How Winston Churchill ate well during World War II

Exploring the Culinary Heart of Churchill’s War Rooms: The Story of Georgina Landemare

Amid the strategic discussions and critical decisions taken within the confines of The Churchill War Rooms during the Second World War, there lies an intriguing narrative of culinary resilience and excellence, personified by Mrs. Georgina Landemare, Winston Churchill’s personal cook. Her contributions not only nourished the wartime leader and his guests but also left an indelible mark on the history of British and French cuisine under the shadow of war.

The Life of Georgina Landemare

Early Years and Career Beginnings

Georgina Landemare, whose presence in the Churchill household would become legendary, was born in 1882 in the quaint village of Aldbury, near Tring. The daughter of a coachman and a maid, Georgina embarked on her journey in the world of culinary arts at the tender age of 14. Over the next decade, she diligently climbed the ranks of kitchen hierarchy, securing the position of cook by 25.

Marriage and Culinary Adventures

In a departure from the norm of “live-in” service, Georgina married the eminent French chef Paul Landemare, who was then the culinary maestro at the Ritz, and 25 years her senior. This union not only brought her into a family with five children but also allowed her to refine her craft under the influence of French culinary traditions, further elevating her skills.

Freelance Cook to the Society

Following her husband’s death in 1932, Mrs. Landemare ventured into freelance cooking, catering to the elite at various high-society events. It was during this period that she crossed paths with the Churchill family, impressing them with her culinary prowess at their country house, Chartwell, though financial constraints prevented her from joining their household permanently at that time.

Photo credit- Georgina Landemare’s kitchen, Churchill War Rooms, photo by Maggie Coates

The War Years

Stepping into Churchill’s Service

With the onset of the Second World War, Mrs. Landemare saw an opportunity to offer her services to the Churchill family on a permanent basis, a proposal that was eagerly accepted. This arrangement provided the Churchills with unparalleled culinary experiences, blending the best of British and French cuisine, at a time when such luxury was a rarity.

A Lifesaving Intervention

One poignant anecdote from the war years highlights Churchill’s regard for Mrs. Landemare. On the evening of 14th October 1940, Churchill himself ensured Mrs. Landemare’s safety during an air raid, an act she later credited with saving her life. This incident underscored the deep respect and affection that had developed between Churchill and his esteemed cook.

Post-War Years and Legacy

Continuing Service and Retirement

After the war, Mrs. Landemare continued to serve the Churchill family, transitioning with them back to Downing Street during Churchill’s second term as Prime Minister. Her retirement in 1954 marked the end of a significant chapter in her life, but not her influence.

Culinary Contributions and Final Years

Encouraged to document her recipes, Mrs. Landemare faced the daunting task of translating her intuitive culinary practices into a published book. “Recipes From No 10”, published in 1958 with a foreword by Lady Churchill, became a bestseller and a collector’s item after going out of print. Mrs. Landemare lived until 1978, leaving behind a legacy of culinary excellence that bridged the gap between British and French cuisine during one of history’s most tumultuous times.

Georgina Landemare’s story is a testament to the power of culinary art to comfort, unite, and celebrate culture even amidst the direst circumstances. Her legacy, encapsulated within the walls of Churchill’s wartime command centre and beyond, continues to inspire those who value the profound impact of dedicated craftsmanship and the enduring spirit of service.

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