The Royal Hospital Chelsea held the Ceremony of the Christmas Cheese today, an annual event organised by the Dairy Council where cheesemakers from across the country donate cheese for the Chelsea Pensioners.
The ceremony dates back to 1692 when a local cheesemonger agreed to provide war veterans at the Hospital with their festive supply of cheese.
Tango and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ stars Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace joined the event to dance with the Chelsea Pensioners in celebration of the food that has fed the forces for centuries.
Cheese and dairy products have been included in soldiers’ rations for centuries and particularly in the two World Wars.
To mark the First World War centenary, cheesemakers around the UK provided the Chelsea Pensioners with cheeses that have been made in Britain for more than 100 years as well as more modern varieties.
Vincent and Flavia, who took a break from their own West End Show “Dance ‘til Dawn” to attend, danced with Pensioners Audrey Merton and Michael Dows in the historic Great Hall at the Royal Hospital to the music of the Household Division Welsh Guards.
Vincent said: “In the centenary year of the Great War, when so much attention has been focused on the sacrifice made by our war veterans, it is a pleasure and an honour to be asked to join the celebrations with the pensioners who are living heroes.
Flavia added: “Some of the pensioners can certainly kick up their heels! It was wonderful to have the opportunity to share this day with the pensioners.”
Sandie Wilkie, Chairman of The Dairy Council said: “It is wonderful to end this centenary year with such a colourful and joyful occasion and we would like to thank Vincent and Flavia for bringing such glamorous Christmas spirit to our veterans.
“The Ceremony of Cheeses is a great, historic ceremony and our wonderful British cheeses certainly do it justice. This year we are presenting an outstanding amount of varieties of cheeses and, not only do they look great and taste delicious, they represent a very important part of the veterans' diets and are perhaps the reason that they were able to give Vincent and Flavia such a run for their money today!
“Cheese and dairy produce have been included in soldiers’ rations for centuries. Without a doubt the nutrition in dairy produce still has an important part to play for the forces of today.”
Chelsea Pensioner and former Typex Operator Helen Andrews visits the famous codebreaker site
Chelsea Pensioners have recognised the work efforts of staff who will be working over the Christmas period