Last updated : 17 August 2004 By editor
Manchester United players and officials to unveil memorial stone in Trudering for the victims of the 1958 air disaster.

Social Democrat member of state parliament Hermann Memmel has been campaigning for the accident site to be given a dignified memorial for many years. "A memorial for the victims of the Munich air disaster on 6 February 1958 shows a mark of humanity and represents a contribution to international understanding between England and Germany that is not to be underestimated", Memmel said.

In the winter of 1958, 23 of the 44 people on board died at Kirchtrudering in what was one of the biggest civil aviation disasters ever at the time. Among the victims were eight members of the legendary Manchester United football team.The accident was etched deep in the collective memory of the British people, explained the Social Democrat, who like many other people in Trudering repeatedly sees Manchester United fans in his part of town. They lay down flowers close to the crash site, as well as scarves, flags and letters bearing the message: "We will never forget you."

"When Man United play in Munich, Kirchtrudering becomes something of a place of pilgrimage for the English", says a contemplative Memmel. Today, an inconspicuous trough of flowers with a small memorial inscription adorns the site between Emplstrasse and Rappenweg. Memmel would like to enhance the nature of the location, and his initiative is receiving support in England.
The people who lost their lives in the Trudering wreckage were Manchester United officials, journalists and selected guests. Eight of the most promising footballers in England and backroom staff Tom Curry and Bert Whalley also perished.

In England they are still revered 46 years after the accident. In the junior leagues of London you will hardly find a child who has never heard the names Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Billy Whelan, Duncan Edwards and Tommy Taylor. Aged just 23 at the time, Duncan Edwards was the youngest England international at the time. Centre-forward Tommy Taylor was considered the best attacking player of his age, having made the switch to Old Trafford from Barnsley in the mid-1950s for the record transfer fee of £29,999.

Today, the legendary “Busby Babes” enjoy a level of popularity similar to that of the 1954 "Heroes of Berne" in Germany, as they are seen to embody the "good, old days". In England back then, players earned about £17 to £20 a week during the season, and the win bonus was £4. Whether Manchester United’s current players will give that any thought when they come to Trudering to unveil the memorial on 22 September is something Hermann Memmel does not wish to judge. The 65-year-old Social Democrat, who joined World Cup-winner Bobby Charlton and Bayern boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in laying a wreath at the crash site in November 2001, is expecting a fair-sized delegation from Manchester to attend the memorial stone unveiling ceremony. Bobby Charlton will certainly be in attendance; he was on the plane that crashed in 1958 but miraculously survived.

The memorial stone in Kirchtrudering is being funded by Manchester United. A plaque in English and German is to be set in the dark-blue granite slab with its sandstone border. On it the traditional English club will pay tribute to the compassion and sympathy displayed by the people of Munich after the crash, and also thank Bayern Munich for its friendship and the Festring Trudering, the association that has maintained the current memorial site along with a number of neighbours. The stone will also include the coats of arms of Munich and Manchester and the names of the victims.

"You can only appreciate the symbolism of this memorial if you understand the depth of feeling the 1958 disaster still evokes in England. The British people will be very grateful to us for this memorial stone," said Memmel.