ON THIS DAY: 1958: Doncaster footballer David Pegg dies in Munich Air Disaster

David Pegg
David Pegg

It was football’s darkest day, the day a glittering generation of footballers lost their lives in a tragedy that sent shockwaves around the globe.

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.

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.

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.
In total, 23 people died in the terrible disaster which stunned the world.

David Pegg's grave in Doncaster.

David Pegg's grave in Doncaster.

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.

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.

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 84.

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 nearly sixty years on from the tragedy.