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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » The Munich Disaster

The Munich Disaster

February 02, 2008 09:25 IST

Fifty years ago the plane carrying Manchester United home from Belgrade crashed after a refuelling stop at Munich, killing 23 of the 44 people on board.

Eight United players died as a result of the accident, seven immediately and the eighth, Duncan Edwards, the jewel in the crown of the Busby Babes, 15 days later due to his injuries.

Here are some details on the tragedy and its aftermath:


  • On Feb. 6, 1958, a British European Airways twin-propped Elizabethan plane carrying United's players crashed on take-off after refuelling at Munich's Riem airport.

Eight players died as well as three United club officials, eight journalists, two crew members and two other passengers, including the travel agent who arranged the trip.

  • The aircraft had faced problems taking off and crashed in the slush and snow on a third attempt.


  • Nicknamed the Busby Babes after manager Matt Busby, United were champions of England in 1956 and 1957.

They had drawn 3-3 with Red Star Belgrade in Yugoslavia and qualified for the European Cup semi-finals in their last match before the disaster.

  • United did not play again for 13 days until they met Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup fifth round in front of almost 60,000 fans.

Bill Foulkes led out a makeshift team that included fellow Munich survivor Harry Gregg in goal as United won 3-0.

  • Busby, badly injured and twice given the last rites, recovered and went on to rebuild the team. In 1968 United became the first English club to win the European Cup.

They also won the FA Cup five years after the crash and the league title in 1965 and 1967.

  • Forward Bobby Charlton, who survived the crash, went on to become arguably England's most famous footballer and was later knighted. Two of the survivors, Johnny Berry and Jackie Blanchflower, never played again.


  • The eight players who died were England's Roger Byrne, 28, the left-back and captain; Eddie Colman, 21; England centre-forward Tommy Taylor, 25; Mark Jones, 24; David Pegg, 22; Ireland's Billy Whelan, 22; Geoff Bent, 25; and England's half-back Duncan Edwards, 21.
  • The tragedy that wiped out the cream of a generation caused a transformation in the national consciousness -- people who had no interest in soccer began following the fortunes of United and neutrals willed them to win.
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