When the smoking wreck of BEA Flight 609 finally came to a halt, his senior pilot scribbled freely for one of his surviving passengers who kept a close eye on the catastrophe.
& # 39; Ren, you stupid bastard, & # 39; he ordered the young man. "It's going to explode!"
But Harry Gregg did not run. He was even furious to see a number of other survivors withdrawing to safety.
& # 39; Come boys, let's get stuck in it, & # 39; Gregg shouted to their backs. "There are still people on the plane."
And back in horror, the massacre collapsed the great Irish goalkeeper. He had to save lives this time.
Harry Gregg, who died this week at the age of 87, wanted to be remembered as a footballer instead of a hero. But his actions in the afternoon of February 6, 1958 saw him transcend merely sporting greatness – which he possessed – to show himself to be a really great person.
He was member of the Manchester United team aboard an A irspeed Ambassador charter plane that crashed on take-off at Munich-Riem airport on the return of a European cup competition in Yugoslavia.
Eight University players and three club officers were killed or died as a result of their injuries. Another 12 crew members, journalists and other passengers lost their lives.
Several United survivors would no longer be able to play football and the Munich air disaster saw the premature end of the great young team put together by manager Matt Busby; a team that had become known as the Busby Babes.
The tragedy could have been worse if it were not for the actions of Gregg and those he had united to make the first rescue efforts.
How quickly triumph can turn into a disaster. Gregg and his teammates had left a snowy Belgrade that morning.
The previous evening they had played a 3-3 draw with Red Star. They had seen 2 goals from 18-year-old Bobby Charlton 3-0 during the break. After they won the first leg 2-1 at Old Trafford, they went on to the semi-final of the European Cup, the stage they had reached the year before.
This was a child prodigy. They had been champion of England for the past two seasons. Ulsterman Gregg was the newest addition. United had just paid Doncaster Rovers £ 23,000 for him two months earlier, then a world record for a goalkeeper.
The ambassador could not fly non-stop between Belgrade and Manchester and would have to stop in Munich for refueling
On the first leg of the flight, Gregg, 25, was invited to participate attend the & # 39; card school & # 39; of the player who had gathered in the middle part of the aircraft.
But he was tired and wanted to use up his Yugoslavian currency instead of playing for British dollars like his teammates. After some leg pulling, he returned to his seat in front of the plane.
& # 39; It was that quick decision that probably saved his life & # 39 ;, wrote Frank Taylor, one of the journalist's survivors, in his book The Day A Team Died. Those who were against the nose survived the massacre.
When the plane landed on Munich, there was snow on the ground. On the runway it had become a brown slush and the wheels threw a & # 39; bow wave & # 39; forward when the plane landed.
Gregg and the other passengers alighted for the warmth of the airport transit lounge, where she drank tea and smoked before returning to the plane.
The countdown to the tragedy had begun. The plane started its first attempt at 2.30 pm and 30 seconds local time. The engines roared, the snow wave's bow wave reappeared and they gathered speed. Then the brakes were suddenly applied and the plane stopped halfway the runway.
The two pilots – James Thain and Ken Rayment, both ex-RAF – had broken down because they had an uneven engine block and a fluctuation in the & # 39; boost pressure & # 39 ;. Nothing serious though.
They tried again. The time was now 14.34 hours and 40 seconds. Again the throttle was opened wide, again the plane only tore off the runway to abort the start for the point of no return. On this occasion, a flight attendant announced that they would return to the terminal for a & # 39; slight mechanical failure & # 39 ;.
& # 39; Does anyone know good hotels in Munich? & # 39; someone joked.
But they had barely settled in the warmth of the living room when a loudspeaker called them back to the plane.
Peter Howard, a Daily Mail photographer who was traveling with the party, asked the players to pose for a photo. It would be their last. The Babes only had 15 minutes to live together.
At 3:02 pm the control tower exactly warned flight 609 & Your approval invalid if not in the air at zero four. & # 39; In other words, if they did not take off successfully within two minutes, they would lose their slot. In the meantime, the atmosphere in the passenger cabin was extremely tense, Gregg recalled.
& Roger 39, our captain, was sitting in the seat next to the window and he looked damn terrified , & # 39; he said.
The silence was broken by a nervous grin and another teammate, Johnny Berry, said: & # 39; I don't know what you're laughing at, we're all dying here. & # 39;
Harry put down the book he was reading – a thriller that was considered fast for his time. & # 39; I thought if I died if I read it, I would go to hell right away, & # 39; he remembered.
& # 39; I loosened my tie and my pants, sat down low in my chair and sat down against the chair in front of me. A woman with a little girl stood in front of me. & # 39;
These were Vera Lukic, the wife of the Yugoslav air attache in London and her baby daughter Vesna.
15:03 and six seconds – less than a minute before they would lose their locks – the Flight 609 cockpit deck reported: & # 39; Rolling & # 39;
& # 39; Roger & # 39 ;, the tower replied.
There was a & # 39; thunderous roar & # 39; when the engines were powered for the third time. Captain Thain would later tell the German accident investigation that when the speed indicator reached 117 knots, it inexplicably dropped to 105.
He looked up and realized that they had almost no job and Pilot heard in that fraction of a second Captain Rayment called: & # 39; Christ. . . we are not going to make it! & # 39;
Captain Thain is blamed for the crash. But it was later determined that accumulated snow mash on the runway prevented the aircraft from reaching its starting speed.
The plane crashed through the gate of the airport and hit a house that tore off the harbor wing. Further on it collided with a hut on a concrete base that separated the rear trunk from the rest.
The front section – with Gregg, Charlton and others – continued to slide forward, turning as it hit more trees and threw injured passengers in the snow.
Gregg remembered: & # 39; When I started lifting the wheels out of the slush, there was a sudden blow. Anxious! There was no screaming, only the terrible metal cracks. Sparks burst all around and then something broke in my skull like a hard-boiled egg. The salty taste of blood was in my mouth and I was terrified of holding my hands to my head.
& # 39; I had not realized that I was standing by my side until I tried to crawl to a light. As I did that, I noticed that the coach of the youth team, Bert Whalley, was lying on the floor below me. His eyes were wide open. I knew he was dead.
& # 39; I thought for a moment that I was the only one alive, but in the distance I saw five people running away in the snow. & # 39;
It was then that Captain Thain instructed him to be released. But Gregg had heard the sound of a baby crying and climbed back to the wreck to pick up 22-month-old Vesna Lukic, who was injured – she lost sight of an eye – but alive. He handed her to a flight attendant and returned to the plane to pick up her mother, who was three months pregnant.
Mrs. Lukic was terribly wounded with a broken skull and both legs broken. He had to lie on his back and push her through a hole with his feet. She survived. He then started trying to save his teammates.
& # 39; When I discovered Albert (Scanlon), his injuries were so serious that I had to prevent getting sick, & # 39; he remembered.
& # 39; I soon found Bobby Charlton and Dennis Viollet half in and half out of what was left of the plane. I thought they were dead too, but I pulled them free.
I found the boss (Busby). He was conscious and didn't look too bad at what I had seen before. He rubbed his chest and moaned: & # 39; My legs, my legs. & # 39; His foot pointed in the wrong direction.
& # 39; Then I found my friend Jackie Blanchflower who thought he was paralyzed because he could not move his legs. This was due to the fact that Roger Byrne was draped over his legs.
Roger's eyes were wide open and he was dead. & # 39; After rescuing Charlton, Viollet, Busby and Blanchflower, as well as the wife of the Yugoslav air attache and her baby, Gregg went to the hospital with the victims.
& # 39; Ultimately, & # 39; he remembered, & a man appeared in a coal van, and we have Jackie in it and little Johnny Berry and the boss. We boarded the van, with bits of coal that circled, and left for the hospital. & # 39;
& # 39; I remember when we arrived at the hospital Bill Foulkes was asked to try to identify people. I was shocked when I found goalkeeper Ray Wood, his eye hung from the bowl. & # 39;
Gregg added: & # 39; Then at the Tannoy hospital I heard them announce the death of victims.
& # 39; Those words shocked me deeply. It was only when I heard those words that I finally found the tragedy and the enormous extent of what had happened. & # 39;
But within 13 days, Gregg and Foulkes played back for United, in an improvised team of borrowed players and reservists in an FA Cup match against Sheffield Wednesday.
They won and a great stream of emotion and goodwill brought them all the way to Wembley. Gregg said that playing so soon after the tragedy helped to maintain common sense.
That summer, Gregg played for Northern Ireland in the World Cup Final in Sweden and was called goalkeeper of the tournament.
His later career would be interrupted by injuries and further personal tragedy – his first wife Mavis died of cancer in 1961. (He remarried in 1965 and had four children with second wife Carolyn.)
But the world would not let him forget his share in the loss of a gilt football team, also taken too early.
& # 39; For those who survived the crash, it was the mental torment that was the real injury, he once admitted. "We all had a constant fight against grief, feelings of guilt and in many cases bitterness.
" For decades a cloud hung over me. I was always tagged with the & # 39; Hero of Munich & # 39; but the debt for survival always made that title hard to live with. & # 39;
Sir Bobby Charlton is the last survivor of the Munich disaster after the death of Harry Gregg … but what happened to the rest of the players and staff on board?
- Seven Manchester United players were among the 20 who lost their lives
- Sir Matt Busby received the last rides twice but survived and led the club to glory
- Duncan Edwards was rated as England's best talent when he died in disaster
After the death of Harry Gregg on Sunday at the 87 years old, Sir Bobby Charlton is the only survivor of the Munich disaster that is still alive.
Gregg and Charlton were two of the lucky ones to return from the wreck of that doomed flight on February 6, 1958, but many others perished.
Sportsmail remembers what happened to the rest of the United staff and players involved in the crash other than Gregg …
MATT BUSBY : United-boss twice received final rides during nine weeks in the hospital. Restored to lead United to the first European Cup 10 years later. Knight in 1968.
JIMMY MURPHY : Assistant manager. Took temporary indictment while Busby recovered after missing Belgrade trip due to managing Wales.
WALTER CRICKMER : Club secretary. Lost life in a crash. Managed club from 1931 to 1932 and 1937 to 1945.
TOM CURRY : trainer of the first team. Lost life after 24 years in role.
BERT WHALLEY : Coach of the first team. Lost life. Played 35 times for United.
RAY WOOD : Only one first team game after a crash and was sold to Huddersfield later that year.
ROGER BYRNE : Captain died in a disaster. Full back won three national titles and 33 English caps.
BILL FOULKES : In 19 years at Old Trafford he won four league titles, the FA Cup and the European Cup.
JOHN & # 39; JACKIE & # 39; BLANCHFLOWER : Never recovered from serious injuries suffered in a disaster and the last game came to 24.
EDDIE COLMAN : died in a 21-year crash. He made 108 games and won two league titles.
GEOFF BENT : Under-study of Byrne in the left half. Died in a crash at the age of 25.
DUNCAN EDWARDS : Lost life. Youngest League player on debut at 16 and one of the best players that England has produced.
MARK JONES : Center for first choice in the fifties. Died in crash at the age of 24.
JOHNNY BERRY : Won three league titles before an injury ended his crash at 31.
BOBBY CHARLTON : Survived after being wrecked by Harry Gregg was dragged. Won World Cup in 1966. Knight in 1994.
KENNY MORGANS : Youngest player in the disaster and last survivor to be rescued after being found unconscious for five hours after official search was canceled.
DAVID PEGG : Winner of the double league title, died in a crash at the age of 22.
ALBERT SCANLON : 115 league games made for United, scores 34 teams.
TOMMY TAYLOR : Signed for £ 29,999 by scoring 131 goals in 191 games. Died in crash at the age of 26.
DENNIS VIOLLET : Survived and scored 178 times in 294 games for club.
BILLY WHELAN : He made 98 first-team appearances before he died in the crash at the age of 22.
Harry Gregg & # 39; s favorite chair was a large armchair by the window in front of his house on the hill in Castlerock, an hour outside of Belfast.
On his coffee table lay his football books, mostly autobiographies, and his newspaper. His cigarettes were close by.
Towards the end of his life, Gregg was watching television on football. Manchester United were still his team.
& # 39; Here at home , when United has a new manager or player, I just look at it like any other fan, & # 39; he told me.
& # 39; My simple little head wonders: "Is he a good player or is he a pilock?"
The time spent with Harry Gregg was never wasted. It would listen a lot and sometimes bring a little patience. But he, from everyone who was there that terrible day in Bavaria, had a lot to say.
Gregg never escaped the shadow of Munich. He wanted it, but he couldn't. As he was inclined to say: & # 39; I know what happened. I know what I saw. I was there. & # 39; For years – too many years – those details trickled into his dreams
As a keeper, he was impressive and charismatic. In his case, sport reflected life. Even in his later days he stood tall. Conversations took place at his pace and followed his way. Often confrontation was central and it wasn't always a joke.
I was lucky to know him towards the end. An afternoon spent in his house for an interview in the fall of 2017 was perhaps the most cherished of a 20-year career with this newspaper. Much of that time was spent persuading him to let me turn on my tape recorder. Another part was devoted to eating his wife Carolyn's sandwiches.
Carolyn – gracious, charming Carolyn – was the gatekeeper in Castlerock. No one has reached Harry without saying it. Understandably, she was always suspicious about people's motives.
Gregg's life was pockmarked with great tragedy. He lost his first wife and his daughter to cancer. Without Carolyn he asked me out loud, he may never have recovered.
It is true that Gregg & # 39; s relationship with United has not been easy over the years. Unlike some of the 1958 team, he didn't get the chance to squeeze the circle when the European Cup was finally won 10 years later in Wembley. He was sold to Stoke City in 1966 and never won a medal. This might bother him more than he would ever allow.
He found that some of his old teammates were too quick to tell their stories from Munich, including others who were not there. As for Sir Bobby Charlton, the two men were not close. Given what had happened between them on the runway, it was a remote place that did not lie easily with Gregg during his retirement years.
But then Harry Gregg did not want to be everyone's cup of tea, nor did he wish to be. He gladly said of himself: & # 39; I am not a nice man & # 39 ;. This was not true, but it was his own way of recognizing the sharp edges that could cut when needed.
The truth is that his place in the middle of one of the most tragic stories of football was one he never wanted. He bore it with grace and appropriate responsibility, but he also suffered with it.
& # 39; I have never wanted to be John Wayne, & # 39; he told me.
Our relationship was occasionally maintained by telephone. If he had something he wanted to say, mostly about Manchester United, Carolyn would call. Then he would ask me questions about football that he knew I couldn't answer.
& # 39; I think I'll tell your editor about this, & # 39; he would grate.
The Last Day I saw him, I saw him walking slowly to his seat in Old Trafford for the commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the disaster two February ago. He wasn't sure he wanted to come. He almost canceled. He had not been back for years and was, in all honesty, a little afraid of what he would feel.
On the day, the organization let him down a bit. He was almost the last man to appear and was left to walk to his chair alone and confidently. It was snowing and he looked hollow and vulnerable.
A few hours later, he asked me to meet him at the hotel bar across the road from the stadium. When I arrived there, the fire had returned in his eyes.
Where have you been? & # 39; he burst.
& # 39; Did you have something better to do? & # 39;
He was happy that the day was almost over, happy that he had come. He was now among his people, his family, and his friends, and a weight had been lifted. The day before his grandson had met on the training ground of United Zlatan Ibrahimovic and he had a word with manager Jose Mourinho.
& # 39; Do you think he knew who I was? & # 39; he asked. It wasn't a joke.
But most importantly, Gregg and Charlton had been together after the ceremony. Charlton & # 39; s opening sentence had disarmed him a bit.
& # 39; Hello Great Man, & # 39; he said simply. & # 39; How are you? & # 39;
For Harry Gregg, that simple exchange – a moment of courtesy between the two remaining survivors of that terrible winter scene – closed a chapter of his life. It drew a line under something that had disturbed him for far too long.
& # 39; Yes, I am glad I came & he said to me under the top of his baseball cap.
& # 39; I think I had to come here. Only one last time. & # 39;
BREAKEND NEWS: former Manchester United goalkeeper and surviving air disaster in Munich Harry Gregg dies, 87 years
- Former Manchester United goalkeeper Harry Gregg died at the age of 87
- He spent nine years in the club and also won 25 caps for Northern Ireland
- He became the & # 39; hero of Munich & # 39; named for his courage in 1958 air disaster
- Bayern Munich no longer believes they should sign Leroy Sane at all costs
- Winger has recently changed its agents, so contract terms must be renegotiated
- City did not make an official offer to extend Sane's deal, which expires in 2021
- Robert Lewandowski gave Bayern Munich the lead after just three minutes
- Kingsley Coman then doubled the visitors' lead with just five minutes to go
- Serge Gnabry set Bayern 3-0 up and out of sight with less then played for 15 minutes
- The winger scored his side fourth with a brilliant solo run and finish
- Cologne withdrew a goal via Mark Uth but it was just a consolation
His death was announced Monday morning by the Harry Gregg Foundation.
& # 39; It is with great sadness that we inform about the death of Manchester United and Northern Ireland, legend Harry Gregg, OBE, & # 39; said it in a statement on Facebook.
& # 39; Harry died peacefully in the hospital surrounded by his loving family. & # 39;
MORE TO FOLLOW
Bayern Munich & # 39; no longer believes they should sign Leroy Sane at any cost in the summer & # 39; after the Manchester City winger has changed his agents
Bayern Munich are executives no longer in full agreement that the club should pursue a movement for Leroy Sane this summer.
Manchester City Winger Sane has recently changed his agents, which means that contract terms must be renegotiated if a transfer is to take place.
Sane has not played since the Community Shield in August after tearing the previous cruciate ligament in his right knee.
The 24-year-old is back in training and will hope he will still be able to make an impact in the final phase of the season, but his future in City remains unclear.
City's two-year ban on European competition, pending an appeal, could make it harder for them to retain their top stars.
Since joining City from Schalke in 2016, Sane has won two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and two League Cups.
Cologne 1-4 Bayern Munich: Serge Gnabry scores brilliantly double when Bavarians return to the top of Bundesliga
A brilliant double by Serge Gnabry helped an unbridled Bayern Munich to an impressive 4-1 victory in Cologne.
Bayern went second in the competition in the Bundesliga after the victory of RB Leipzig over Werder Bremen yesterday but made a quick return to top position.
Goals of Robert Lewandowski Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry set Bayern 3-0 after 12 minutes and Gnabry added a second in the second half to seal the win.
Cologne drew in 66 minutes A goal back by Mark Uth, but the result was never in doubt and it was a surprise that the visitors had no more than real goals.
Bayern entered the game after a 0-0 draw with Leipzig in their last league match and then dropped to second place after their title rivals defeated Werder Bremen 3-0 on Saturday.
Cologne: Horn; Ehizibue, Bornauw, Czichos, Katterbach (Kainz 28); Skhiri, Hector; Drexler, Uth, Jakobs (Schmitz 72), Cordoba (Modeste 81)
Unused subs: Krahl, Leistner, Rexhbecaj, Upper, Thielmann, Terodde
Bayern Munich: Neuer; Davies, Alaba, Boateng (Hernandez 46), Pavard; Kimmich Tolisso 59), Alcantara; Gnabry, Muller, Coman (Goretzka 79); Lewandowski
Unused subs: Ulreich, Odriozola, Coutinho, Cuisance, Zirkzee
Referee: Felix Zwayer
The pressure was on Bayern against one side of Cologne who won four of their last six games to place six points between them and the relegation zone of the Bundesliga.
But with all eyes on this competition, Bayern showed few nerves and it seemed to thrive on the need to grab three points while making a flying start.
With only three minutes passed, Thomas Muller, Thiago Alcantara and Lewandowski swapped passes, with the striker receiving the ball along the left side of the box before lashing home a beautiful finish in the top corner.
It was the perfect start and it soon got better. The back four of Cologne could not get the smooth pass from Bayern and another nice move saw Muller pull the ball back for Coman in the box and the winger shot home to make it 2-0 in five minutes.
Memories of 19 May 2012 are tapped on the souls of Bayern Munich players.
& # 39; This city burned & # 39 ;, says David Alaba, star of this current Bayern team, then a fast-growing boy. & # 39; It was on fire! & # 39;
Munich was indeed in full carnival mode, hundreds of thousands hit the streets to attend live events.
The Final of the Champions League had come to town and Bayern Munich had made its way for the right to contest it at their home stadium.
& # 39; Our city, our stadium, our cup & # 39 ;, read the huge banner at the end of Bayern, around a huge image of the famous old European cup.
It was 11 years ago that she had last won that trophy. The sense of destination was heavy in the spring evening in the Allianz Arena.
& # 39; We played against Real Madrid in the semi-final & # 39 ;, Alaba continues.
This was the record-breaking Real Madrid by Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo, the team that beat Barcelona from Pep Guardiola to the title and collected 100 points.
& # 39; I still remember that game and how we got through it. We had a great team, great team spirit. But I got my yellow card in this game, I couldn't play in the final. & # 39;
Alaba was limited to the stands on that fateful day. & # 39; We played a great game against Chelsea & # 39 ;, he recalls.
& # 39; And at the end of the day … we didn't have the W … & # 39;
In simpler terms, Bayern lost to Chelsea, a night that was also indelibly etched in the memories of Blues fans and of course the current manager Frank Lampard.
A tense game, dominated by Bayern against an aging Chelsea team shaved from suspended John Terry, seemed arranged by Thomas Muller's 83-minute goal.
The turn came from Didier Drogba's 88th-minute header equalizer. Even then, Bayern missed a penalty in extra time.
Juan Mata missed Chelsea's first penalty in the shootout, although Lampard scored and eventually Drogba, 34, won the trophy with his spot kick.
& # 39; It was painful & # 39 ;, Alaba recalls. & # 39; Can't help the team, especially in such a game, the Champions League final and then we didn't win.
It was a double punishment. It's not a nice feeling. But after this game I felt very quickly: "OK, this team is special and we can do something next year". I think it was a big problem how we lost this game because we were better.
& We earned it to win this match against Chelsea. You felt something in the team that we are special, we can do something more. And when the preseason for the following season started, you could see how hungry each player was and how we worked.
& # 39; We place those two, three, four, five percent at the top to reach our goals. And then we wrote an incredible story in 2013. & # 39;
Under Jupp Heynckes, they won three times, including the final of the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund by Jurgen Klopp in Wembley.
Then came the Guardiola and another three Bundesliga titles and two German cups, although no more Champions Leagues.