THE world of football is honouring the victims of the Munich air crash, on the 50th anniversary of the disaster. Busby Babe Bill Foulkes, who was born in St Helens, was among the remaining survivors who attended a memorial service at Old Trafford today.

The 76-year-old ex-defender, who grew up in Nutgrove, is considered to be among the finest footballers St Helens has ever produced and is third in Manchester United's all-time appearance list, having played 688 matches over 18 seasons.

But he will also be forever associated with the club's history for being a passenger on the flight carrying United's precocious young team home from a European Cup match that crashed amid snow on the Munich runway on February 6, 1958.

Eight of Foulkes' team-mates lost their lives as a result of the disaster and two others were never able to play again professionally. In total 23 people, including journalists and coaching staff, died.

Last week Foulkes, who played for the Whiston Boys club before leaving his mining job at Lea Green Colliery in 1951 and signing professionally for United, released his autobiography.

In the book, titled Bill Foulkes: United in Triumph and Tragedy', he recounts his harrowing tale of survival after the crash of BEA flight 609.

In an extract published by the Sunday Times at the weekend, Foulkes said he had feared they "where not going to make it" as the plane, accelerated down the runway on its third take-off attempt.

JAGGED METAL He said his last memory was pushing a pack of playing cards into his pocket before three sickening bumps and then darkness. Foulkes, aged 26 at the time of the crash, recalls scrambling through a jagged hole and running before turning around to see the aircraft "a mass of jagged metal" and seeing bodies in the slush "where snow had melted".

He describes seeing the team's captain Roger Byrne dead, Bobby Charlton regaining consciousness and manager Matt Busby seriously injured.

It was only later though the enormity of the tragedy struck as he learned six other team-mates had died, while Duncan Edwards, the 21-year-old star of the Babes, lost his fight for life in hospital 15 days after the crash.

Foulkes, now lives in Sale, though his local ties are maintained through sisters Lily and Josephine, both of whom live in Rainhill. His story also tells how when he later returned to the crash scene he got back into the plane where he had been sitting.

There he discovered a bottle of gin given to him in Belgrade (United had been returning from a European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade and the plane had stopped at Munich to re-fuel), but he said his strangest souvenir' was the playing cards that he had tucked into his pocket moments before the crash.

The "top quarter-inch had been sliced off and disappeared" with a cut "that was so clean", yet Foulkes did not have a bruise on him.

In the aftermath, resilient Foulkes captained a depleted United squad to the 1958 FA Cup Final, where they were defeated by Bolton.

He remained a cornerstone of the team rebuilt by Busby and was part of the 1968 European Cup winning team, before retiring two years later.

  • Today(Wednesday) a special service at Old Trafford was being held to remember the victims.
  • DO you remember Munich...send us your memories plus best wishes to Bill at