Mid-Sussex Timber
History Of MST

To honour Remembrance month this year, we are sharing some of our very own history about our founder RD Waters and his time during WWII, with diaries written during his time as a POW, alongside press cuttings and telegrams from 1940. We wanted to release them this year to honour his story in aid of The Poppy Appeal.

Where did MST all begin?

MST was established in 1929 by R.D Waters and still to this day in 2020, it remains a family business. The first branch opened was at East Grinstead in 1929 and followed by Haywards Heath in College Road in 1933, Forest Row in 1966 and then Crowborough in 1994. His sons Tim and Simon took over in the 1980s and are still active in the business to this day. While grandson Alex is running the day to day business and his Granddaughters Cara and Tiffany part of the team.

21st of August 1940

"By way of passing the time while a POW I am making an attempt to write up an account of my experiences during the war against Germany, which started on the 3rd September 1939."

What happened next?

In 1939, R.D Waters, already a member of the Territorial Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in The Royal Sussex Regiment, was called up to serve in the British Expeditionary Force in France. After the battle of Dunkirk, many soldiers fate had been sealed, R.D Waters was one of these men, he was reported missing and believed to be injured, however, on August 19th 1940 he was officially reported as a prisoner of war by The Red Cross, his POW number was 892. Our founder then spent the next five years as a POW being marched from camp to camp in very poor conditions.

April 15th (Tues) 1941

There as rumour we should get Red X today but no luck at all so we remain hungry. We see what amounts to two pieces of thin bread for breakfast, have vegetable soup (very unfilling at 12 o’c), coffee at 4.30 and the usual 5th of loaf and either little margarine or dripping or sausage. Only a little of anything! It’s Hell! A few letters have arrived from **** so might have bit more luck soon!

May 19th (Mon) 1941

Last 2 days have been v fine and have been able to sit out most of the day. Had Red X parcel today making 13 1/6 parcels received to date. Did not have very good stuff in mine but by judicious trading managed to increase not only the number but also the quality ie things like carrots etc. for meat and fish! Was very busy for about 2 hours but thoroughly enjoyed myself. We also had 50 Golden Flake which helped the trading as I got 1 ib tin of meatloaf for them and my condensed milk from Portugal fetched 1 tin of bacon and 1 tin of sardines! After all, I don’t seem to have lost what business abilities I had!

What happened to MST?

Despite everything that was happening with RDW being a prisoner of war, the business managed to continue successfully throughout the war.

When was he released?

R.D Waters returned in 1945 to run the company and MST has become one of the largest timber merchants in Sussex. During his time in imprisonment his commander from the British army reported Waters as: “a natural leader, unassuming, but always willing and hardworking. A first-class fighting officer who installs confidence in his men”. This is truly reflected in the work he carried out when he returned to MST.

Why tell his story now?

Now, over 90 years later, we are very proud to still be a family run business. We are honoured to be carrying out RDW’s legacy today. Over the course of Remembrance month, we would like to release some of his diary extracts that he wrote during his time as a POW, transcripts and news clippings from his time in the war. We want our customers to learn more about the remarkable history behind MST and the man who created our company.

What's next?

In light of Remembrance month, our company lorries have been decorated with poppies and all staff members are wearing a poppy throughout November. We have collection boxes for the Royal British legion in each of our four branches. We also encourage you to visit our social channels to see more images, diary entries and newspaper cuttings about RD Waters' journey of survival through WWII.