The final chapter in a naval tradition was closed with a low key yet dignified ceremony at the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre, Garden Island with the decommissioning of the legendary Esther Williams Trophy.
Commanding Officer HMAS Stuart, Commander Jason Hunter escorted Esther on her final voyage from Fleet Base West, presenting her to Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Tim Barrett.
The ceremony, observed by 20 members of Stuart’s ship’s company, was a mark of respect to the film star, said Rear Admiral Barrett.
“The Esther Williams Trophy has moved around the Fleet on a regular basis. Since 1943, she has been more than just a picture to put on the bulkhead, she has provided a sense of camaraderie, something to strive for, while injecting a little fun and rivalry between units,” said Rear Admiral Barrett.
With Esther Williams passing away in California on 6 June 2013, a decision was made to retire the trophy.
“The Esther Williams Trophy has meant a lot to people who have served at sea over a long period. It is right and proper that we give her a level of respect. Her resting place at the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre will ensure that others may share in the memories of what she represents and read her history for a long time to come,” said Rear Admiral Barrett.
Commander Hunter who was charged with the safekeeping of Esther, taking possession of her from Australian Clearance Diving Team FOUR prior to the final voyage, said it was an honour to return the trophy to her final berth.
“Unfortunately Stuart didn’t take the Esther Williams Trophy by normal stealth and cunning, but we were honoured to be asked to bring her to Fleet Base East and earn a place in her history,” said Commander Hunter.
The trophy first came to life in 1943. Over its 70 years of existence, it is estimated that the trophy circulated among more than 200 ships and establishments including those of the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and the United States Navy.
Australian Clearance Diving Team FOUR was the last unit to rescue Esther from HMAS Newcastle, acquiring her on the eve of her deployment to the Middle East Area of Operations.