Former head of the British army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, has said that God saved his life four times. Sir Richard, who previously made headlines while still in active service when he said that soldiers should be spiritually prepared for war, claims his own brushes with death brought him to faith.
In an interview with online Christian magazine Christians Together, Sir Richard spoke of the times he believes God intervened to save his life.
The first two occasions took place when he was on active service in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. In one incident, he emerged completely unscathed after a hail of gunfire killed one of his comrades and injured another. In the other, he narrowly missed treading on a landmine after stopping to study a map; his commanding officer wasn’t so lucky.
On the third occasion, he fell asleep at the wheel of his car at Germany and his car veered off the road but stopped safely in a field rather than falling down a steep bank just a few yards further on.
Sir Richard said: “On three occasions, God had shown me his love and protection and challenged me to make a complete commitment to him, but each time I failed to make the response that he wanted.”
Speaking of the fourth occasion, he said: “Finally, I had to be stopped so that the lesson could be learned… God had no choice but to take a stick and beat me over the head.”
That stick took the form of a stroke that Sir Richard suffered at the age of just 26. Sir Richard said that he collapsed while serving in Germany: “For the next three quarters of an hour no one saw me. I was lying on the floor of the cloakroom in Battalion HQ.
“My right side was paralysed and I couldn’t talk sense. When a brother officer finally found me, I was rushed with blue lights flashing to the neurology department of a German hospital.
Sir Richard said he found faith as he slowly recovered from the stroke: “The opportunity to step back for four weeks from the normal bustle and business of life is an opportunity that very rarely presents itself. For me, as alarming as the initial circumstances were, four weeks enforced rest as a spectator on life, rather than as a participant, had enabled me to clear my head and allow God to speak to me.”
Sir Richard is now vice-president of the Officers’ Christian Union, and president of the Soldiers and Airmen’s Scripture Readers Association. He has also criticised the declining moral standards of Britain, saying: “What I would hate is for the Army to be maintaining a set of values that were not reflected in our society at large – courage, loyalty, integrity, respect for others; these are critical things.”