How Man United hero Gregg returned Munich to recover Edwards' watch

Incredible story of how Man United’s hero keeper Harry Gregg went back to Munich air crash site to recover Duncan Edwards’ watch and return it to him in hospital before his death is revealed in new book about tragic Old Trafford star

  • Man Utd star Duncan Edwards treasured a watch given to him by Real Madrid 
  • Hero keeper Harry Gregg helped reunite him with his watch before his death
  • Details part of a new book Eternal, a portrait of Edwards published this month

Harry Gregg, the Manchester United goalkeeper, was so uncomfortable cast as a hero of the Munich disaster that he long since ceased to share private stories such as this one about Duncan Edwards, who died 65 years ago today.

Edwards was fighting for his life in hospital when Gregg heard the young man had been asking about a gold watch presented to him by Real Madrid when the teams met in April 1957. Each United player received one.

Edwards, the young star of Matt Busby’s brilliant young team, treasured his and was never without it but, in his confusion in the days after the plane crash, he feared it stolen.

Gregg took it upon himself to return to the airfield and search for it among the wreckage. He found the watch, damaged beyond repair but he picked it up, determined to reunite it with its owner.

Returning the watch to Edwards, the goalkeeper gently fixed it to his wrist as he and United’s assistant manager Jimmy Murphy, who had not been on the fatal flight, sat beside the hospital bed. This was the moment when Edwards whispered to ask Murphy: ‘What time is kick-off tomorrow?’

Duncan Edwards’ life was tragically cut short at the age of 21 after the Munich Air Disaster

Harry Gregg (left) recovered a priceless watch for Edwards and returned it to him where assistant manager for Manchester United Jimmy Murphy (right) was at his bedside in hospital

The Munich Air Disaster took 23 lives in total from the 43 on board following the plane crash

It is an achingly sad tale. Edwards would lose his fight for life, 15 days after a plane crash that had already claimed seven of his Manchester United team-mates and three of the club’s staff. With journalists, crew and other passengers, the final death toll reached 23.

The details have been pieced together by Wayne Barton, author and Manchester United historian, during the course of his research into an authorised biography on Murphy, published in 2018, and his new book Eternal, a portrait of Edwards, published this month.

Gregg escaped miraculously unscathed from the crash and was playing again within a fortnight, but later discovered he had fractured his skull.

He went back into the burning plane to pull others to safety, including Bobby Charlton, but grew tired of those who hailed his heroics. In his view, he did what anyone would have done in the same awful situation.

‘I never wanted to be John Wayne,’ Gregg told Sportsmail’s Ian Ladyman in one of his final interviews before his death, three years ago, at the age of 87.

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