Esther Williams was a swimmer-turned-movie star of the 1940s, but Esther herself was less important to her story than Sir David Stevenson, Vice Admiral and Chief of Australian Navy. When he was a lieutenant in Royal Australian Navy during the Second World War, Stevenson wrote “To my own Georgie, with all my love and a passionate kiss, Esther” on a photo of Esther Williams, and gave it to his fellow lieutenant, Lindsay George Brand, who had recently been spurned by the girl he loved.
Brand put the photo over his bed; it was stolen to another ship by a fellow officer; and, became a ‘trophy’–an object of constant amusement and rivalry among the officers of some 200 US, British, Australian and Canadian ships serving in the Pacific theatre. The original photo became the “trophy copy” kept in a safe location, while the second “fighting copy” was to be stolen or taken by force. After the “fighting copy” had been successfully removed from the custodial ship, the “trophy copy” would be presented to the new owners with appropriate ceremony. The new holders would fly an Esther flag or sent naval signals (signed ‘Esther’) to other ships to indicate where the trophy is. After the war, Esther herself would be a good sport and send a genuine signed photo to the ship that captured the trophy.
Fourteen years and 4000 nautical miles later, in 1957, “Esther” was retired and sent to the Australian Naval Historical Collection. Now residing behind a frame, the trophy was only brought into circulation again very rarely.