Chelsea Pensioners observe the Ceremony of the Christmas Cake

14th December 2017

The Chelsea Pensioners have observed the annual 'Ceremony of the Christmas Cake' at their home, the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The tradition, in which a sizeable Christmas Cake is presented to the Chelsea Pensioners by the Australian High Commission, started in 1949 and is still a hugely popular event in the Christmas calendar.

In a small break from tradition, this year the cake (pictured below) has been produced not by a particular Australian State, but by the Australian Defence Force, as a symbol of the enduring friendship between the UK and Australia.

In attendance at the ceremony, alongside the Governor of the Royal Hospital, General Sir Redmond Watt, was Australian High Commissioner to the UK, Alexander Downer, who delivered a speech before the ceremonial cutting of the cake.

Speaking to a room of invited guests, Chelsea Pensioners and staff at the Royal Hospital, Mr Downer said: "There is a deep relationship of shared values between our two countries. The connection between the Australian Defence Force and the British Army goes back through history. We fought side by side. The Cake Ceremony is a wonderful chance for us to say we are one and on the same team." 

The cake was cut by ceremonial sword by Chelsea Pensioner Mick Kippin (pictured below), whose two grand-uncles fought and died at the Battle of Gallipoli in the First World War, alongside Australian troops. He said of the occasion: "It's my pleasure to be picked for this important role at the Ceremony of the Christmas Cake. I feel very privileged to take part, and remember my grand-uncles and the sacrifices they made."

After the ceremony, the cake is divided up and put out over the Christmas period so all of the Chelsea Pensioners can enjoy a piece.

Royal Hospital Chelsea Newsletter

Stay up to date with what's going on at The Royal Hospital by signing up for our e‑newsletter.


View the archive

Brompton Cemetery Seed Sowing
Sowing wildflowers in memory of past Chelsea Pensioners

On 6 May, Chelsea Pensioners and members of the Royal Hospital’s grounds team joined representatives from the Royal Parks, the Royal Parks Guild and the Friends of Brompton Cemetery to sow a patch of wildflower seeds in Brompton Cemetery as part of the Battlefields and Butterflies initiative.

Chelsea Pensioner Centenarians
100 years old and still going strong

Recent research backs up the anecdote that Chelsea Pensioners not only live considerably longer than their peers outside (by over five years, on average), but that their lifetimes once they come to the Royal Hospital are extending, year on year. This strongly suggests that the care and community here contribute to greater longevity – as well as improving quality of life. 


Follow @RHChelsea