Thursday 30 July 2020
  • English Literacy
  • Age 9-11 (KS2)
    Age 11-14 (KS3)

How quick can you send a Morse code message?

Your mission this week is to learn how to communicate in Morse code. Morse code was widely used during the Second World War by Britain’s armed forces. Communication wasn’t as easy as it is now – this was essentially an early form of instant messaging – a bit like 1940s Whatsapp! 


Part of the Family Mission series created during the UK lockdown in Spring 2020. CBBC Presenter Ben Shires delivers your Morse code mission briefing, with his trusty sidekick Olive!


Morse Code graphic


Morse code is a type of code used to send messages via sound or visual signals. It uses the ABC alphabet, with each letter represented by a different sequence of long and short sound or visual signals called dots and dashes - or “dits an dahs”.

A radio machine was frequently used to send this signal of “dits an dahs” over long distances, but if you can’t use a sound signal, you could use lights. Ships often signal to each other in “Maritime Morse”.



During the Second World War the British Government set up a secret organisation called the Special Operations Executive or SOE. The secret agents of the SOE were sent to countries under the occupation of Nazi Germany.

Their mission was to spy on the enemy and pass on information that would help the war effort back home or cause trouble in the enemy’s territories, like creating road blocks or cutting phone lines. The secret agents would use special radios disguised as suitcases to send Morse code messages back to their bosses.



Meet our very own Bernie Bristoll. Bernie is a member of our We Were There team of veterans and eyewitnesses who volunteer their time to talk about their memories of war and conflict. Bernie was the radio operator on HMS Belfast for 2 years. 

He could send messages in Morse Code at a rate of 25 words per minute! He learnt this incredible skill from the age of 16 when the Royal Navy recognised his abilities – he was even given a special medal for being the top of his class! Bernie now passes on these communication skills from the very same office he once worked in to visitors to HMS Belfast. Check out this video of Bernie in action!


Morse code Who Am I?:

  1. It’s the classic Who Am I post-it note game…., but with Morse code!
  2. Choose the name of a famous person or character Write it on a post-it and stick it on the forehead of the other player.  Their job is to guess who they are by asking yes/no questions. For example – Was I alive during the Second War World?
  3. But here’s the twist- ou can only answer YES or NO…in Morse code!
  4. Once they have guessed correctly you can swap


Morse code dinner time message:

Put your friends and family to the test after dinner.

  1. Prepare a message to send, for example “I love broccoli”
  2. Have your Morse code alphabet handy (or you can try and memorise your message!)
  3. Tap out the dits n dahs (or dots and dashes!) on the table with your fork
  4. See if your friends and family can receive and understand your message.


Advanced level:

Can you send messages using a torch or flashlight? You’ll need somewhere dark to do this, so perhaps a sheet over a table (and shut the curtains or blinds) or wait until it is dark and ask an adult to stand outside in the garden and send messages via your torch from your bedroom window.

Don’t forget to tell us how you get on by posting a message to us on IWM’s Facebook and Twitter 

Explore Further

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Ship Shape Stories

Join IWM expert Ngaire as she helps us discover the extraordinary stories from the deck of the largest object in IWM’s collection, HMS Belfast.
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Family Mission: DIY Walkie Talkies

Ben Shires reports from submarine HMS Quiff with a challenge for you - can you design your own walkie talkie?
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Family Mission: Mystery Messages

Discover your secret code name and use invisible ink to create your top secret ID card!


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