At 3.04pm on 6th February 1958, the aeroplane carrying the Manchester United team home from a European Cup tie against Red Star Belgrade crashed off the end of a runway after a routine refuelling stop in Munich, Germany.
The plane had twice tried but failed to take off in the snowy and icy conditions. The passengers disembarked and returned to the terminal building. At that point the United players even discussed heading home by land, but the plane was soon ready to be boarded once more.
There was a feeling of unease as a fateful third takeoff attempt began and it was then that tragedy struck. Slush on the runway meant the plane failed to gather enough speed and skidded through the airport’s perimeter fence and into a house on the other side of a road.
Eight players lost their lives as a result, as did trainers Bert Whalley and Tom Curry, club secretary Walter Crickmer, and eight journalists – Alf Clarke, Donny Davies, George Follows, Tom Jackson, Archie Ledbrooke, Henry Rose, Eric Thompson and former Manchester City goalkeeper Frank Swift.
Aircraft captain Ken Rayment, crew member Tom Cable, travel agent Bela Miklos and supporter Willie Satinoff also lost their lives.
Johnny Berry and Jackie Blanchflower survived but were so badly injured that they never played football again, while legendary manager Matt Busby spent more than two months in hospital in Germany and was twice given the last rites before making a recovery.
The team had dominated English football in the previous two seasons, clinching two First Division titles, and had been trailblazers for English clubs in European competition.
Busby blamed himself for the tragedy and considered quitting as it were he who had personally defied the Football Association and pushed the club into competing abroad. Eventually he was crucially persuaded to remain in charge, to not give up on the European dream, and to honour the fallen.
A new team rose from the ashes, but those lost to Munich will forever be remembered.
The least well known among the tragic fatalities, Geoff Bent was born and raised in nearby Salford. He never played for any other club but, in the age before substitutes, had only made 12 first-team appearances for United when he was killed at Munich at the age of 25.
The full-back joined the Old…