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The Wild Geese / Michael "Mad Mike" Hoare

Michael "Mad Mike" Hoare was the world's most famous mercenary. In the 1978 film The Wild Geese Richard Burton played a character who was based on Hoare. Hoare came to prominence in the 1960s when he led a group of mercenaries who fought in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was involved in a series of coups and civil wars in Africa in the 1970s but his career came to a shuddering halt in 1981 when he was captured and jailed after leading a botched coup in the Seychelles.

Hoare served in the British Army during the Second World War and after leaving the forces he trained as an accountant and ran several businesses in South Africa, but soon got bored. In 1961 he met Mose Tshombe and three years later Tshombe, by then Prime Minister of the Congo hired him to lead a group of mercenaries fighting a communist rebellion.

Congo had become independent of Belgium in 1960 but its first leader, Patrice Lumumba, was assassinated and the country was in danger of disintegrating in ethnic civil wars. Major Mike Hoare - an Irishman by birth, ex-British Army, ex-guerrilla fighter in Malaysia, ex-mercenary in Katanga, and then resident in Durban - was waiting in Leopoldville to meet Tshombe on the matter of re-employment. Hoare had been suggested by his friend, Gerry Puren, Tshombe's air force commander in Katanga, as the man to organise and lead mercenaries waiting in Europe and Africa. That these "mercs" would come mostly from South Africa and Rhodesia was no particular choice of Tshombe.

Hoare got the job and in a directive signed by Major General Joseph Mobutu, Commander-in-Chief of the ANC, he was told to organize a thousand mercenaries and start retaking rebel-held cities, including Stanleyville, imm~diatement. The main training base and siaging area would be at Kamina, deep in Tshombe's Katanga. 8 Hoare and Puren acted fast The first contingent of 40 mercenaries flew from Johannesburg to Kamina on 22 August 1964.

Hoare had nicknamed his men the "Wild Geese," the name given the thousands of Irish mcrcenaries who had fought in foreign armies in the eighteenth century. To the Simbas, however, finding that their magic charms were not turning mercenary bullets to water, Hoare's men became Les Affreux (The Horrible Ones).

On 31 August 1964, rhe rebel radio announced that all Amencans and Europeans would be held hostage until Tshombe stopped using mercenaries. In Kalima, the mercenaries rescued 94 more Europeans, including 48 Belgian priests imprisoned in their mission. They had been singled out for execution and Hoare's "Wild Geese" had arrived in the nick of time. Roughly 1,500 foreign nationals and 150 Congolese civilians were evacuated to Leopoldville.

Hoares Wild Geese gained global notoriety in the next two years, and in 1978 a film of the same name, starring Richard Burton and Roger Moore, was loosely based on their exploits. A tough group of mercenaries parachute into the African bush to snatch a deposed African president for reinstatement.

Hoare was an anti-communist and when an East German journalist described him as that mad bloodhound Hoare he relished the description and encouraged reporters to call him Mad Mike. But his career came unstuck three years later when, with the support of apartheid-era South Africa, he tried to overthrow President Albert Ren, the socialist leader of the Seychelles.

He recruited 46 mercenaries who were supposed to pose as rugby players to get into the country and had a huge cache of weapons hidden in their luggage. But one of the men got into an argument with a customs officer at Mahe airport and when an AK-47 rifle was found in his suitcase the plan began to unravel. The mercenaries took over an Air India plane and flew back to South Africa. Hoare was ridiculed and the whole escapade was dubbed "the package-holiday coup" by the British press.

Hoare was jailed for 20 years for hijacking the Air India plane but only served 33 months in a South African jail. After his release he gave up the life of a mercenary but published several lucrative memoirs.

Hoare and Bob Denard, a former colonel in the French armed forces, were celebrity mercenaries in an era when soldiers of fortune made a good living fighting in Africas numerous conflicts. 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, and died 03 February 2020 in an old peoples home in Durban, South Africa.

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Page last modified: 24-02-2020 18:24:08 ZULU