Thereafter Hut 6 was my home—and I hope I may never have a less pleasant one or less good company for room-mates. In these latter I was perhaps peculiarly fortunate. But that is by the way. It suffices that twenty men, not one of whom I had ever seen before, welcomed a total stranger, and both at that moment and in the long months which were to elapse before various rearrangements began to scatter us, proved the warmest of friends.
Twenty-one of us shared our downsittings and our uprisings in Hut 6. There might have been an even number, twenty-two, but one bed’s place was monopolised by a stove (which in winter consumed coke, and in summer was the repository of old newspapers and orange-peel). The hut, accordingly, presented a vista of twenty-one beds, eleven along one wall and ten along the other, the stove and its pipe being the sole interruption of the symmetrical perspective. Above the beds ran a continuous shelf, bearing the hut-inhabitants’ equipment, or at least that portion of it—great-coat, water-bottle, mess-tin, etc.—not continually in use. Below each bed its owner’s box and his boots were disposed with rigid precision at an exact distance from the box and boots beneath the adjacent bed. In the ceiling hung two electric lights. These, with the stove, beds, shelves, boxes and boots, constituted the entire furniture of the hut—unless you count an alarm-clock, bought by public subscription, and notable for a trick of tinkling faintly, as though wanting to strike but failing, in the watches of the night, hours before its appointed minute had arrived. The hut contained no other furniture whatever, and in those days did not seem to us to require any. In the autumn, when the daylight shortened and we could no longer hold our parliaments on a bench outside, a couple of deck-chairs were mysteriously imported; and, as the authorities remained unshocked, a small table also appeared and was squeezed into a gap beside the stove. Some sybarite even goaded us into getting up a fund for a strip of linoleum to be laid in the aisle between the beds. This was done—I do not know why, for personally I have no objection to bare boards. I suppose linoleum is easier to keep clean than wood; and that aisle, tramped on incessantly by hobnail boots which in damp weather were, as to their soles and heels, mere bulbous trophies of the alluvial deposits of the neighbourhood, was sometimes far from speckless. But to me the strip of linoleum made our hut look remotely like a real room in a real house: it was a touch of the conventional which I never cared for, and I only subscribed to it when I had voted against it and been overborne. An extraordinary proposition, that we should inaugurate a plant in a pot on the stove’s lid in summer, was, I am glad to say, negatived. It would have been the thin end of the wedge ... we might have arrived at Japanese fans and photograph-frames on the walls.