Herbert Whalley (6th August 1913 to 6th February 1958)

 

Iíve visited a few graves of the players but there were other members of the team, too. Here I am at Dukinfield Crematorium where the coach Bert Whalley was cremated. He died in the crash aged 44. Player Harry Gregg who carried people out of the burning wreckage said Bert was the first person he saw but his eyes were wide open and he obviously dead.

 

Bert was born nearby in Ashton-under-Lyne and played for Stalybridge Celtic (who are still going strong) before transferring to Manchester United when he was 21. Aged 22 he made his debut for Manchester United. He was an effective player and made more than 35 appearances for the Reds before the Second World War intervened and an eye injury forced him to retire. Off the field he was known as a kind humble Christian-minded man without ego and was so respected locally it'd take him half an hour to walk a hundred metres. He was married and had one daughter who was eleven when he perished in the plane. Sometimes he had Duncan Edwards round to his house for tea. I've visited Duncan' grave and the link is here: http://johnhalley.uk/Grave%20-%20Duncan%20Edwards.htm

When Matt Busby's became manager in 1945 Bert was appointed coach and travelled with the first team. Sadly he accompanied the Busby Babes team which was decimated by the runway at Munich-Reim airport one snowy afternoon. He was played by actor Dean Andrews in the 2011 television drama United which centred on the tragedy. In a local paper his daughter remembers him as "the epitome of perfect dad."

 

What happened that afternoon in 1958? The plane carrying the team had stopped off in Munich to refuel. The captain didnít want to stay overnight in the city fearing heíd get behind schedule. He tried to take off and crashed on the third attempt, the plan crashing through a fence and hitting a house. Initially the investigation blamed the captain for not de-icing the aircraft's wings (despite eyewitnesses saying it wasnít necessary) but later blame was put on the being too much slush on the runway.

 

I had a walk around the crematorium. My mum was cremated here and whenever I look up at the chimney I guess I'll end up smoking out of it one day. People had lined the streets from Ashton to here on the day of Bert's funeral. At 44 it was only half a life. You can only hope his end was painless and instant. I did a salute and left. Bye Bert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image result for munich air disaster

 

A bit of Bert will have probably come out of this chimney...

 

A dark day in United's history...

 

The unveiling of a plaque to remember Bert...