13 July 2016 10:21

A former soldier who left school at 16 has graduated with a degree from Lancaster University.

He now plans to use his experience to teach people like him who have given up on education.

Paul Thompson from Morecambe has gained a History degree despite leaving school with no qualifications to join the military.

After a career serving in far-flung trouble spots, he left the service with the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major.

Always interested in history, he did an Access Diploma at Lancaster and Morecambe College before applying to Lancaster University.

Undaunted by mixing with students less than half his age, Paul found returning to education awoke his passion for history.

“The unique thing about Lancaster is that it’s so flexible. For a start you can study a wide range of options before deciding which degree to take. I settled on history which is my passion.”

His military career included spells in central Africa, where he witnessed first hand the genocide in Rwanda which left him with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I was an airborne parachutist trained to fight but dealing with mutilation and child executions is something else.“

He now plans to study for a Masters degree at Lancaster University, looking at gender roles in the military.

“I still have contacts in the Army so I can get access to people who wouldn’t tell their story to anyone else but a former soldier.”

When he leaves university, he would like to teach in a failing school and inspire others who feel the education system has not worked for them.

“I can relate to people who were called trouble makers. I was that boy. I was excluded from school. If I can reach just one person and light a spark, it will have been worth it.”