THE search is on to try and track down the relatives of a Darwen airman who was killed in action during a bombing raid in the Second World War.

Sgt Lewis Adams who was serving with 31 Squadron, South African Air Force, died when his Liberator bomber crashed into the sea off Italy after a raid on oil wells in Ploesti, Romania, in July 1944.

Although Sgt Adams had signed up for the RAF it was not unusual for flight crew to be attached to other squadron.

Three of the eight crew members’ bodies were identified and a fourth was washed up on shore and was later buried at the Commonwealth War Grave near Bari in Italy with a headstone marking an unknown soldier of the Second World War.

Anne Storm whose father Bob also served with 31 Squadron has been researching Sgt Adams.

She said: “I am helping a researcher who is trying to compile detailed records for the South African Air Force.

“My own father was killed in October 1944 when his plane was one of five to crash into mountains in northern Italy after a run to drop supplies to partisans fighting in the area. No wreckage of his plane or bodies of the eight crew have ever been found.”

Sgt Adams was the son of Philip and Eliza Adams, then of Holker Street, Darwen,

Through her research Anne has discovered that Eliza Adams (nee Watson) lived at 30, Daisyfield Street after her husband died. She herself died in Queens Park Hospital, Blackburn, on December 28, 1962.

“We know there was a daughter Marie Adams, who was a nurse and who went to live first in Canada and then the USA,” said Anne. “She was later married to a Saunders and died a few years ago.

“Eliza Adams also had a niece Kathleen Dodd (nee Duxbury) who was a lawyer and executor of her will and another nice Annie Duxbury.

“I’m hoping there may still be people in Darwen who may remember the family and can provide further information.”

If a blood relative of Sgt Adams is found it may be possible to see if the body of the unknown airman is, in fact, his.

“Then he would be no longer be listed as missing in action,” said Anne.

If any Bygones readers can help Anne in her search for Sgt Adams’ relatives, they can email her at