Colonel Mike Hoare

Michael Thomas Bernard Hoare, better known to the world as “Mad Mike”, was born in India in 1919. He spent his early days in India and was educated in England, but his blood was Irish. During World War 2 he served initially in the London Irish Rifles, became an expert in small arms, and then attended officer school. He then joined the Royal Armoured Corps as a 2nd lieutenant and in time headed east. He fought at the battle of Kohima in India, and in the Arakan, Burma. He was demobbed as major.

He completed his studies in London after the war and qualified as a chartered accountant. In 1948, now with a wife and child, he emigrated to Durban, South Africa. He made a good living in the motor business and ran safaris across the Kalahari to the Okavango Delta.

In 1961, after the Belgian Congo had become independent and the copper-rich province of Katanga had seceded from the Congo, Mike was recruited to assist Moise Tshombe of Katanga against the United Nations and Congolese forces, playing a minor role. When two of his men went missing, he mounted a patrol to locate the men, but found only their jeep.

In July 1964 after four years of uneasy independence, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was engulfed by a communist-inspired rebellion, which spread through the country with the speed and ferocity of a bush fire. The rebel soldiers, known as “Simbas”, struck terror into the hearts of civilians and national army alike, raping, looting and burning. Faced with this situation, Tshombe, on the advice of his South African aide, Jerry Puren, called Mike Hoare in again, and commissioned him to raise and lead a force of mercenary soldiers, to be called 5 Commando. Later Mike dubbed them the Wild Geese.

In 18 months Mike and his strike force liberated Stanleyville, freed many hundreds of European hostages, and finally restored law and order to the Congo. Mike led 5 Commando from July 1964 to December 1965. He was once called that “Mad Bloodhound Hoare” by an East Berlin broadcaster, because of his persistence in pursuing the enemy.

Before July 1964 Mike was virtually unknown, but 18 months later when he retired as Lt Colonel, he was one of the most famous mercenary leaders in the world. He had swept the Congo clean of savages, and made modern mercenary soldiering briefly but confusingly respectable. Hoare was quietly spoken, confident, cool, collected, charming in manner, boyish in looks, dapper in uniform, every inch the English officer and gentleman. 

Mike was the technical advisor on the film “The Wild Geese” staring Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Roger Moore and a host of other stars. It is based on a novel by the Irish-born Rhodesia-based Daniel Carney. The film is accurate in detail and some say it was the best mercenary film ever made. The name “Wild Geese’ comes from the thousands of noble Irish mercenaries had fought in foreign armies in the 18th century, and they had called themselves ‘Wild Geese’.

In 1981, Hoare recruited a band of men and attempted a coup in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, but it failed and he and most of his men escaped by hijacking an airliner back to South Africa. They were all tried and given prison terms. Mike was released from prison on 7 May 1985 under an amnesty, having served 33 months of his ten-year sentence.

Chris Hoare, Biographer of Mike Hoare 2016