Mike Hoare

Mike Hoare
Thomas Michael "Mad Mike" Hoare
Mike Hoare in the Congo in 1964. Photo by Agence Presse.jpg
Mike Hoare in the Congo in 1964 Credit: Agence Presse
Nickname Mad Mike
Born 1920
Service/branch British Army (Armour) and later mercenary
Rank Colonel

Thomas Michael Hoare (born 1920) (Mad Mike) is an Irish mercenary leader known for military activities in Africa and his failed attempt to conduct a coup d'état in the Seychelles.


Early life and military career

Hoare was born in India.[1] He spent his early days in Ireland and was educated in England. He served in North Africa as an Armour officer in the British Army during World War II, and achieved the rank of Captain. After the war, he emigrated to Durban, Natal Province, Union of South Africa, where he ran safaris and became a soldier-for-hire in various African countries.

Congo crisis

During the Congo Crisis Mike Hoare organized and led two separate mercenary groups:

  • 1960–1961. Major Mike Hoare's first mercenary action was in Katanga, a province trying to break away from the newly independent Congo. The unit was called "4 Commando". During this time he married Phyllis Simms, an airline stewardess.
  • 1964. Congolese Prime Minister Moïse Tshombe hired "Colonel" Mike Hoare to lead a military unit called "5 Commando (Congo)" made up of about 300 men most of whom were from South Africa. His second in command was a young South African paratrooper Capt. GD Snygans. The unit's mission was to fight a breakaway rebel group called Simbas. 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.[2]

The epithet "Mad" Mike Hoare comes from broadcasts by Communist East German radio during the fighting in the Congo in the Sixties. They would precede their commentary with "The mad bloodhound, Mike Hoare".

Irish-born 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 She had written an unpublished account of his adventures as a mercenary in the Congo.[3]

The Seychelles affair and subsequent conviction

In 1978, Seychelles exiles in South Africa, acting in behalf of ex-president James Mancham, discussed with South African Government officials launching a coup d'état against the new president France-Albert René. The military option was decided in Washington, D.C., due to United States concerns over access to its new military base in Diego Garcia island, the necessity to move operations from the Seychelles to Diego Garcia, and the determination that René was not corruptible 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 South African special forces (Recces), former Rhodesian soldiers, and ex-Congo mercenaries.[4]

Hoare got together a group of white, middle class mercenaries, and dubbed them "Ye Ancient Order of Froth-Blowers" (AOFB) after a posh English social club of the 1930s. 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."[5]

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 for some reason 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.

Four of the mercenary soldiers were left behind and were convicted of treason in the Seychelles.[4]

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.[4]

Mike Hoare was found guilty of airplane hijacking and sentenced to 10 years in prison. In total, forty-two of the forty-three alleged hijackers were convicted. One of the mercenaries, an American veteran of the U.S. – Vietnam War, was found not guilty of hijacking, as he had been being seriously wounded in the firefight, and loaded aboard while sedated.[4] 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, Colonel 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 Colonel Hoare, thus quite a database of potential mercenaries (contract employees) was developed, but none were ever called to serve with Colonel Hoare.

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

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 himself. At least one of the actors in the film (Ian Yule) had been an actual mercenary under Hoare's command. Of the actors playing mercenaries, four had been born in Africa, two were former POWs and most had received military training. Hardy Krüger was a former member of the Hitler youth, plus while serving in the German Army was captured but escaped numerous times.

Works by Mike Hoare


  • 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, p. 265-282.
  • Anthony Mockler: The new mercenaries, New York 1985.

See also


  1. ^ Villafaña, Frank (2009). Cold War in the Congo. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction. pp. 74. ISBN 978-1-4128-1007-4. 
  2. ^ "Changing Guard". Time Magazine. 19 December 1965. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,834782,00.html?promoid=googlep. Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  3. ^ Bree O'Mara's obituary The Times, 14 May 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d "Cooked Goose - "Mad Mike "gets ten years". Time magazine. 8 August 1982. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,925646-1,00.html. 
  5. ^ Hoare, Mike The Seychelles Affair (Transworld, London, 1986; ISBN 0 593 01122 8)

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