S2, Ep 13 Victory in the Kitchen: Dr Annie Gray (1940*)

In this fascinating episode of Travels Through Time, the ‘queen of food historians’ Dr Annie Gray takes us inside Number Ten Downing Street, as the bombs fell in 1940, to meet Winston Churchill’s magnificent cook: Georgina Landemare.

We know so much about Winston Churchill’s life during that fateful year, 1940. We know the letters he wrote, the speeches he gave, the meetings he held and the telephone calls he made – all of them in exhaustive detail.

But one aspect of Churchill’s wartime life has received very little historical scrutiny until now. That is his relationship with his cook, Georgina Landemare.

Hugely-talented and utterly-dependable, Georgina was embedded right at the heart of the Downing Street machine during the Second World War. According to a document drawn up in 1940, she was one of only two members of Churchill’s domestic staff who were to be evacuated with him in the event of a successful NAZI invasion.

In this episode of Travels Through Time, Dr Annie Gray takes us in pursuit of the elusive Georgina. We catch sight of her at work in a British country house, cooking old English classics like Boodle’s Orange Fool. We follow her to the Admiralty at the outbreak of war. And then we see her behind Number Ten’s green baize door, creating the enticing menus – roasts and cakes and sponges - that lay at the heart of Winston’s dinner table diplomacy.

Dr Annie Gray specialises in the history of British food and dining from c. 1650 to 1950. She's the author of several books, including The Greedy Queen: eating with Victoria, and the bestselling The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook. She's the resident food historian on BBC Radio 4's culinary panel show, The Kitchen Cabinet.

Her new book is a biography of Winston Churchill's beloved family cook, Georgina Landemare. Victory in the Kitchen: the life of Churchill's Cook is published by Profile books in Feb 2020.

Show notes:

Year: 1940 (with a little bit of 1939)

Scene One: Summer 1939, Exning House Newmarket. The summer before the war.

Scene Two: 2 Feb 1940, Admiralty House. Georgina now working for the Churchills.

Scene Three: 14 October, Number Ten at the heart of the Blitz.

Memento: Georgina’s menu books.


Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Dr Annie Gray

Producers: Maria Nolan/John Hillman

Titles: Jon O.