R.I.P. Mike Hoare.
The world has lost one of its larger than life figures, Mike Hoare, aged 100. It is unusual for a mercenary to become a household name, but Michael Hoare, better known as Mad Mike Hoare, became just that.
Mike Hoare was born on the 17th March 1919 in Calcutta India, to Irish parents. At an early age, his parents sent him back to England for his schooling, where he attended Margate College.
On completing his education, he commenced training as an accountant. Mike wanted to attend Sandhurst, but this was not possible, so he joined the Territorial Army.
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At the outbreak of WWII, he joined the London Irish Rifles. Later he transferred to the 2nd Reconnaissance Regiment attached to the Royal Armoured Corps with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
He served with distinction in Burma on the Arakan Campaign and then in India at the Battle of Kohima. He ended the war with the rank of major.
In 1945 he married Elizabeth Stott, and the couple had three children. After the war, he completed his studies and qualified as an accountant in 1948.
He ran several small businesses in South Africa and true to his adventurous nature, in 1954, he set off to ride a motorcycle from Cape Town to Cairo. Following this adventure, he turned his hand to sunning safaris in the Okavango Delta and in the Kalahari Desert.
Mike was also a keen sailor, and he owned a Baltic trader yacht, named Sylvia, that he sailed in the Mediterranean Sea for a few years.
In 1961 he divorced Elizabeth, and two years later, he married Phyllis Sims, an airline stewardess. The couple had two children.
Mike Hoare detested communism, and this led to the birth of his nickname. His nickname came from East German radio, who described him as a “mad bloodhound,” a moniker that delighted him, and his nickname was born.
In 1961 he was introduced to Moise Tshombe. Tshombe was a Congolese politician who would later become prime minister of the Congo.
Tshombe employed Hoare to quell a rebellion in Katanga Province, which was attempting to break away from the Republic of the Congo.
Following his success in Katanga, Tshombe employed Hoare again in 1964 to head up a new military unit called 5 Commando, a part of the Armée Nationale Congolaise. Most of the 300 men in this unit were South African. The reason for creating the unit was to combat a revolt known as the Simba Rebellion.
The best-known action of this time was when 5 Commando, in conjunction with CIA operatives, Belgian paratroopers, and other formal and informal forces, worked tirelessly to save 1,600 refugees in Stanleyville from being slaughtered by the Simba rebels.
Hoare and his mixed group managed to save many lives. During this time, Hoare had given his unit the nickname “The Wild Geese,” and they became internationally famous.
This name became the title of a film released in 1978, starring Richard Burton as Colonel Allen Faulkner, a character modeled on Mike Hoare.
All the good publicity that Hoare gained during his time in the Congo was destroyed by his humiliating failure in the infamous “Package Holiday Coup,”; an abject failure.
Hoare knew the Seychelles well, and he despised the socialist government led by President Albert René. With tacit support from the South African and Kenyan governments, Hoare recruited 46 soldiers and planned to enter the Seychelles disguised as a rugby team.
The men passed through customs, but one of them joined the wrong queue and panicked when questioned by customs officers. The found a dismantled AK-47 rifle in his baggage, and the man spilled the beans.
The entire plan was compromised, and in the ensuing chaos, the group hijacked an Air India plane and flew back to South Africa.
On arrival in South Africa, the entire group was incarcerated for six days. The press had a field day with the story, and Mike Hoare was heavily ridiculed with his coup attempt being dubbed the package holiday coup.
Following a conviction for the hijacking of the Air India plane, Mike Hoare was sentenced to 20 years with 10 being suspended. He served 33 months of his sentence.
Mike Hoare spent the last years of his life writing his memoirs. He published The Road to Kalamata, The Seychelles Affair, and Mercenary.
He passed away in a care facility in Durban South Africa on the 2nd February 2020.
Mike Hoare’s son, Chris, summed up his father’s life succinctly by saying, “Mike Hoare lived by the philosophy that you get more out of life by living dangerously, so it is all the more remarkable that he lived more than 100 years.”