Tribute to the unsung Heroes of Manchester United
50th Anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster
The Munich air disaster took place on February 6, 1958, when British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to takeoff from a slush-covered runway at the Munich-Riem airport in Munich, West Germany. On board the plane was the Manchester United football team, nicknamed the Busby Babes, along with a number of supporters and journalists. Twenty-three of the 44 passengers on board the aircraft died in the disaster.
The European Cup had been contested since 1955, although no English club took part in the very first tournament on account of Football League rules. Manchester United entered the 1956-57 tournament and reached the semi-finals, being knocked out by eventual winners Real Madrid; they were thus one of the favourites for the 1957-58 tournament. Domestic league matches were played on Saturdays and European matches were played midweek, so although air travel was risky at the time, it was the only practical choice if United were to fulfil their league fixtures. Their team was known as the Busby Babes, a reference to their manager Matt Busby and to the average age of the players, which was unusually young.
Manchester United after the crash
Seven of Manchester United's players died immediately, and Duncan Edwards died from his injuries on 21 February. Two other players had to retire because of their injuries. Matt Busby was seriously injured and had to stay in hospital for some time after the crash, and was read his last rites twice. There was speculation that the club would fold, but a threadbare United team completed the 1957-1958 season, with United's coach Jimmy Murphy standing in as manager.A team largely made up of reserves and youth team players beat Sheffield Wednesday 3--0 in the first match after the disaster. The programme for that match showed simply a blank space where each United player's name should have been.
Although the team's league results were poor they reached the final of the FA Cup, losing 2--0 to Bolton Wanderers. Busby resumed managerial duties the following season and eventually built a second generation of Busby Babes, including George Best and Denis Law, that went on to win the European Cup a decade after the disaster in 1968, beating Benfica. Crash survivors Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes were two of the other players who lined up in that team.
Manchester United players
Duncan Edwards (He died 15 days later)
Liam 'Billy' Whelan
Walter Crickmer - Club secretary
Bert Whalley - Chief coach
Tom Curry - Trainer
Alf Clarke - Journalist, Manchester Evening Chronicle
Don Davies - Journalist, Manchester Guardian
George Follows - Journalist, Daily Herald
Tom Jackson - Journalist, Manchester Evening News
Archie Ledbrooke - Journalist, Daily Mirror
Henry Rose - Journalist, Daily Express
Eric Thompson - Journalist, Daily Mail
Frank Swift - Journalist, News of the World (also former England and Manchester City goalkeeper)
Captain Kenneth "Ken" Rayment - British co-pilot who suffered multiple injuries in the crash and died three weeks later as a result of brain damage. He was one of two people who died in hospital after being injured in the crash.
Bela Miklos - Travel agent
Willie Satinoff - Supporter
Tom Cable - Steward
Manchester United players
Matt Busby - Team manager
Frank Taylor - Journalist
James Thain - Captain
George (Bill) Rodgers - Radio officer
Peter Howard - Photographer
Ted Ellyard - Photographer
Vera Lukić and baby daughter Venona - Passengers (saved by Manchester United player Harry Gregg)
Mrs Bela - Wife of Bela Miklos, the travel agent that arranged trip and died in the crash
N Tomašević - Passenger
Rosemary Cheverton - Stewardess
Margaret Bellis - Stewardess