February 6, 1958: Football in mourning after Busby Babes die in Munich air disaster

Seven members of the Manchester United team known as the Busby Babes were among 21 people killed when their plane crashed on take-off.

The sporting world was stunned on this day in 1958, as seven members of Manchester United football team were killed when their chartered aeroplane crashed at Munich’s Riem airport.

The team, nicknamed the Busby Babes after manager Matt Busby, had won back-to-back First Division titles in the previous two seasons and was returning from a 3-3 draw with Red Star Belgrade which ensured United’s passage into the European Cup semi-finals for the second year running.

On its way back to Manchester from Yugoslavia, the BEA Airspeed Ambassador plane had stopped to refuel in Munich. Technical difficulties had caused two take-off attempts to be aborted; on the third attempt, a build-up of slush on the runway prevented the plane from reaching take-off velocity.


It overshot the runway and hit a house and a tree before smashing through a hut, which exploded, before skidding to a halt. The pilot, James Thain, and surviving crew members began evacuating passengers with the help of United goalkeeper Harry Gregg, who had escaped with light injuries.

The players that died on impact were Eddie Colman, 21, Liam Whelan, 22, David Pegg, 22, Mark Jones, 24, Geoff Bent, 25, Tommy Taylor, 26, and team captain Roger Byrne, 28. Pegg, Taylor and Byrne were England internationals, while Whelan had represented Ireland.

Three of United’s backroom staff also perished in the crash, along with eight journalists, two crew members and two other passengers. United’s star player, England international Duncan Edwards, would succumb to his severe injuries 15 days later.

Matt Busby

Two of the team that survived, Johnny Berry and Jackie Blanchflower, would never play football again. Team manager Matt Busby (above, arriving back at home) was read the last rites twice, but recovered after spending two months in hospital.

[March 12, 1950: Llandow air disaster - 80 killed as rugby fans’ plane crashes in Wales]

[July 30, 1966: England win the World Cup at Wembley]