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Monday, March 03, 2008

Munich Memorial Service at Old Trafford. February 6th 1958


6th February 2008

Personally I wasn't even born when the tragic events of 6th February 1958 unfolded but was a few short months away of seeing the light of day. However my Salford born Dad was a United fan through and through, and it wasn't long before I was following in his footsteps to Old Trafford and being told tales of this mystical team, The Busby Babes, who, at my early age could, for all I knew, have been from another world.

My knowledge of the Babes has been learned over the years through the tales my Dad told me in my youth, then the printed word through many excellent books on the subject, and of course the unfortunately limited amount of grainy footage we occasionally see on our screens courtesy of Pathe News.

However, to my eternal good fortune I was succesful in the ballot for the limited number of tickets for the 50th anniversary Memorial Service being held at Old Trafford. I am sure everybody reading this has seen the service anyway so I will not dwell on the details but more on my thoughts of the afternoon.

To be part of such an exclusive number of fans fortunate to be able to attend was, in my mind anyway, a tremendous honour and a great privelige to be able to share the same room with so many great people, many of whom have left their indelible mark on the history and success of our great football club. Particularly overwhelming and poignant it must have been too for the families of those who were lost that attended.

United legends such as Sir Bobby Charlton, Harry Gregg, Nobby Stiles, Albert Scanlon, Kenny Morgans, Alex Stepney, Sir Alex, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Ole, Paul Scholes, Bryan Robson and Brian Kidd were all in attendance along with Sir Matt's granddaughter and David Meek, latterly of the Evening News and long time United correspondent.

The mood was quite sombre whilst the religous and spiritual part of the service was conducted and I certainly don't mind admitting to having tears in my eyes on more than one occasion as the club chaplain Rev John Boyers read through the roll of honour of those who perished and Gary Neville, what an ambassador, lit a candle to each and everyone of the 23.

Again, I am sure you have all seen the footage by now of the celebration of the Babes that followed, with fabulous memories being provided by Sir Bobby, Harry Gregg and Nobby Stiles, which, personally, I could listen to all day.

A few final thoughts of mine on the day;

I think all in all, the club, who have not always done right by the bereaved, or for that matter some of the survivors, got it spot on this time,

I think, though he can be derided as a celebrity Red and he is certainly not my favourite person on TV, a lot of credit must be given to Eamonn Holmes, who presented the celebration part of the memorial without fault and with the appropriate amount of wit,

It was unfortunate that there were about 50 empty seats at the back of the room. Could people who were allocated tickets not be bothered to turn up? All it needed was a phone call to Old Trafford to say you couldn't attend thereby allowing some of the hundreds, maybe thousands, outside on the forecourt the chance to be involved more closely with this momentous anniversary.

It might seem a little indulgent, but I couldn't help but think of my Dad during the day, as it was he that got me hooked on the Reds in the first place and he would I am sure have been looking down with the Babes with a certain amount of pride as the events of the day unfolded.

Finally, full marks to the scriptwriters of Corrie, who, in that evening's episode, included a mention of the Babes in the Rovers with a toast being made by most of the male cast members. Well done!!

Nigel Appleton


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