Remembering Doncaster Busby Babe David Pegg on 61st anniversary of Munich Air Disaster

Exactly 61 years ago today, football suffered its darkest day when a glittering generation of footballers lost their lives in a tragedy that sent shockwaves around the globe.

Wednesday, 6th February 2019, 07:59 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 16:50 pm
David Pegg was one of the Busby Babes who died at Munich.

The date was February 6, 1958 and that’s when disaster unfolded on a snow-covered German airport runway as Manchester United, one of the world’s most famous clubs, returned from an overseas fixture.

Among those who lost their lives in the Munich Air Disaster was Doncaster-born starlet David Pegg.

David Pegg's grave in Doncaster.

He was one of the so-called Busby Babes, his life cruelly snuffed out at the age of just 22 in the tragedy which will be remembered once more again today.

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He was one of the eight Old Trafford aces who died when the plane they were travelling in crashed on a snow-covered runway in the German city.

The tragedy also claimed the lives of three United backroom staff as well as eight sports journalists who had been covering the club’s European Cup tie against Red Star Belgrade.

The late Manchester United and England footballer David Pegg (fourth left) looks towards Matt Busby (left), later Sir Matt Busby, with fellow players, from left, Wilf McGuiness, Dennis Violet and Tommy Taylor also pictured.

Former Doncaster Free Press news editor Peter Whittell, a family friend and then a 16-year-old junior reporter, broke the news as scant details of the crash filtered through.

His colleague Michael Parkinson, who of course went onto TV fame, was tasked with reporting the funeral.

And there was another famous Doncaster connection too.

The late Machester United footballer David Pegg.

Former Doncaster Rovers' keeper Harry Gregg, who had joined the Red Devils just a few months earlier, was one of the heroes of Munich, pulling team-mates from the burning plane.

Among them were Bobby Charlton, Jackie Blanchflower and Dennis Viollet - and a pregnant woman - and Gregg was lauded as a national hero.

Just a couple of months earlier, on December 1, 1957, Northern Ireland born Gregg joined Manchester United for a then world record fee for a goalkeeper, the Red Devils paying £23,000 for the 6ft 2in keeper who had chalked up 94 appearances at Belle Vue after beginning his playing career there in 1952.

Chelsea versus Manchester United programme with David Pegg featuring in the number 11 shirt.

He played 210 matches for United, made 25 appearances for Northern Ireland, later became a manager and now lives in retirement at the age of 86.

David meanwhile had signed for United on leaving school in 1950 and made his first team debut in the Football League First Division against Middlesbrough on 6 December 1952, aged 17.

He was the club’s first-choice outside left and collected two League Championship winner’s medals in the two seasons leading up to the disaster, helping them reach the European Cup semi-finals twice and grabbing 24 goals in 127 games.

He was capped once for England, his solitary appearance coming in 1957, and was tipped by many to succeed Tom Finney in the team. He is buried at Redhouse Cemetery, with United fans still paying tribute to him with flowers six decades on from the tragedy.

Twenty passengers, of the 23 fatalities, died instantly: United players Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Coleman, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Liam Whelan; United club secretary Walter Crickmer; trainer Tom Curry; chief coach Bert Whalley; cabin steward Tom Cable; journalists Alf Clarke (Manchester Evening Chronicle), Donny Davies (Manchester Guardian), George Follows (Daily Herald), Tom Jackson (Manchester Evening News), Archie Ledbrooke (Daily Mirror), Henry Rose (Daily Express) and Eric Thompson (Daily Mail); travel agent Bela Miklos; and Willie Satinoff, United fan and a friend of Busby.

Frank Swift, the former England and Manchester City goalkeeper turned News of the World journalist, lost his fight for life en route to hospital, Captain Rayment died in hospital while Busby Babe Duncan Edwards died due to injuries on February 21.

In all, 21 survived the crash: United players Johnny Berry (who never played again), Jackie Blanchflower (never played again), Bobby Charlton, Bill Foulkes, Harry Gregg, Kenny Morgans, Albert Scanlon, Dennis Violett and Ray Wood; manager Matt Busby; stewardesses Margaret Bellis and Rosemary Cheverton, radio officer Bill Rodgers and captain James Thain; News Chronicle reporter Frank Taylor; Daily Mail telegraphist Ted Ellyard; Daily Mail photographer Peter Howard; Eleanor Miklos, the wife of Bela; Nebojsa Bato Tomasevic, a Yugoslavian diplomat; and Vera Lukic, wife of a Yugoslavian diplomat and her baby daughter, Vesna, both pulled from the wreckage by Gregg.