Married Quarters, airfields, Roger Byron Collins & Welbeck Estate
Having lived in MQs at RAF Watton between 1958 and 1961 I was lucky enough to live a few doors down from M/Nav Arthur Collins, his wife Doreen and his two sons Robert and Roger in Dixon Close. Arthur was aircrew B29 Washington and our families became close. Sadly, l totally lost touch with the Collins family! That was until a most incredible situation happened 20 years later when I purchased two former RAF houses in Lincolnshire at RAF Hemswell and RAF Faldingworth.. It transpired that the companies that owned both the sites, Welbeck Estate Group were owned by none other than Roger Collins. After I finally made contact with him, he was delighted to meet up with his old pal again...and he gave me a decent discount! My goodness he had advanced himself so after reading various references on their website: www.twsg.co.uk I decided to look further into this amazing character's background both for his love of military housing but his benevolence in dealing with former military personnel.
For the past 40 years Roger has specialised in the purchase of former MOD property -mainly married quarters but also all the MQs and entire tech site at RAF West Raynham plus a couple of ex RAF airfields at North Coates and Hemswell and the former Bomber/Strike Command HQ Bawtry Hall. It transpired that Roger and all his Welbeck colleagues have former RAF backgrounds. He is their driving force and his specialty has always been the preservation and retention of former MOD properties which has been his stated aim since he bought his first military site at in 1979. With former MOD housing after purchase the houses were modernised to a high standard and when were initially resold a large number of the buyers over the years have been serving or ex RAF personnel as Byron-Collins operated a discount and assistance scheme. When making further investigations I learnt that Roger's father Arthur, was long term RAF aircrew serving from 1939 to before retiring at RAF Northolt in 1979. His first home was an MQ at RAF Driffield in 1946 moving in 1950 to RAF Waddington where Arthur flew Avro Lincolns and B29 Washingtons. They lived in Married Quarters between 1946 and 1970 at RAF Driffield, Hemswell, Waddington, Marham, Waterbeach, Watton, Tangmere, Khormaksar Aden, Wildenrath Germany and Northolt. Whilst living in MQs at RAF Northolt he attended college training as a surveyor in London. After qualifying he went into the property business making a decision to specialise in the purchase, preservation of not only married quarters but technical domestic and airfield sites. Whilst living at RAF Northolt he made friends with a senior USAF military neighbour and as a result in 1979 he went to Arlington Virginia USA opening an office opposite The Pentagon. Within 6 months he purchased two apartment blocks of 480 apartments named The Cavendish and The Lancaster adjacent to the Pentagon and US Navy Annex and occupied mainly by the US military. Roger commuted every two weeks between Heathrow and Washington Dulles airports by Concorde as the UK business was flourishing as well. In 1979 Mrs Thatcher's Conservative government announced there were a surplus of MQ sites and disused airfields which were to be sold. Roger purchased his first military site which comprised 127 former NCO quarters at RAF Faldingworth, north of Lincoln. From his experience gained with his US military housing purchase andhe applied an American concept to these houses by the installation of a swimming pool and club house which he donated to all the buyers. The married quarters were renamed The Virginia Estate after his recently opened office in Arlington Virginia and the roads renamed after areas around Washington such as Washington Drive, Prince William Road, Fairfax Road. At only 33 years of age this proved very successful for him and he went on to acquire a further ex MOD 35 sites over the following 35 years including the following:
570 USAF MQs RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk. (Lords Walk Estate) Let to the USAF
300 RAF/USAF MQs RAF Bicester, Oxon
266 MOD Hirings Tricomm Portfolio let to MOD located in Bristol & Bath
172 Married Quarters RAF West Raynham 185 acre airfield site, tech site, 4 hangars
127 Married Quarters RAF Faldingworth, Lincs (renamed Virginia Estate)
133 Married Quarters RAF Middleton St George Durham (renamed Virginia Estate)
80 Married Quarters RAF Colerne, Chippenham, Wilts (Thickwood Estate)
30 Married Quarters RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset (Hermes Place)
20 Married Quarters RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset (Lyster Close)
110 Married Quarters RN Chatham, Kent (Walderslade MQ’s)
20 Married Quarters Army Quarters, Barlow, Yorks
55 Married Quarters RAF Halton, Bucks
66 RAF & Army MQs RAF Ballykelly/Shackleton Barracks, Northern Ireland
80 Married Quarters RNAS Eglinton, Londonderry (City Airport) Northern Ireland
92 Married Quarters RN Rosyth, Edinburgh, Scotland
321 Officers NCO MQ RAF Kinloss, Forres. Scotland
144 USAF & RAF MQs RAF Edzell, Brechin, Scotland
60 Married Quarters RAF Brize Norton, Oxon
30 Married Quarters RNAS Portland, Dorset (Southwell)
30 Married Quarters RNAS Portland, Dorset (Easton)
Airfield & Tech. Site RAF Hemswell, Lincs
70 Married Quarters RAF Manby, Lincs (Siskin Crescent MQs)
42 Married Quarters RAF Brawdy, Dyfed (St Davids Estate Haverfordwest)
Bomber Command HQ RAF Bawtry, S.Yorks
22 Married Quarters RAF Hemswell, Lincs
70 Married Quarters RAF North Coates, Lincs. Airfield & 260,000 sq ft Tech.Site.
42 Married Quarters RAF Shotley Gate (HMS Ganges)
90 Army MQs Tidworth Garrison Wilts. (Perham Down MQs)
110 Married Quarters RAF Scampton, Lincs
101 Married Quarters RAF Harwell, Oxon (UKAEA housing)
93 Married Quarters RAF Finningley, Doncaster
80 Married Quarters RAF Upwood, Cambs
50 Married Quarters RAF Linton on Ouse, Yorks
30 Married Quarters RAF Cranwell, Huntingdon
210 USAF MQs RAF Sculthorpe, Norfolk and 235 Acre Tech. Site
In 1996 the Conservative government decided to privatise the entire 55,000 Married Quarter Estate in England and Wales occupied by serving UK personnel. In partnership with Bankers Trust, Hodge Bank, Europa Capital and a few UK pension funds Roger raised £1.66 billion for the Ministry of Defence's 55,000 married quarter houses estate. Out of an original list of 100 approved bidders Roger's Group and the Japanese bank Nomura were the final two approved buyers. Despite severe criticism by former and serving military personnel at that time Michael Portillo, the then Defence Minister awarded the sale to Nomura and Roger's all British Consortium fully funded offer lost out by less than 0.2% of the sale's price. Nomura quickly decided to create an English sounding company to manage the estate and Annington Homes was formed that remains in place as the Married Quarter owners.
As well as Roger's MOD property interests, he had also started an airline! See link: www.saadonline.uk/archives/190
Whilst living with his parents at RAF Northolt at 17 he decided to obtain a PPL and started on a course at nearby Denham!
He realised that it was only for professionals as he nearly had a nasty accident on landing. However, he continued his aviation interest and purchased his first ex RAF Devon at 25 from Lulsgate Aviation Services of Bristol airport. Shortly afterwards he was approached by Harry Chang, a pilot of the then recently collapsed 'troop carrier' airline, Lloyds International who had available two contracts with Conoco and The Ford Motor Company. The first was to move offshore oil rig workers around North Sea ports and the second to convey spare parts for the recently introduced Ford Capri between Dagenham and Dusseldorf. With these contracts he formed Macedonian Aviation and immediately established a base at Southend airport.
In 1972 he went before the Civil Aviation Committee to obtain an AOC and the CAA chairman at the time was Lord Boyd-Carpenter. When the AOC was granted, he passed comment that "Mr Byron-Collins at only 26 years of age must be one of the youngest persons in British aviation history to be awarded with an AOC". Roger's earliest contracts were in the late autumn of 1972 when he ferried Michael Jackson, Jackson Five on their UK tour and Donny Osmond and the Osmonds.