SOLDIERS who fought in the First World War despite having learning disabilities are now the subject of a research project at Ruskin College in Oxford.

Tutor in health and social care Lee Humber is carrying out the research with staff and members of the My Life My Choice charity.

With the backing of a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Dr Humber and Jess Tilling, a co-ordinator for the Oxford-based charity, are finding out how young men with learning difficulties were treated in the Great War.

She said: "If young men had minor learning difficulties in those days then the likelihood is that they would have gone to war.

"We will be looking into the historical aspects of how people with learning difficulties were treated a century ago, compared to how they would be treated today.

"We will be trying to find out more about how soldiers from Oxfordshire were treated and look in detail at their life stories."

My Life My Choice members taking part in the first research session on Tuesday at Ruskin Hall in Headington included Tommy Owen-Lovegrove, 25, a woodwork student at the City of Oxford College.

He said: "I would definitely have lied about my age so I could join up to fight 100 years ago.

"It was amazing there a ceasefire one Christmas between the British and the Germans so they could play football and I'm looking forward to doing some more research."

Mr Owen-Lovegrove was joined by Shane Butler, 24, from Oxford, and Tyrone Allen, 25, from Oxford.

"I'm looking forward to going through the archives," said Mr Allen.

Mr Butler added he wanted to find out more about "forgotten soldiers."

Dr Humber said the first research session involved the charity's members looking through archive material about the battles of Verdun and the Somme, including identity cards, postcards, maps and propaganda posters.

He added: "Over the coming months there will be visits to the Oxfordshire History Centre at St Luke's Church in Cowley and to the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock.

"We will also go to the Imperial War Museum in London and I would love to be able to organise a trip to Messines in Belgium where there was a battle - it would be great if we could do that before Christmas and we could get the Eurostar."

My Life My Choice, based in Park End Street, aims to raise the self-esteem and quality of life for people with learning disabilities by providing volunteering, training, employment and social opportunities for its members.

According to the charity this disadvantaged group faces multiple levels of deprivation and it works to help its members to combat isolation and to lead more fulfilling lives.

The charity is the only independent, user-led, self-advocacy organisation of its kind in Oxfordshire.

The membership, spread throughout the county, has grown from 320 to over 500 since January 2009.

Ruskin College offers education to mature adults who have no educational qualifications and who wish to enter university.

Dr Humber added: "This project is at the heart of what we do at Ruskin College."