Mad Mike Hoare

Thomas Michael Hoare (17 March 1919 – 2 February 2020[1]), known as Mad Mike Hoare, was an Indian born Irish mercenary soldier who operated during the Simba rebellion, and attempted to conduct a coup d'état in the Seychelles.[2]

Mad Mike Hoare
Mike Hoare 2018.jpg
Mike Hoare, June 2018
Birth nameThomas Michael Hoare
Born(1919-03-17)17 March 1919
Calcutta, British India
Died2 February 2020(2020-02-02) (aged 100)
Durban, South Africa
Allegiance United Kingdom (Second World War-era)
BranchBritish Army
UnitLondon Irish Rifles
Elizabeth Stott
(m. 1945; div. 1961)
Phyllis Sims
(m. 1961)
Mercenary career
Nickname(s)"Mad Mike"

Early life and military careerEdit

Hoare was born on Saint Patrick's Day in Calcutta[3] to Irish parents. His father was a river pilot. At the age of eight he was sent to school in England to Margate College and then commenced training in accountancy[4] and, as he was not able to go to Sandhurst, he joined the Territorial Army. Hoare's childhood hero was Sir Francis Drake.[5] Aged 20 he joined the London Irish Rifles at the outbreak of the Second World War, later he then joined the 2nd Reconnaissance Regiment of the Royal Armoured Corps as a 2nd lieutenant and fought in the Arakan Campaign in Burma and at the Battle of Kohima in India.[6] He was promoted to the rank of major. In 1945, he married Elizabeth Stott in New Delhi, by whom he had three children.[7] A short man, Hoare was described by those who knew him as "dapper" and "charming".[7]

After the war, he completed his training as a chartered accountant, qualifying in 1948.[8] Hoare found life in London boring and decided to move to South Africa.[7] He subsequently emigrated to Durban, Natal Province in the Union of South Africa where he later ran safaris and became a soldier-for-hire in various African countries.[9] In Durban, Hoare was restless and sought adventures by marathon walking, riding a motorcycle from Cape Town to Cairo and seeking the rumored Lost City of the Kalahari in the Kalahari desert.[5] By the early 1960s, Hoare was extremely bored with his life as an accountant, and yearned to return to the life of a soldier, leading to his interest in becoming a mercenary.[5]  

Congo Crisis (1961–65)Edit

Hoare led two separate mercenary groups during the Congo Crisis.[10]


Hoare's first mercenary action was in 1961 in Katanga, a province trying to break away from the newly independent Republic of the Congo. His unit was called "4 Commando".[10] Hoare relished the macho camaraderie and the chaos of war, telling one journalist "you can't win a war with choirboys".[11]

During this time he married Phyllis Sims, an airline stewardess.[12]

Simba rebellionEdit

In 1964, Congolese Prime Minister Moïse Tshombe, his employer in Katanga, hired Hoare to lead a military unit called 5 Commando, Armée Nationale Congolaise 5 Commando (later led by John Peters;[13] not to be confused with No.5 Commando, the British Second World War commando force) made up of about 300 men most of whom were from South Africa. His second-in-command was a fellow ex-British Army officer, Commandant Alistair Wicks. The unit's mission was to fight a revolt known as the Simba rebellion.[14] Tshombe distrusted General Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, the commander of the Armée Nationale Congolaise who had already carried two coups, and preferred to keep the Congolese Army weak even in the face of the Simba rebellion.[15] Hence, Tshmobe turned to mercenaries who already fought for him in Katanga to provide a professional military force.[15]

To recruit his force, Hoare placed newspaper ads in Johannesburg and Salisbury (modern Harare, Zimbabwe) calling upon physically fit white men capable of marching 20 miles per day who were fond of combat and were "tremendous romantics" to join 5 Commando.[5] The moniker Mad Mike which was given to him by the British press suggested a "wildman" leader, but in fact Hoare was a very strict leader who insisted the men of 5 Commando always be clean-shaven, keep their hair cut short, never swear and attend church services every Sunday.[5] The men of 5 Commando were entirely white and consisted of a "ragbag of misfits" whom he imposed stern discipline upon.[5] 5 Commando was a mixture of South Africans, Rhodesians, British, Belgians, and Germans, of which the latter were mostly Second World War veterans who arrived in the Congo wearing Iron Crosses.[5] Racist views towards blacks were very common in 5 Commando, but in press interviews, Hoare denied allegations of atrocities against the Congolese.[5]  

To the press, Hoare insisted that the 5 Commando were not mercenaries, but rather "volunteers" who were waging an idealistic struggle against Communism in the Congo.[5] Tshombe paid the men of 5 Commando a sum of money equal to $1,100 U.S dollars per month.[5] Hoare always argued that he was a "romantic" who was fighting in the Congo for martial "glory", and insisted that for him the money was irrelevant.[5] Whatever may have been Hoare's motivation, his men showed rapacious greed in the Congo, being noted for their looting and a tendency to steal equipment from the United Nations forces in the Congo.[5] Reflecting his pride in his Irish heritage, Hoare adopted a flying goose as the symbol of 5 Commando and called his men the Wild Geese after the famous Irish soldiers who fought for the Stuarts in exile in the 17th and 18th centuries.[5] Hoare was known for coolness and courage under fire as he believed that the best way to inspire his men, some of whom wilted under fire, was to lead from the front.[5] He crushed a mutiny in his commando by pistol-whipping the leader of the mutiny.[5]

Hoare led his men south and then turned north in a swiftly moving offensive, supported with aircraft flown by Cuban emigres.[16] A particular specialty for Hoare was hijacking boats to take up the Congo river as he set about rescuing hostages from the Simbas.[5] The Simbas were badly disciplined, poorly trained, and often not armed with modern weapons, and for all these reasons, the well-armed, -trained, and -disciplined 5 Commando had a shattering impact on the Simba rebellion.[16] The British journalist A.J. Venter who covered the Congo crisis wrote as Hoare advanced, "the fighting grew progressively more brutal" with few prisoners taken.[16] Hoare's advance was aided by the fact that the roads in the Congo left over from Belgian colonial rule were still usable in 1964-65.[17] Hoare's men tended to collect the heads of Simbas and stick them to the sides of their jeeps.[5]   

Later Hoare and his mercenaries worked in concert with Belgian paratroopers, Cuban exile pilots, and CIA-hired mercenaries who attempted to save 1,600 civilians (mostly Europeans and missionaries) in Stanleyville (modern Kisangani, Congo) from the Simba rebels in Operation Dragon Rouge. This operation saved many lives.[18] Hoare and the 5 Commando are estimated to have saved the lives of 2,000 Europeans taken hostage by the Simbas, which made him famous around the world.[5] Many of the hostages had been so badly treated as to barely resemble humans, which added to the fame of Hoare, who was presented in the Western press as a hero.[5] He wrote about Stanleyville under the Simbas: "The mayor of Stanleyville, Sylvere Bondekwe, a greatly respected and powerful man, was forced to stand naked before a frenzied crowd of Simbas while one of them cut out his liver."[19] About Operation Dragon Rouge, he wrote: "Taking Stanleyville was the greatest achievement of the Wild Geese. There is only so much 300 men can do, but here we were, part of a very big push and clearing the rebels out of Stan was a major victory for our side."[19] Hoare did not stop his men from sacking Stanleyville as the 5 Commando blew up the vaults of every bank and cleared out the alcohol in every bar in the city.[5]

Hoare was later promoted to lieutenant-colonel in the Armée Nationale Congolaise and 5 Commando expanded into a two-battalion force. Hoare commanded 5 Commando from July 1964 to November 1965.[20] After completing his service, he told the media that he estimated that 5 Commando had killed between 5,000-10,000 Simbas.[5] The Simbas had been advised by Cuban officers, and one of them was the Argentine Communist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, which led to Hoare to claim he was the first man to have defeated Che Guevara.[5]   

Speaking on the conflict, he said, "I had wanted nothing so much as to have 5 Commando known as an integral part of the ANC, a 5 Commando destined to strike a blow to rid the Congo of the greatest cancer the world has ever known—the creeping, insidious disease of communism".[21] After returning to South Africa, Hoare told the media that "killing communists is like killing vermin, killing African nationalists is as if one is killing an animal. My men and I have killed between 5,000-10,000 Congo rebels in the 20 months that I have spent in the Congo. But that’s not enough. There are 20 million Congolese you know, and I assume that about half of them at one time or another were rebels whilst I was down here."[7]

Later, Hoare wrote his own account of 5 Commando's role in the 1960s Congo mercenary war, originally titled Congo Mercenary[22] and much later repeatedly republished in paperback simply as Mercenary (subtitled "The Classic Account of Mercenary Warfare").[citation needed] The exploits of Hoare and 5 Commando in the Congo were much celebrated for decades afterward and helped contribute significantly to the glorification of the mercenary lifestyle in magazines such as Soldier of Fortune together with countless pulp novels that featured heroes clearly modeled after Hoare. The popular image of mercenaries fighting in Africa in the 1960s to the present is that of a macho adventurers defiantly living life on their own terms together with much drinking and womanizing mixed in with hair-raising adventures.[23]

The Wild GeeseEdit

In the mid-1970s, Hoare was hired as technical adviser for the film The Wild Geese,[24] the fictional story of a group of mercenary soldiers hired to rescue a deposed African president who resembled Tshombe while the central African nation the story was set in resembled the Congo.[23] The character "Colonel Alan Faulkner" (played by Richard Burton) was modelled on Hoare. At least one of the actors in the film, Ian Yule, had been a mercenary under Hoare's command, before which he had served in the British Parachute Regiment and Special Air Service (SAS).[25] Of the actors playing mercenaries, four were born in Africa, two were former POWs, and most had received military training.[citation needed]

In an interview, Hoare praised The Wild Geese as an authentic picture of the mercenary lifestyle in Africa saying: "In a good mercenary outfit, they're all there because they want to be. All right, the motive is probably the high money they're earn, but they all want to do it. They're all volunteers".[23] The film's message that Africa needed pro-Western leaders like Tshombe and that mercenaries who fought for such leaders were heroes seemed to reflect Hoare's influence.[23]

Seychelles affair (1981) and subsequent convictionEdit


In 1978, Seychelles exiles in South Africa, acting on behalf of ex-president James Mancham, discussed with South African Government officials launching a coup d'état against the new president France-Albert René, who had "promoted" himself from prime minister while Mancham was out of the country. The coup was seen favorably by some in Washington, D.C., due to the United States' concerns over access to its new military base on Diego Garcia island, the necessity to move operations from the Seychelles to Diego Garcia, and the determination that René was not someone who would be in favour of the United States.[26]


Associates of Mancham contacted Hoare, then in South Africa as a civilian resident, who eventually raised a force of about 55 men including ex-South African Special Forces (Recces), former Rhodesian soldiers, and ex-Congo mercenaries.[27]

Now in November 1981, Hoare dubbed them "Ye Ancient Order of Froth Blowers" (AOFB) after a charitable English social club of the 1920s. In order for the plan to work, he disguised the mercenaries as a rugby club, and hid AK-47s in the bottom of their luggage, as he explained in his book The Seychelles Affair:

We were a Johannesburg beer-drinking club. We met formally once a week in our favourite pub in Braamfontein. We played Rugby. Once a year we organised a holiday for our members. We obtained special charter rates. Last year we went to Mauritius. In the best traditions of the original AOFB we collected toys for underprivileged kids and distributed them to orphanages ... I made sure the toys were as bulky as possible and weighed little. Rugger footballs were ideal. These were packed in the special baggage above the false bottom to compensate for the weight of the weapon.[28]


The fighting started prematurely when one of Hoare's men accidentally got into the "something to declare" line at which the customs officer insisted on searching his bag.[14] The rifles were well-concealed in the false-bottomed kitbags; however, one rifle was found and a customs officer sounded the alarm. One of Hoare's men pulled his own, disassembled AK-47 from the concealed compartment in the luggage, assembled it, loaded it and shot the escaping customs man before he could reach the other side of the building.

The plan for the coup proceeded despite this set-back with one team of Hoare's men attempting to capture a barracks. Fighting ensued at the airport and in the middle of this, an Air India jet (Flight 224) landed at the airport, damaging a flap on one of the trucks strewn on the runway. Hoare managed to negotiate a ceasefire before the aircraft and passengers were caught in the crossfire. After several hours, the mercenaries found themselves in an unfavorable position where some wanted to depart on the aircraft, which needed fuel. Hoare conceded and the captain of the aircraft allowed them on board after Hoare had found fuel for the aircraft.

On board, Hoare asked the captain why he had landed when he had been informed of the fighting taking place, to which the pilot responded once the aircraft had started to descend he did not have enough fuel to climb the aircraft back to cruising altitude and still make his destination. Hoare's men still had their weapons and Hoare asked the captain if he would allow the door to be opened so they could ditch the weapons over the sea before they returned to South Africa, but the captain laughed at Hoare's out-of-date knowledge on how pressurized aircraft functioned, telling him it would not be at all possible.[29]

Investigation and trialEdit

Six of the mercenary soldiers stayed behind on the islands; four were convicted of treason in the Seychelles.[27]

In January 1982 an International Commission, appointed by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 496, inquired into the attempted coup d'état. The UN report concluded that South African defence agencies were involved, including supplying weapons and ammunition.[citation needed]

Being associated with the South African security services, the hijackers were initially charged with kidnapping, which carries no minimum sentence, but this was upgraded to hijacking after international pressure.[27]

Hoare was found guilty of aeroplane hijacking and sentenced to ten years in prison.[30] In total, 42 of the 43 alleged hijackers were convicted. One of the mercenaries, an American veteran of the Vietnam War, was found not guilty of hijacking, as he had been seriously wounded in the firefight and was loaded aboard while sedated.[27] Many of the other mercenaries, including the youngest of the group, Raif St Clair, were quietly released after serving three months of their six-month terms in their own prison wing.[31] Hoare spent 33 months in prison until released after a Christmas Presidential amnesty.[32] During his 33 months in prison, Hoare consoled himself by memorising Shakespeare.[5]


Hoare was a chartered accountant and member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. Previously the Institute had said it could not expel him despite protests from members as he had committed no offence and paid his membership dues. His imprisonment allowed the ICAEW to expel him from membership in 1983.[8]

Hoare's account of the Seychelles operation, The Seychelles Affair, was markedly critical of the South African establishment.[33] In 2013, he published his seventh book, a historical novel entitled The Last Days of the Cathars about the medieval persecution of the Cathars in the south-west of France.[19] In his last decades, Hoare had extensively studied the beliefs of the Cathars.[19]

Personal lifeEdit

Hoare married Elizabeth Stott in New Delhi in 1945 and together they had three children, Chris, Tim and Geraldine.[30]

He left accountancy and ran a motor car business. In 1954, he motorcycled across Africa from Cape Town to Cairo. In 1959 he set up a safari business in the Kalahari and the Okavango delta. A keen sailor, he had a yacht in Durban, then later bought a 23-metre Baltic trader called Sylvia in which he sailed the Western Mediterranean for three years with his family and wrote a book about the travels.[34]

After divorcing in 1960, he married airline stewardess Phyllis Sims in 1961 and they had two children, Michael Jeremy and Simon.[30]

Irish-South African novelist Bree O'Mara (1968–2010) was his niece. She wrote an account of Hoare's adventures as a mercenary in the Congo,[35] which remained unpublished at the time of her death on Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771.[36]

Hoare's son Chris Hoare wrote a biography on his father, titled 'Mad Mike' Hoare: The Legend.


Hoare died of natural causes on 2 February 2020 in a care facility in Durban at the age of 100.[1][2]

Works by Mike HoareEdit

  • Congo Mercenary, London: Hale (1967), ISBN 0-7090-4375-9; Boulder, CO: Paladin Press (reissue 2008, with new foreword), ISBN 978-1-58160-639-3; Durban: Partners in Publishing (2019)
  • Congo Warriors, London: Hale (1991), ISBN 0-7090-4369-4; Boulder, CO: Paladin Press (reissue 2008, with new foreword, Durban: Partners in Publishing (2019);
  • The Road to Kalamata: a Congo mercenary's personal memoir, Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books (1989), ISBN 0-669-20716-0; Boulder, CO: Paladin Press (reissue 2008, with new foreword, ISBN 978-1-58160-641-6); Durban: Partners in Publishing (2019)
  • The Seychelles Affair, Bantam, ISBN 0-593-01122-8; Boulder, CO: Paladin Press (reissue 2008, with new foreword); Durban: Partners in Publishing (2019)
  • Three Years with Sylvia, London: Hale, ISBN 0-7091-6194-8; Boulder, CO: Paladin Press (reissue 2010, with new foreword); Durban: Partners in Publishing (2019)
  • Mokoro – A Cry for Help! Durban North: Partners in Publishing (2007), ISBN 978-0-620-39365-2
  • Mike Hoare′s Adventures in Africa, Boulder, CO: Paladin Press (2010), ISBN 978-1-58160-732-1; Durban: Partners in Publishing (2019)
  • The Last Days of the Cathars, Durban: Partners in Publishing (2012 and 2019)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Obituaries, Telegraph (2 February 2020). "'Mad Mike' Hoare, mercenary leader – obituary". The Daily Telegraph.
  2. ^ a b "Eeben Barlow, Formerly of Executive Outcomes, on Mad Mike Hoare, the Legend's Death".
  3. ^ "Mad Mike Hoare 'The Legend'. A Biography By Chris Hoare". Guards Magazine.
  4. ^ Jill de Villeirs, Chris Hoare. 'Mad Mike" Hoare: The Legend' a biography by Chris Hoare (Youtube video). CNNAfrica.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w "Living Dangerously". The Economist. 22 February 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  6. ^ "'Mad Mike' Hoare: The Legend". South African military history society.
  7. ^ a b c d "'Mad Mike' Hoare obituary: African mercenary of Irish extraction". The Irish Times. 15 February 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Cautionary Tales: Soldier of Fortune". Accountancy. ICAEW. 148 (1421): 113. January 2012. ISSN 0001-4664.
  9. ^ "A brief biography of Mike Hoare, listing some of his involvements around the world". Archived from the original on 2 February 2020. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  10. ^ a b Kerridge, Jake (15 March 2019). "Last of the gentleman mercenaries: the incredible life of Wild Geese leader 'Mad Mike' Hoare". The Daily Telegraph.
  11. ^ Burke 2018, p. 46.
  12. ^ "Mike Hoare (Congo Mercenary)".
  13. ^ . 29 March 2013 Archived from the original on 29 March 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2017. Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  14. ^ a b March 2019, Don Hollway (8 February 2019). "Mad Mike and His Wild Geese". HistoryNet.
  15. ^ a b Venter 2006, p. 249-250.
  16. ^ a b c Venter 2006, p. 250.
  17. ^ Venter 2006, p. 275.
  18. ^ "Changing Guard". Time. 19 December 1965. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 6 June 2007.
  19. ^ a b c d Williamson, Marcus (25 February 2020). "'Mad' Mike Hoare: Mercenary and inspiration for The Wild Geese". The Independent. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  20. ^ Anthony Mockler, The New Mercenaries, Corgi, 1986, 111
  21. ^ Mad Mike and his Wild Geese, Don Hollway, March 2019
  22. ^ Hoare, Michael (1 July 1967). Congo Mercenary (1st ed.). London: Robert Hale Ltd. ISBN 9780709100966.
  23. ^ a b c d Burke 2018, p. 110.
  24. ^ "The Wild Geese". 8 May 2014.
  25. ^ "Help! Identify Toshs shorty FN from Wild Geese". Army Rumour Service. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  26. ^ Blum, William. Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions since World War II. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2004. pp. 268–269. ISBN 1-56751-252-6
  27. ^ a b c d "Cooked Goose – "Mad Mike" gets ten years". Time. 8 August 1982. Archived from the original on 19 February 2009.
  28. ^ Hoare, Mike The Seychelles Affair (Transworld, London, 1986; ISBN 0-593-01122-8)
  29. ^ "Congo Mercenary Mike Hoare Released in South Africa". AP NEWS.
  30. ^ a b c McFadden, Robert D. (3 February 2020). "'Mad Mike' Hoare, Irish Mercenary Leader in Africa, Dies at 100". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  31. ^ "Seychelles withdraws treason charge against mercenary". UPI archives.
  32. ^ ""Mad Mike Hoare", by Chris Hoare". South Africa national society.
  33. ^ (Transworld, London, 1986; ISBN 0-593-01122-8)
  34. ^ "'Mad Mike Hoare', by Chris Hoare". SANS.
  35. ^ Bree O'Mara's obituary The Times, 14 May 2010.
  36. ^ "Irish-South African Author Bree O'Mara Killed in Libya Plane Crash | …". 27 May 2010. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010.

Further readingEdit

  • Kyle Burke Revolutionaries for the Right: Anticommunist Internationalism and Paramilitary Warfare in the Cold War, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018, ISBN 1469640740.
  • Torsten Thomas/Gerhard Wiechmann: Moderne Landsknechte oder Militärspezialisten? Die "Wiedergeburt" des Söldnerwesens im 20.Jahrhundert im Kongo, 1960–1967, in: Stig Förster/Christian Jansen/Günther Kronenbitter (Hg.): Rückkehr der Condottieri? Krieg und Militär zwischen staatlichem Monopol und Privatisierung: Von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, Paderborn u.a. 2009, pp. 265–282.
  • Anthony Mockler: The new mercenaries, New York 1985.
  • A.J. Venter War Dog: Fighting Other People's Wars: The Modern Mercenary in Combat, New Delhi: Lancer Publishers, 2006, ISBN 8170621747.
  • Chris Hoare: 'Mad Mike' Hoare: The Legend, Durban: Partners in Publishing, 2018, ISBN 9780620798617

External linksEdit