Whitchurch cheese makers Belton Farm have joined forces with the nation’s favourite veterans, the Chelsea Pensioners, to kick Christmas off.

The two joined in a ceremonial celebration of British cheese as Belton donated 24.8kg of cheese to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, enough to feed a small army.

Vintage era singers Verity and Violet helped the pensioners get in the festive spirit with renditions of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

Cheese has been a favourite among British soldiers serving on the front line for centuries, while the Pensioners still consider the Ceremony of Christmas Cheeses the start of their Yuletide celebrations.

Chelsea Pensioners Mike Shanahan and Arthur Currie took part in the celebrations. In-Pensioner Mike Shanahan served as a Piper in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, where he remained until 1968, when his regiment amalgamated with the Royal Ulster Rifles to become the Royal Irish Rangers.

Following his service, he became a paramedic and was also a trainer on the First Aid Panel’s National Training Team. He worked jointly with his wife in the Army Cadet Force, where he rose to the rank of Major.

Mike said: “Cheese has always been an important part of our diet and the cheese ceremony is one of the most loved events in our calendar.”

Ash Amirahmadi, chairman of the Dairy Council, said: “Cheese makers across the UK have a great tradition of paying tribute to the courage and contribution made by our war veterans, and this year they certainly didn’t disappoint.

“Cheese is a food of the forces. It has been included in soldiers’ rations for centuries and that says it all – from its nutritional value to its much-loved taste, we have a great British product.

“Good food and song go well together, and Verity and Violet did a wonderful job in spreading some festive cheer to our favourite veterans today.”