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EFL remembers those lost in Munich air disaster

6 February 2020

Today, we pause to remember the 23 people who tragically lost their lives in the Munich air disaster on 6 February 1958.

Sixty two years ago today, Sir Matt Busby's young Manchester United squad boarded Elizabethan charter aircraft G-ALZU, unaware that they were about to be involved in a tragic accident.

The Busby Babes, as they were known, were heralded as one of the greatest football teams ever produced, and eight members of that squad, along with 15 other passengers on board lost their lives.

Today, the EFL reflects on that day, and the circumstances behind one of football's darkest days.

United had reached the Semi-Finals of the European Cup in 1956/57, before bowing out to eventual winners Real Madrid; consequently, they were much fancied to go a stage further in 1957/58 and reach the Final.

After a 3-3 draw away to Red Star Belgrade, which had given United a 5-4 victory on aggregate in the Quarter-Finals, the players and management took off from Belgrade, on a chartered flight along with supporters and journalists to head back to England. Once airborne, the plane later touched down, as scheduled, in Munich to refuel.

After two failed take-off attempts - due to engine surging - from Munich Airport, a third attempt at 3.04pm was to eventually prove fatal for half of the aircraft's passengers. On leaving the runway, the plane failed to reach the required height for take-off and crashed into a fence and then, moments later, an unoccupied house, instantly killing seven of Manchester United's players.

Duncan Edwards, already tipped by so many to have to potential to be one of the game's greats - despite only being 21 years old, died a fortnight later. He had suffered a broken tibia, broken ribs and severe shock.

Manager Matt Busby was so seriously affected by chest, leg and foot injuries he remained in hospital for two months, with medical experts not expecting him to make the recovery that he did.

Another who lost their life as a result of the accident was reporter and former England and Manchester City goalkeeper, Frank Swift. After hanging up his gloves, Swift had turned his hand to journalism and covered the game for the News of the World, he was pulled from the wreckage but died on the way to hospital. Swift was named in the English Football League 100 legends in 1998.

With the country in mourning following the accident, and many eventual survivors still in a precarious state in German hospitals, the League decided that the Saturday fixtures for the following weekend would go ahead as planned, with the exception of the Manchester United versus Wolverhampton Wanderers fixture.

There was a two-minute silence up and down the country before each match - both football and rugby - in memory of those who lost their lives as a result of the dreadful accident. Flags were flown at half-mast, the players wore black armbands and newspaper reporters were requested to wear a black tie.

Of course, the United side that rose from this adversity is legendary. With two League championships from 1964/65 and 1967/68, and the 1962/63 FA Cup already under their belts, the second generation of Busby Babes were able to achieve what their predecessors had set out to do some 10 years before them.

In 1968, United won the European Cup at Wembley - a decade after the disaster - with a 4-1 extra-time victory over Benfica. It was the first time United had reached the Final and, in winning it, they became the first English team to lift the trophy - a fitting tribute to the following people who lost their lives on British European Airways Flight 609.

Geoff Bent - Manchester United player

Roger Byrne - Manchester United player

Tom Cable - Steward

Alf Clarke - Journalist

Eddie Colman - Manchester United player

Walter Crickmer - Club Secretary

Tom Curry - Trainer

Don Davies - Journalist

Duncan Edwards - Manchester United player

George Follows - Journalist

Tom Jackson - Journalist

Mark Jones - Manchester United player

Archie Ledbrooke - Journalist

Bela Miklos - Travel Agent

David Pegg - Manchester United player

Captain Kenneth Rayment - Co-pilot

Henry Rose - Journalist

Willie Satinoff - Supporter

Frank Swift - Journalist & former England and Manchester City goalkeeper

Tommy Taylor - Manchester United player

Eric Thompson - Journalist

Bert Whalley - Chief Coach

Billy Whelan - Manchester United player

 


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