This article is from the Sunday Telegraph. It is rather dull to see a quote from the National Secular Society at the end of it, - surely we all have the right to believe (or not) in what we want without some parsimonious bastard whingeing about it? It took three miracles to make me listen to Christ, says Army chief By Jonathan Wynne-Jones Last Updated: 11:30pm BST 28/10/2006 As a young soldier, Gen Sir Richard Dannatt inspired his men with his outstanding bravery and won the Military Cross for risking his life to save his comrades. The new Chief of the General Staff believes, however, that he owes his survival in a series of near-death experiences to divine protection. In a frank account of his conversion to evangelical Christianity, he describes how he came to realise that God had allowed him to cheat death while others around him perished, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. advertisementHe believes that three times God preserved him when he was within seconds of losing his life, to challenge him to devote his life to Christ. The claims come only weeks after he made an explosive intervention on the continued presence of British troops in Iraq and expressed concern at the decline of Christian values in Britain. "When I see the Islamist threat I hope it doesn't make undue progress because there is a moral and spiritual vacuum in this country," he said. "The Judaic-Christian tradition has underpinned British society. It underpins the British Army." Although he was strongly supported by the Army for warning that forces were being over-stretched, some observers have suggested that his beliefs were behind his decision to speak out. Such zealously religious comments from the head of the Army are likely to cause concern in some quarters. In Candles in the Darkness, a compilation of testimonies from Christians serving in the Army and RAF, Gen Dannatt reveals how his first escape came in 1973 when he was in Belfast leading a platoon trying to deal with a crowd of rioters. Sent into an area controlled by Loyalist paramilitaries, he was stranded with his driver and corporal. Gen Dannatt, 55, has never talked about how he earned the MC trying to save the life of his driver, Pte Raymond Hall, but in the book he remembers the distress of losing one of his men. "I was briefing one of my section commanders," he writes. "My driver was down beside my vehicle as sentry. A hail of bullets leaped down the street. The corporal and my driver fell on either side of me. My driver later died. I walked away unharmed." He says that he came to see this as the beginning of a series of "challenges from God" to commit not just a part of his life "but all of it". While clearing mines in south Armagh in 1975, he was seconds from death. Walking forward slowly with his company commander, Major Peter Willis, he stopped to study an aerial photograph while Major Willis took a few more steps. "Half a minute later and 30 yards away 70lb of commercial explosive detonated. My friend was killed instantly. I walked away unharmed." A few months later, in Germany, he fell asleep while driving his car: "I drove off the autobahn at 70 mph straight into a field. At the point where I went off the road the field and road were absolutely level and flat, 200 yards further on there was a 20ft bank and a wood. I walked away unharmed." He continues: "On three occasions God had shown me His love and His protection and had challenged me to make a complete commitment to Him, but on each occasion, I had failed to make the response that He wanted from me. Finally, I had to be stopped so that the lesson could be learned â€¦ God had no choice but to take a stick and beat me over the head." He says that God spoke to him while he was recovering from a "mini-stroke" that he suffered as a 26-year-old in 1977. Together with his wife, Philippa, he now praises "God for His mysterious and loving ways". Sir Richard, who is vice president of the Officers' Christian Union, became the head of the Army earlier this year, but nearly left a few years ago to become a Church of England priest. Last night Terry Sanderson, vice president of the National Secular Society, said that he was concerned by his expression of his faith. "Gen Dannatt's attribution of his own survival to the hand of God leaves open the question about the reason his colleagues were killed around him," he said. "To attribute what are, self-evidently, a series of fortuitous coincidences to special consideration from God is worrying from a man in his position."