The Chelsea Pensioners have celebrated one of the more unusual festive traditions – the Ceremony of the Christmas Cheeses.

The annual ritual is over 300-years-old and involves almost a quarter-of-a-tonne of cheese.

The colourful ceremony dates back to 1692 when the Governor of the hospital asked the local cheesemonger to supply in-pensioners with cheese as a Christmas treat.

Continuing the tradition to this day over 80 cheesemakers from across the UK donated a selection of various types of cheese for the pensioners to enjoy.

Chelsea Pensioners Cheese

One of the highlights of the ceremony is the cutting of the ceremonial cheese – a huge Montgomery cheddar which is sliced with a sword by a chosen Chelsea Pensioner.

This year it was Leo Tighe, a British Empire Medal recipient who served 25 years with the Irish Guards, who was given the honour of cutting the ceremonial Montgomery.

Leo said:

“I thought it was quite an honour actually as I’ve only been here two years and they normally give it to people who are much older. Maybe that says something about my appearance."

Chelsea Pensioners Cheese

Ash Amirahmadi, Chairman of the Dairy Council - the organisers of the event – said the tradition was an opportunity to say thank you to the Chelsea Pensioners:

“Today is so special because the dairy industry can say its thanks to the veterans that have served us so valiantly in the all the conflicts through the years.”

The next festive tradition to be carried out at the Royal Hospital Chelsea is the Ceremony of the Christmas Cake which involves a huge cake donated by Australia as a symbol of the enduring friendship between the two nations.

Chelsea Pensioners Cheese