she and husband Brian will return to Croatia for the first time since 1997.

She said: “It’s going to be emotional but it is also a celebration.”

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