Remembering the “Busby Babes”: Munich air disaster that shocked Manchester and the whole world
It was 6 February 1958 when the plane with 38 passengers and 6 persons crew crashed in Munich-Riem Airport in West Germany during take-off. On the plane was the Manchester United football team, the “Busby Babes” a nickname given to them because of their youth and great talent, with the team were also supporters and journalists.
The European Cup was established by UEFA in 1955, in its first season in 1955-56 due to the denial of the Football League's secretary Chelsea, as the First Division Champion, never joined the competition. The following year Manchester United won the Premier League title and despite the denial of their entry again from the Football League's secretary, Matt Busby was determined to join the European Cup and he achieved it! The team had a great performance in their first participation in the tournament, showing that they were a very promising team.
The year after that, Manchester United was again crowned First Division Champions so they participated in the 1957-58 tournament. In the Preliminary Round the “Busby Babes” were drawn with Shamrock Rovers winning the first match away with 0–6 and at home 2–3. Proceeding to the First Round the “Busby Babes” had to face Dukla Prague, they beat them 3–0 in Old Trafford and lost 0–1 away. So, the team reached the Quarter-finals and in the first leg on 14th January 1958 Manchester beat at home 2–1 Red Star Belgrade. The second leg was played on 5th February 1958, the game finished 3–3 with Manchester United reaching the Semi-Finals due to winning 5–4 on aggregate.
Then the disaster that shocked the world struck. On the 6th of February 1958 British European Airways Flight 609 was returning home to Manchester, the departure was delayed by one hour because Johnny Berry lost his passport, but the plane took off normally and landed in Munich to refuel, making a stopover.
The plane made three attempts to take off from Munich. In the first attempt fluctuation on the pressure gauge were noticed from the pilot, as well as some odd engine sounds, leading to some kind of engine fault. In the second attempt, engine problems were noticed again so after another unsuccessful take off everybody left the plane to spend same time to the airport lounge. Meanwhile, the weather conditions in Munich were extremely poor as it was snowing heavily and it seemed that the flight would be cancelled but that didn’t happen. Shortly, with everyone back on board for the third attempt, the plane took off although it didn’t achieve to gain the needed speed or height, which caused the plane to slide beyond the runway, crash into the airport fence and finally in a house nearby. After a long investigation it was later announced that the slush on the runway didn’t allow the plane to gain the necessary speed for the take off, the plane couldn’t reach take-off velocity.
The tragic outcome was 23 people dead, three of them died in the hospital, and 21 were injured. Among the injured that finally survived were Matt Busby and Bobby Charlton, they were so seriously injured that the doctors didn’t expect that they would live. While, goalkeeper Harry Gregg, was considered the “Hero of Munich” because he helped many others escape from the wreckage.
8 Manchester United players died in the crash including Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor, Liam Whelan and Duncan Edwards that survived that day but died later in the hospital.
3 Manchester United staff also died, the victims were Walter Crickmer, Tom Curry and Bert Whalley.
The other victims, among them journalists, supporters and crew members were Captain Kenneth Rayment, Tom Cable, Alf Clarke, Donny Davies, George Follows, Tom Jackson, Archie Ledbrooke, Henry Rose, Frank Swift, Eric Thompson, Bela Miklos, Willie Satinoff.
In its first match after the disaster, Manchester United played with reserves, players from the youth team and emergency signings, for the record they won against Sheffield Wednesday 3–0 in the FA Cup. The team dropped from the 1rst place and finally finished the season in the 9th place and was disqualified from the European Cup against Milan 2-5 on aggregate in the Semi-finals.
Ten year later in 1968, a new generation of “Babes” under Matt Busby won the European Cup beating Benfica 1-4 in Wembley. Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes that survived the Munich disaster both played in the final, with Bobby Charlton being the Captain.
Today, memorials both in Old Trafford and in Munich exist.
Second picture, Third Picture: https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/gallery/munich-air-disaster-1295580
Fourth Picture: https://theflowersofmanchester.co.uk/