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Monday Mission

with the Captain's Cat

The Captain’s Cat is feeling lonely – there are no visitors at the Dockyard for him to play with. To help keep his is mind active and his creativity flowing he will be setting a challenge each Monday.

As part of our ‘Museum from Home’ series, the Captain’s Cat will issue a series of easy of follow instructions using items that you can find around the house, no special tools or skills will be required.

Great fun for the whole family – we promise they won’t make too much mess!

Don’t forget to share your creations with us on social media using #mondaymission

Mission 1

... tattoo art

Tattoos are a living and uniquely three dimensional form of art and they have a well-documented maritime link. It is no exception that service personnel and dockyard workers based at Chatham’s naval base got tattoos to mark special achievements.

But did you know, tattooing actually has an ancient heritage in many cultures? The oldest example of tattoos on a human body are the 61 tattoos found on Ötzi the Iceman who dates from around 3200 BC.  

Mission 1

Colour a tattoo design

Colour a Dockyard tattoo

In celebration of our Spring exhibition, Tattoo: British Art Tattoo Revealed, this week’s mission is to colour a tattoo design for a sailor.

Special thanks for this design goes to resident Dockyard tattoo artist, Fraser Peek. Among many other businesses that call the Dockyard home, Fraser Peek has his own studio in The Joiner’s Shop. Fraser named his studio after the Dry Docks located on site and has had clients visit from all over the world.


Mission 2

... Sailors

For over 400 years, Chatham was one of Britain’s most important centres of warship building and repair – 400 warships and 57 submarines were built here. But what was it like to be a sailor on board? A ship of the Royal Navy was always awake. Men were on watch through the night and even for those who weren’t, the day started before sunrise.

We know from the diary of a carpenter who served on HMS Gannet that their daily routine went like this:

  • 4am: Hammocks stowed and decks scrubbed.
  • 6:30am: Kit inspections and cleaning of guns, drills up on the masts.
  • 12:30pm: Grog ceremony
  • Afternoon: Exercises and drill
  • 5:00pm: Shifting of sails, coiling of rope
  • Any time left up to 8pm: Recreation, with smoking allowed on upper deck

All these activities were strictly regulated and the start of each one was normally shown by a pipe being blown.

What does your daily routine look like? Did you even make your bed this morning?

Mission 2

Make a paper boat

Make a paper boat

Why not make your own paper boat, set sail into uncharted waters and see if your shipmates can follow a similar routine (we recommend swapping out the alcohol and smoking!)

What you’ll need:

  • A4 sheet of paper
  • Pens and pencils for decorating

Mission 3: Under the sea

... submarine puzzles

69 men made up HM Submarine Ocelot’s complement and if you go on board you’d wonder how they all fit! They used to play games and do puzzles to pass the time between shifts.

Have some fun with our submarine themed puzzles.

Mission 4: Shipmates & Shipwrecks

... make a sailor/pirate hat

A Tricorne was a popular style of hat during the 18th century and was worn as part of naval uniforms. Its distinguishing characteristic was a very practical one:  the hat acted as an early umbrella with the turned-up portions of the brim forming gutters that directed rain away from the wearer’s face. The brims of the hats could be left plain or dressed up with a variety of trims.

Can you make a hat worthy of a heroic Admiral or maybe a wayward pirate?

Don’t forget to share your creations with us on social media.

Mission 5: Secret Messages & Spies

... make a cipher wheel

A top spy skill is the ability to exchange messages whilst keeping the contents a secret from interceptors. An easy way to create secret codes is through a cipher wheel.

Making a message unreadable is called “encrypting.” For the receiver to read the message again it needs to be “decrypted.” For “encrypting” and “decrypting” a spy would use the same code – this code is called a “cipher”.

Make a Cipher Wheel

Download and print the Cipher Wheel template here (or draw your own).

  1. Cut out all 3 disks on the template page,
  2. Assemble your Cipher Wheel with the largest disk on the bottom, the medium disk in the middle and the smallest on top.
  3. Use a paper faster (split pin) to secure the disks. All 3 disks should be centred and rotate freely.
  4. All done? Great job – now it’s time to start cracking codes.

Using your Cipher Wheel

To use your wheel to decode messages, you must first set the correct “key” (example: M21). Turn the inner wheel so that the number (21) lines up with the outer wheel letter (M).

Don’t move the wheel now, keep them in place.

For each letter of the hidden message, find that character on the outer wheel and write down the letter that is exactly beneath it on the inner wheel until your message is complete.

To read the encrypted message, get the key from the below message and align the wheel – keep the wheel in this position. For each letter of your message find the character on the inner wheel, and write down the letter that is directly above it on the outer wheel.

Can you decrypt the Captain Cat’s clues?

Q1: On land they are called Cannons. What are they called on a ship? (Key = D 8)


Q2: What were ships made of? (Key = H 17)


Q3: What shape were sailors plates? (Key = N 21)


Q4: Which famous naval commander did Admiral James Alexander Gordon serve under? (Key = X 4)


Why not have a go at creating your own Cipher Codes for your family to solve?


Mission 6: Spring

... make a busy, buzzing bee

Celebrate the bees at the Dockyard by creating your own busy bee that flies when you throw it.

Step 1:
Download and print the Bee template. Cut out the bee design.

Step 2:

Starting with your bee face down, fold it from corner to corner, so that the small black triangle is at the top.

Step 3:

Time to unfold it again – you should have a nice fold along the middle. Now fold the bottom half up so that it meets the middle fold.

Step 4:

We should be able to unfold and fold again, this time to the fold line before, and then once more.

Step 5:

Now we can begin to start folding our bee. Starting from the smallest fold you made, begin to fold upwards over and over until you get to the half way line.

Step 6:

Great job! Now all we need to do is tuck the two corners into each other and make a nice even circle opening at the front. Tuck the corners in nice and snug. Then, pinching with your fingers and thumbs, try to make the circle as neat as possible.

Step 7:

Your template also contains some black strips for you to use as antennae. Use some sticky tape to hold your folds and antennae in place. You can bend, twist and roll them to whichever shape you like.

Now you’re all ready to take your first flight….