60 years ago, a plane full of talented players, staff and journalists, took off from Munich, Germany to go back home. But they never did reach their home. 23 people lost their lives, only to leave the earth but not our hearts.
In what is and will forever be, one of the most terrible and tragic events in the history of world football, let’s give a small tribute to those affected by the Munich Air Disaster, 6 February 1958.
It is rightly regarded as one of the darkest days in English football, with the core of one of the greatest young teams in history tragically taken away from fans, their families and the footballing world.
A lookback to the tragic event.
The Munich air disaster occurred on 6 February 1958 when British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport, West Germany. On the plane was the Manchester United football team, nicknamed the “Busby Babes“, along with supporters and journalists. 20 of the 44 on the aircraft died at the scene. The injured, some unconscious, were taken to the Rechts der Isar Hospital in Munich where three more died, resulting in 23 fatalities with 21 survivors.
The team was on a brilliant run and comprised of some of the best players which formed the core of the English National Team in those years. One of them was Duncan Edwards, who was touted to be the best player in coming years.
List of Fatalities
- Captain Kenneth “Ken” Rayment. Co-pilot. Survived but suffered multiple injuries and died in hospital six weeks later as a result of brain damage.
- Tom Cable, cabin steward
- Manchester United players
- Geoff Bent
- Roger Byrne
- Eddie Colman
- Duncan Edwards (survived the crash, but died in hospital 15 days later)
- Mark Jones
- David Pegg
- Tommy Taylor
- Liam “Billy” Whelan
- Manchester United staff
- Walter Crickmer, club secretary
- Tom Curry, trainer
- Bert Whalley, chief coach
- Alf Clarke, Manchester Evening Chronicle
- Donny Davies, Manchester Guardian
- George Follows, Daily Herald
- Tom Jackson, Manchester Evening News
- Archie Ledbrooke, Daily Mirror
- Henry Rose, Daily Express
- Frank Swift, News of the World (also former England and Manchester City goalkeeper; died on his way to hospital)
- Eric Thompson, Daily Mail
- Other passengers
- Bela Miklos, travel agent
- Willie Satinoff, supporter, racecourse owner and close friend of Matt Busby
Tribute Ceremony Held at Old Trafford
The Old Trafford service included a minute’s silence at 15:04, the time of the crash. Thousands of fans turned out for the ceremony. The club invited season ticket holders aged over 65 but said all supporters were welcome.
The club’s website says: “On that day in 1958, the darkest day in United’s history, 23 people – including eight players and three members of the club’s staff – suffered fatal injuries in the Munich Air Disaster.
“The Munich Air Disaster is an indelible part of United’s history, as is Sir Matt overcoming his crash injuries to work alongside Jimmy Murphy and build another great team which won the European Cup 10 years later.
“We will never forget.”
Former United players Sir Bobby Charlton and Harry Gregg, who both survived the crash, were at the ceremony, along with former manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Current manager Jose Mourinho and captain Michael Carrick also paid their respects.
All the players also joined in to pay their respects along with the fans who laid down their tributes.
The fans came in thousands to pay their respects and brought amazing commemoratives.
Social Media pays its respect
To the Busby Babes, and the immortal beauty of their game, a tribute from all of us:
“May the Flowers of Manchester… those that passed away on that slush-filled runway in Munich, those that succumbed to fate in that cold hospital so far away from home, those that survived and fought and fought before leaving us… may they rest in peace.”
They shall have left the Earth, but they have never left our hearts. They will never die.