The snow was swirling around Old Trafford on Tuesday afterrnoon as 4,500 fans gathered in the Lower East Stand in front of a temporary stage to honour the 23 players, staff, journalists, fans and air crew that died 60 years ago on the runway at the old Munich Riem Airport.
The chartered BEA Elizabethan flight 609 had left Belgrade earlier that Thursday after Matt Busby's Babes had tied 3-3 at the Partizan Stadium against Red Star and after winning 2-1 at home had qualified for the semi-finals v AC Milan. Twenty died instantly and three later in hospital. Duncan Edwards survived for a couple of weeks before he passed away. Manchester Uniteds u19s are in Belgrade for a European youth match Wednesday and coach Nicky Butt led them in a minute's silence at the centre circle at Partizan Stadium. I had been there in 1962 for the European Athletics Championships, hitch hiking all the way there with my mate Andy.
In Munich, at the site of the old Munich Riem Airport there were 2,000 fans gathered at the memorial at Manchester Platz. FC Bayern CEO Kar-Heinz Rummenigge plus President Uli Hoeness and mayor Dieter Reuter were there along with physicians Dr Robert Lindenmuller and Peter Mauer and nurses Katherine Koppe and Elizabeth Weber who attended the casualties at the Rechts de Isar hospital that tragic time..
I was at the Old Trafford 35 minute service as I was at a much smaller indoor one 10 years ago. Survivers Bobby Charlton 80 and 85 year old Harry Gregg from Belfast were present. Jose Morinho and club captain Michael Carrick laid wreathes and Sir Alex Ferguson said a prayer. The Flowers of Manchester was read, Abide with Me was sung by the Manchester youth choir and the names of all 23 deceased were read out. FIFA President Gianni Infantino represented the world of football and Mike Summerbee represented Manchester Ciy and Kenny Daglish Liverpool FC.
Eight of the 10 North of England journalists on board persished including 42 year old Frank Swift former City and England goalkeeper. He was born in Blackpool and had a spell at Fleetwood Town FC. On the way home from school that day I stopped to change buses and saw a poster selling newspapers MAN CITY IN AIR CRASH. I rushed home to turn on the radio. A year before I had made my first visit to Old Trafford to watch them beat Blackpool and go on to win the First Division. I sometimes rode my bike to the Norbreck Hydro hotel wher United stayed and trained before big matches, overlooking The Irish Sea to catch sight of my heroes.
Roger Byrne, David Pegg, Duncan Edwards, Tommy Tayor, Eddie Colman were part of the England team that went to Sweden that summer without them and did not make it passed the group stages. Bobby Chaarlton went with the squad but never played.
Assistant coach Jimmy Murphy was away coaching Wales in a win over Israel at Ninian Park to qualify for the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. The Saturday league match at Molineux v Wolves was postponed and with youth players plus transfers including Ernie Taylor of Blackpool and Stan Crowther of Aston Villa they managed to beat Sheffield Wednesday in the 5th round of the FA Cup at The Theatre of Dreams before losing to Bolton Wanderers in the final at Wembley. Nat Lofthouse scored twice in the 2-0 match,
In those days there were laess than a dozen employees at Old Trafford and one radio and two phones. Nowadays well over 2,000 with twice that on match days.