Memorial plaque unveiled in Belgrade hotel

Wednesday 08 February 2023 14:30

After 65 years, Manchester United and the Manchester Munich Memorial Foundation (MMMF) have added the final missing piece in the tributes to the Busby Babes, whose plane tragically crashed in Munich on 6 February 1958.

Detailed research led to a special ceremony this week, organised by MMMF chairman Pat Burns, at which the Foundation unveiled a new memorial for the 23 people who lost their lives in the Munich Air Disaster.

The crash happened as Manchester United’s plane returning from a successful European Cup quarter-final against Red Star Belgrade, attempted to take off after refuelling in Munich. Of the 44 people on board the flight, 23 sadly lost their lives and many more were injured.

For many years, until new evidence was uncovered by the club and MMMF, it was believed that the Busby Babes had spent their time in Belgrade, where they secured a 3-3 draw to progress 5-4 on aggregate, staying at The Majestic Hotel where a famous picture was taken of Sir Matt Busby speaking to his team having dinner which led to many presuming they had also stayed there.
Red Star presented the Manchester Munich Memorial Foundation a special gift for their tireless work.
With the support and thanks of Manchester United and its fans, The Majestic has, since the 1960s, hosted a much visited and much-loved memorial commemorating those who played in their final game in Belgrade and subsequently lost their lives or were injured at Munich. Their restaurant also features the piano that was famously played by Mark Jones (seen above).

However, work by the MMMF discovered that the Manchester United team had, in fact, stayed at the Metropol Hotel in the Serbian capital and to mark the 65th anniversary of the crash, Pat Burns presented a brass plaque which will be proudly displayed in the foyer of the hotel. 

The final piece of the jigsaw was discovered by Mark Wylie (Museum Curator) at Manchester United, who found a Metropol Hotel luggage tag which belonged to Eddie Colman (see below). News articles that have since been discovered say United were taken to the Metropol hotel.
A Metropol Hotel luggage tag which belonged to Eddie Colman.
With Dominic Otway, Deputy Head of Mission to His Majesty’s Ambassador to Serbia and other embassy officials in attendance, both Pat Burns and Ronny Johnsen made short speeches thanking the hotel for allowing the memorial to be placed in the foyer.

They also thanked the Red Star Belgrade club, represented by their President Svetozar Milailovic, Honorary President Dragan Dzajic and Board member Den Tana, for their unwavering support. Also at the ceremony was Dusan Maravic, signed by Red Star on the day of the 1958 Quarter-final and who was present at the 3-3 draw, in which Sir Bobby Charlton (twice) and Dennis Viollet scored.
Red Star Belgrade were represented by President Svetozar Milailovic, Honorary President Dragan Dzajic and Board member Den Tana.
Partizan Belgrade, who Manchester United lost to in the 1966 European Cup semi final and beat in the Europa League group stages in 2019, were also represented along with MMMF Trustee Ifty Ahmed and members Steve and Mark Leggott as well as United supporters from the UK, Ireland, Malta, USA and Belgrade itself.

Ronny Johnsen, who played 99 times for Manchester United between 1996 and 2002, including the 1999 FA Cup and Champions League finals, attended the ceremony and said: “Here in Belgrade 65 years ago eight of our Busby babes played their last match in a Manchester United shirt.  

“The tragic event that followed meant the two great cities of Belgrade and Manchester became forever united in sorrow. Today is about remembrance and I want to thank everyone at the Metropol Hotel for supporting the ambition to preserve the legacy of the Busby Babes. 

“We also appreciate the kindness of the people of Belgrade and the tireless efforts of the fans’ groups who make this annual pilgrimage – especially the work of Manchester Munich Memorial Foundation – to keep the memory of that great team alive.”
Ronny Johnsen was proud to represent United and spent time with our fans.
Also representing the club at the ceremony was United’s Head of Fan Engagement, Rick McGagh, who added: “We would like to thank the MMMF, our friends at Red Star Belgrade, Partisan Belgrade and all the fans who travelled from across the world to be part of the special event in Belgrade.’

“We have a duty to keep the memory of the Busby Babes alive and the unveiling of this memorial at the Metropol Hotel, along with the items at the Majestic Hotel and the monuments over in Trudering, Munich, will help future generations of fans learn about the Babes and that fateful day.’

“Listening to Dusan Maravic, who signed for Red Star on the day of our game in 1958 and who attended the game that night, talk about his memories of Tommy Taylor, Duncan Edwards and Bobby Charlton was incredible. He spoke with great passion about the Babes as footballers, and with great sadness about the events of 6 February.

“He, like many football fans across the world, has followed Manchester United since that day. As we approach the 65th anniversary we remember the 23 people who lost their lives and everyone who was affected by this tragedy.”
Ronny and fans posed with the piano that was famously played by Mark Jones.
The plaque reads: 

‘In memory of the Manchester United Busby Babes who last played on February 5, 1958 v Red Star Belgrade. The tour party stayed here at the Metropol Hotel until February 6, 1958.

‘Died tragically as a result of the Munich Air Disaster in Trudering Riem Munich on February 6, 1958:

Geoff Bent
Roger Byrne (captain)
Eddie Colman
Duncan Edwards
Mark Jones
David Pegg
Tommy Taylor
Liam (Billy) Whelan.

Gone but never forgotten and forever in our hearts. Rest in peace.

Donated by the Manchester Munich Memorial Foundation - MMMF'


  • How fans marked the 65th anniversary of Munich Video

    How fans marked the 65th anniversary of Munich

    Watch all of the memorial event at Old Trafford, attended by Erik ten Hag, Harry Maguire, Marc Skinner and Katie Zelem…

  • The 65th anniversary event in Munich Video

    The 65th anniversary event in Munich

    The Manchester Munich Memorial Foundation, led by chairman Pat Burns, held their annual service at Manchesterplatz...

  • An ode to The Flowers of Manchester Video

    An ode to The Flowers of Manchester

    Sixty-five years have passed since the Munich Air Disaster, and we will never forget The Flowers of Manchester...

  • An invaluable trip to Munich for our U13s Video

    An invaluable trip to Munich for our U13s

    United's U13s have travelled to Munich to engage with our Bayern counterparts and learn more about the 1958 disaster...