When Natalie Templar was a Year 8 student at Beaconhills College in 2010, she recorded a series of interviews with war veteran Hautrie (Harry) Crick.
As an ANZAC veteran and one of the famous Rats of Tobruk, Harry was a regular visitor to the College, sharing fascinating stories of his service in the Middle East with the 2/24th Infantry Battalion. Later in World War Two he was deployed to Papua New Guinea and Borneo.
Little did Natalie realise then that their lives would become inextricably linked. When Harry sadly passed away this year at the age of 104, Natalie was by his side.
Their bond is reminiscent of the New York Times bestselling memoir Tuesdays with Morrie, a touching story of a friendship between a sociology professor during his dying days and his former student.
Natalie, who graduated from Beaconhills in 2014, said after initially meeting Harry at school, their lives continued to cross paths.
In Year 10, Natalie received the Harold Bould memorial award given by The 39th Battalion Association to selected local Year 10 students. She completed a 10-day hike of the Kokoda Trail and said the experience gave her a new understanding of the depths of Harry’s story and his time at war.
The pair continued to cross paths and during COVID lockdowns, Natalie became a regular weekend visitor to Harry’s Pakenham home. Natalie supplied the scones, and Harry the stories.
“He had lots of war memorabilia. I think he coped when he got back from the war by telling his stories,” she said.
Writing Harry’s memoir
Every weekend during lockdown, Natalie would spend hours visiting Harry, listening to his stories and later writing up notes for his memoir.
“Harry would send me home with a stack of war books each week to increase my knowledge,” she said.
Thanks to Natalie, Harry’s memoir My Life Story – The Memorable Adventures is now published, ensuring his story is captured and preserved forever.
Harry began to deteriorate in late 2020, but recovered enough to lead the Anzac Day March in 2021 in Wangaratta – the home town of his battalion. Natalie marched with him and described it as one of her most cherished moments.
Natalie was lying by Harry’s side when he died on Sunday 2 April this year and said he was cognizant until the end: “His body was giving away but his brain was still sharp.”
Beaconhills College is fortunate to have a living memory of Harry in the form of a fig tree he helped plant in the grounds of the Junior School.
It is a cutting from the famous Tobruk Fig Tree in Libya, named because it marked the entrance to caves used by Australians to treat the wounded during the war.
Natalie and Harry’s story is best captured in the final word of the eulogy Natalie delivered at his funeral.
“Harry, when I look back at the pictures of us over the years, I noticed that my hand was always resting or holding onto you, and I want you to know that it always will. You became a big part of who I am today.”
Anyone interested in buying a copy of Harry’s memoir is welcome to contact Natalie directly on Natalie.Templar@hotmail.com
Profits from the book sale will be donated on Harry’s behalf to Harry’s charities.