Mimi Olga Hatton was born on 2nd July 1915. She was an infant and junior school teacher at St Mary Cray in Kent in 1939 when the Second World War began. She spent much of the war in North Wales teaching the children from St Mary Cray in temporary school after they were evacuated in 1944.
She returned to Kent after the war ended in 1945. She heard about the work of the BFES in occupied Germany and decided to apply to the scheme. She was interviewed and accepted in September 1946.
Miss Hatton travelled to Germany by steamer from Harwich to the Hook of Holland. The journey then continued by road – in a small, canvas-backed, lorry. Mimi spent Christmas 1946 at the Herford female transit camp. When the weather improved and the roads became passable Mimi travelled by Volkswagen beetle to Bad Zwischenhan.
On her arrival Mimi was shocked by the poverty of the Germans. In her reminiscences she recalls that her helpers often looked grey/green from malnutrition and that she actually saw German adults drop dead from starvation in the street.
As time passed families were posted elsewhere and the numbers at Bad Zwischenahn dwindled Miss Hatton was posted the headship of Oldenburg School in 1949. Following this she was posted to Bad Oeynhausen in 1950.
Miss Hatton seems to have thrived in the challenging post-war German environment and she only returned to England when her six year secondment ended in August 1952. She had been stimulated by the opportunities to experiment and innovate. The success she had achieved had gained her the license to educate pupils in her own way.
On her return to England she was appalled by the hidebound attitudes of most teachers and what she called the ‘board and chalk’ classroom. She very nearly gave up teaching. Instead she was asked to take over a Residential school for girls with special needs. She worked here from 1950 – 1976
After this she took up the challenge of setting up a similar school for 90 children in Devon. She remained there for a further 23 years!
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