Mad Mike Hoare

Mad Mike Hoare
Birth name Thomas Michael Hoare
Born (1919-03-17) 17 March 1919 (age 100)
British India
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Rank Colonel
Unit London Irish Rifles
Mercenary career
Nickname(s) "Mad Mike"

Thomas Michael "Mad Mike" Hoare (born 17 March 1919) is a British mercenary leader and adventurer known for military activities in Africa and his attempt to conduct a coup d'état in the Seychelles. He turned 100 years old in 2019, despite his lifelong philosophy that 'you get more out of life by living dangerously'.

His son Chris Hoare wrote a biography on Mike Hoare's life of derring do. It is titled 'Mad Mike' Hoare: The Legend.

Early life and military career

Hoare was born in British India[1] and was educated in England. He joined the London Irish Rifles at the outbreak of World War II, and served as an officer in India and Burma. He was promoted to the rank of major. After the war, he trained as a chartered accountant, qualifying in 1948.[2] 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.

Congo Crisis (1961–65)

Mike Hoare led two separate mercenary groups during the Congo Crisis.


Mike 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".

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

Simba rebellion

In 1964, Congolese Prime Minister Moïse Tshombe, his employer in Katanga, hired Major Mike Hoare to lead a military unit called 5 Commando, Armée Nationale Congolaise (5 Commando ANC) (later led by John Peters;[3] 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.

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 from the Simba rebels in Operation Dragon Rouge. This operation saved many lives.[4] 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.[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.”[6]

Later, Hoare wrote his own account of 5 Commando's role in the 1960s Congo mercenary war, originally titled Congo Mercenary[7] and much later repeatedly republished in paperback simply as Mercenary (subtitled "The Classic Account of Mercenary Warfare").

The Wild Geese

In the mid-1970s, Hoare was hired as technical adviser for the film The Wild Geese, the fictional story of a group of mercenary soldiers hired to rescue a deposed African president. Colonel Alan Faulkner (played by Richard Burton) was patterned 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).[8] Of the actors playing mercenaries, four had been born in Africa, two were former POWs and most had received military training.

Seychelles affair (1981) and subsequent conviction


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 military option was decided in Washington, D.C., due to 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 Americans.


Associates of Mancham contacted Hoare, then in South Africa as a civilian resident, to fight alongside fifty-three other mercenary soldiers, including ex-South African Special Forces (Recces), former Rhodesian soldiers, and ex-Congo mercenaries.[9]

Hoare got together, in November 1981, a group of white, middle class mercenaries, and 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 his 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.[10]


The fighting started prematurely when one of Hoare's men accidentally got in the "something to declare" line and the customs officer insisted on searching his bag. The rifles were well-concealed in the false-bottomed kitbags but the rifle was found and the customs man, running from the scene, 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 (Air India Boeing aircraft 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 and 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 and he responded that 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 and told him it would not be possible.

Investigation and trial

Four of the mercenary soldiers were left behind and were convicted of treason in the Seychelles.[9]

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.

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.[9]

Hoare was found guilty of airplane hijacking and sentenced to ten years in prison. 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.[9] Many of the other mercenaries, including the youngest of the group, Raif St Clair, were quietly released after three months in their own prison wing.


While still in prison, Hoare began signing up "Honorary Members" in "The Wild Geese". As the process required some information on former military service and military specialties, many reports called this a recruitment drive. Many thousands of active and former military personnel applied with Hoare, thus quite a database of potential mercenaries (contract employees) was developed, but none were ever called to serve with Hoare.

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.[2]

Hoare's account of the Seychelles operation, The Seychelles Affair, was markedly critical of the South African establishment.

Personal life

Irish-South African novelist Bree O'Mara (1968–2010) was his niece. She had written an unpublished account of his adventures as a mercenary in the Congo,[11] when she died on Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771.

Works by Mike Hoare

  • 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)


  • 'Mad Mike' Hoare: The Legend, written by Mike Hoare's son Chris Hoare, a journalist, and published by Partners in Publishing, Durban, South Africa, in July 2018. In bookshops in South Africa. Also in bookshops and via online outlets in the UK and Ireland. ISBN 9780620798617 Also via


  • 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.

See also


  1. ^ "A brief biography of Mike Hoare, listing some of his involvements around the world". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Cautionary Tales: Soldier of Fortune". Accountancy. ICAEW. 148 (1421): 113. January 2012. ISSN 0001-4664.
  3. ^ "Wayback Machine". 29 March 2013. Archived from the original on 29 March 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. ^ "Changing Guard". Time Magazine. 19 December 1965. Retrieved 6 June 2007.
  5. ^ Anthony Mockler, The New Mercenaries, Corgi, 1986, 111
  6. ^ Mad Mike and his Wild Geese, Don Hollway, March 2019
  7. ^ Hoare, Michael (1 July 1967). Congo Mercenary (1st ed.). London: Robert Hale Ltd. ISBN 9780709100966.
  8. ^ "Help! Identify Toshs shorty FN from Wild Geese | Army Rumour Service". Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d "Cooked Goose – "Mad Mike" gets ten years". Time magazine. 8 August 1982.
  10. ^ Hoare, Mike The Seychelles Affair (Transworld, London, 1986; ISBN 0-593-01122-8)
  11. ^ Bree O'Mara's obituary The Times, 14 May 2010.