Winston Churchill was almost killed on this day when the battleship HMS Nelson was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Churchill was aboard the Nelson, along with First Sea Lord Admiral Dudley Pound, to inspect the flagship of the Home Fleet.
The U-boat, U-56, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Zahn, fired three torpedoes at the Nelson. Two of the torpedoes missed, but the third struck the Nelson’s bow. However, the torpedo failed to detonate and the Nelson was not damaged.
Churchill and Pound were unaware of the attack until after the torpedoes had passed. They were both in the Nelson’s wardroom at the time, and they only felt a slight vibration.
The attack on the Nelson was a close call for Churchill. He had been on board the Royal Oak, which was sunk by a U-boat at Scapa Flow on October 14, 1939. Churchill had only escaped the sinking of the Royal Oak because he had left the ship early.