Britain's Got Talent star Charlotte Jaconelli helped to spread some festive cheer among the Chelsea Pensioners today.
Charlotte was the surprise guest of honour at the 300-year-old Ceremony of the Christmas Cheeses. This tradition began in 1692 when the Royal Hospital Chelsea asked a local cheesemonger to provide the pensioners with cheese as a Christmas treat.
The singing sensation shot to fame on Britain's Got Talent as one half of 'Jonathan & Charlotte', the duo that brought the judges and nation to their feet in 2012. During the Ceremony, Charlotte delighted the Pensioners with her rendition of Pie Jesu and I Could Have Danced All Night from hit musical My Fair Lady.
Charlotte Jaconelli said: "It has been a great honour to meet some of the Chelsea Pensioners today and take part in this wonderful ceremony, paying tribute to these true British heroes. This is one of Britain's loveliest Christmas traditions."
Cheese has always been a favourite among British soldiers serving on the front line and it has been handed out in their rations since the First World War. Every year British cheesemakers from across the country have continued to honour this tradition by donating a selection of cheeses at this annual Ceremony.
A 24.75kg Montgomery Cheddar, donated by J A E Montgomery Ltd, was ceremonially cut by In-Pensioner Derek Walters BEM, aged 82.
Derek joined the Royal Army Service Corps in 1952 as a National Serviceman. The majority of his time was spent in Egypt with the Middle East Land Force. Derek was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1982 for his work in the setting up of the British Army of the Rhine Freight service from Hannover to Berlin.
He said: "It is an honour to represent my fellow Chelsea Pensioners today – cheese has always been an important part of our diet and we are always happy to receive this delicious Christmas gift. The military is known for its traditions, but this is one of my favourites."
The Dairy Council has supported the Ceremony for 55 years. Sandy Wilkie, Chairman of The Dairy Council, said: "The Ceremony of the Christmas Cheeses is a much-loved event in the dairy calendar – it is a colourful, and historic, way of celebrating our great British cheeses.
"It's a great tradition. Every year cheesemakers from across the country pay tribute to the courage and contribution made by our war veterans by donating lots of our tasty British cheeses, and we at The Dairy Council are very proud to play a part in that.
"It wasn't just the Christmas cheese that put a smile on our faces. Charlotte Jaconelli did a wonderful job in bringing some festive spirit to our heroes today – her performance was truly beautiful."