• Families
HMS “Quiff” needs your help! There’s been a technical, ahem, difficulty and we need you to make a communication device for us.

Mission Briefing

Part of the Family Mission series created during the UK lockdown in Spring 2020. CBBC Presenter Ben Shires is reporting from submarine HMS Quiff to deliver your submarine-themed Family Mission briefing.

Oh! Hello there. I’m Ben Shires reporting from submarine HMS Quiff, to tell you all about this week’s Family Mission from the folks over at Imperial War Museums. 

While many of us are staying safe at home, we can keep in touch with our loved ones using the marvel of modern technology- 

Ooh ah... oops! 

But what do we do to keep in touch with each other when faced with some err... technical difficulties? Well, worry not, because if you've seen this week's 'Adventures in History’ film featuring yours truly and our friend the submariner Ed, you'll know that all the superb submariners who work on submarines know just what to do.  

On today's modern submarines, submariners use walkie talkies to chat with each other from up and down the sub, but just in case these should fail they have an ingenious back-up plan. ‘Speaking tubes’, or ‘voice pipes’ as they're sometimes called, are installed on ships and submarines enabling submariners to talk to each other without using technology, all thanks to the phenomenon of physics.  

A speaking tube is a device based around two cones and an air tube. Essentially, when you speak into one of the cones, it causes vibrations. These vibrations travel down the air tube, reaching the other cone which in turn vibrates, and it's those vibrations that allow you to hear the other person's voice.  

For this week's IWM Family Mission, we want you to discover the spectacle of sound by making your very own speaking tubes. All you need are a couple of tin cans and some string and you will be away, speaking to people from your household like this:  

“Knock knock” 

“Who's there?” 


“Dishes who?” 

“Dishes ridiculous!” 

Now, the folks at IWM have put all the instructions and everything that you and your grown-ups will need to make your very own speaking tubes, available in the link below on IWM's website. And whilst Imperial War Museum doors remain closed, we still want you to keep in touch with us. So please, show us your skills in the thread and comments below. We can't wait to hear from you, but for now, goodbye! 

Now that Ben has relayed your Family Mission brief, you’ll find everything you need below, including your instructions to create your DIY walkie talkie.

What you'll need

What you will need to make a DIY walkie talkie - hammer, scissors, tin cans and string.
  • A hammer and nail
  • 2x tin cans (ideally the same size) with their paper labels taken off
  • Scissors
  • A long piece of string


Photograph showing how to create DIY Walkie Talkies
1. Find a grown up to help you!
2. Take two tin cans and make sure the lids have been removed.
3. Be sure not to leave any sharp edges! If there are some, you can cover the rim with electrical tape.
4. Make a small hole in the bottom of each can using the nail and hammer. It’s best to get the grown-ups to do this bit!
Ben Shires demonstrates his DIY walkie talkies
5. Now take a long piece of string. Thread the string through the hole in each can, and tie a knot in each end so it can't pull back through the hole.
6. Now hold the cans so that the string is taut. As one person speaks into a can, the other listens in the other can.

Communicating on board an X-Craft

Submariners use walkie talkies now, but in 1944 speaking tubes like this were used to communicate with the rest of the vessel. Some modern submarines still have these speaking tubes which can be used in back-up situations.

Don’t forget to tell us how you get on or even better show us your walkie talkie on IWM’s Facebook and Twitter

Explore Further

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Family Mission: Morse Code

Morse code was widely used during the Second World War by Britain’s armed forces. Learn how to use it to send your own messages!

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Life Under The Sea

Our special guest, Ed from the Royal Navy, is interviewed by CBBC presenter Ben Shires. Ed will tell us all about what it’s like to work on a submarine and spend months living deep beneath the waves.

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Use your animal investigator skills to find out what roles these special animals played during wartime. 

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Family Mission has been created with the generous support of Old Possum's Practical Trust