Second Lieutenant James Henry Cremonini was killed in action on 18th October 1917, aged 18. He was the only son of parents Anthony Lewis Cremonini (a stockbroker) and Fanny (née Cockill), who also had four daughters – Monica Marie (1896-1978), Edith Magdalen (1897-1985), Veronica (1900-1981) and Sylvia May Selina (1902-1995). James Henry was born on 22nd October 1898, so was just four days short of his 19th birthday when he was killed.
The Cremonini family appears to have originated in Switzerland. James’s grandfather, James Antonio Raffaele Cremonini (1815-1894) moved from Switzerland to Bilston, near Wolverhampton, where he was working as an upholsterer by 1841. It appears that he became a naturalised British Citizen in 1845 and served as a Wolverhampton Councillor 1881-1890. His son, Anthony Lewis Cremonini (1857-1932), was born in Bilston and seems to have moved to Olton, Solihull after his marriage in 1896.
Anthony’s children all attended Roman Catholic boarding schools. In 1911, the four girls were all boarders at Olton Convent School, whilst their brother, James, was a boarder at Douai Abbey School, Woolhampton, Berkshire, which was run by Benedictine monks. James had previously attended Ratcliffe College, Leicester and was one of the 55 Old Ratcliffians to lose his life in the First World War.
After leaving school, James entered the service of the London City and Midland Bank for a year, before training for the Bar. He was a member of the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps (O.T.C.) and joined the Royal Flying Corps in February 1917. In June 1917, he was amongst the list of cadets to be gazetted temporary Second Lieutenant (on probation) and it seems that he went out to France just two weeks before his death.
He served as a Pilot with 66 (Fighter) Squadon, flying Sopwith Camels, and was apparently the first Camel fatality when he was killed whilst flying Camel B4606. Second Lieutenant James Henry Cremonini is buried in Aire Communal Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France and is also commemorated locally on Solihull war memorial and St Augustine’s Catholic Church, as well as on rolls of honour at his schools and on a stained glass window in Douai Abbey.
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