Mike Hoare (Congo Mercenary) 1920-???

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Thomas Michael Hoare is probably the most famous mercenary in modern history and has been the inspiration for many films including ‘Wild Geese’ and several books. Mike Hoare helped in many ways to glamorise the mercenary trade in contrast to the harsh reality. He was born in Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland in 1920 and served in North Africa as an armour officer in the British Army during World War II, achieving the rank of Captain. After the war, he emigrated to Durban, South Africa, where among other employment, he ran safaris. Mike Hoare led mercenary companies in Africa in 1960 and 1964, and is famous for an aborted almost farcical coup attempt in the Seychelles Islands in November of 1981.

He first made his name as a mercenary in 1961 in The Congo, specifically in the break away province of Katanga, he called his unit “4 Commando” and during this time he also married an air stewardess called Phyllis Simms. Later in 1964 Hoare returned to the Congo with new unit “5 Commando”. Mike and his unit nicknamed the ‘Wild Geese’ worked Belgian paratroopers, Cuban exile pilots, and others who race frantically to save civilians (mostly Europeans and missionaries) in Stanleyville from the psychopathic Simbas. Many of Hoare’s exploits during the period are related in his book Congo Mercenary. Hoare was a strict disciplinarian and tried to keep high standards among his mercenaries, he once had a fellow mercenary tried for raping and killing a young girl, Hoare had the offender sentenced to have his big toes cut off, as the man was a keen footballer.

In 1981 Mike Hoares career once again hit the news this time with an almost bizarre and farcical episode in the Seychelles. Seychelles exiles in South Africa, acting on behalf of ex-president James Mancham, had begun discussions with officials concerning a coup attempt to be launched in Seychelles in 1978. The operation was entrusted to the 58 year old Hoare who was living in South Africa as a civilian. Among the 53 people selected to carry out the coup: some members of the South African Special Forces (Recces), several former Rhodesian soldiers and ex-Congo mercenaries. Hoare and 43 mercenaries were disguised as tourists: rugby players and members of a beer-drinking group called the Ancient Order of Frothblowers. They arrived in a Royal Swazi jet landing at Mahé airport, carrying their own weapons. 9 members had already arrived on the island as an advance guard. On the evening of Wednesday November 25th the coup was detected when a customs officer spotted an AK-47 in the luggage of one of Mike Hoares mercenaries. The mercenaries then fought a brief gun-battle at the airport and most of the mercenaries escaped aboard an Air India jet (Air India Boeing aircraft Flight 224), which happened to be on the runway, which they hijacked. One mercenary had died during the skirmish. He was twenty-four year old Johan Fritz of Westcliff, South Africa; the son of a General Mining executive who grew up on "Millionaire's Row." Five soldiers, a female accomplice and also Martin Dolinchek (alias Anton Lubic) were left behind.

The mercenaries took some hostages, who were later freed unharmed. A police sergeant was wounded and an army 2nd lieutenant David Antat was killed. The Seychelles government arrested the seven (6 men and 1 woman) who remained on the Seychelles and tried the men (June-July 1982). The charges against the woman were dropped. Four of the six were sentenced to death (Brooks, Carey, England and Puren); Dolinchek was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and Sims to 10. After negotiations, all were eventually returned to South Africa in mid-1983.

In January 1982 an International Commission, appointed by the UN Security Council, made an inquiry of this mercenary aggression. The UN report concluded South African defence agencies had been involved in the attempted takeover, including supplying weapons and ammunition. Hoare and his mercenaries were tried on their return to South Africa, but not for having attempted to organize a coup in a foreign country, but for specific offences under the Civil Aviation Offences Act of 1972. Hoare conducted his own defence towards the end of the trial. Justice Neville James told the court that Hoare, 63, was "an unscrupulous man with a highly cavalier attitude to the truth". Hoare got 10 years, Peter Duffy, Mike Webb, Tullio Moneta and Pieter Doorewaard, the most senior of the Recce Commando reservists among Hoares mercenaries, were sentenced to 5 years, Ken Dalgliesh to 1 year, and Charles Goatley to 2 1/2 years. The South African government opened negotiations for the return of the 6 arrested men. Mike Hoare glamorised the mercenary trade for a generation but was an unscrupulous and amoral character that could administer brutal justice in the name of discipline. The incident in the Seychelles illustrates how governments have often sought to utilise such mercenary companies to carry out their own objectives with little risk of being incriminated. What is truly sad is that the conditions that allow such men to thrive and operate not only still exist today but are on the increase as the situation in Iraq shows where many (but by no means all) of those listed as civilian contractors are in fact mercenaries and as the allied forces reduce their presence such private armies are on the increase.

The Road to Kalamata: Congo Mercenary's Personal Memoir, Mike Hoare. This covers Mike's operations in the Congo and his Wild Geese days, a colourful book not overly well written but giving a great flavour of the times cover cover cover

Seychelles Affair, Mike Hoare, 1987, 259 pages. This book details the almost farcical attempt to take over the Seychelles. cover cover

The New Mercenaries: The History of the Hired Soldier from the Congo to the Seychelles, Mockler, Anthony. A history of the modern hire soldier. As you'd expect from the title Mike Hoare features quite a lot in this book. A bit dated now with recent events in the Balkans and Iraq but does give an account of the heyday of the mercenary. cover cover cover

The Wild Geese, 1978. A tremendous tale of mercenaries in Africa and a very enjoyable film packed with the great actors of the time, Richard Burton as the band's leader, with Richard Harris, Roger Moore, Hardy Kruger, Jack Watson and Kenneth Griffiths. Packed with action and good acting this is an often-overlooked action/ war film recently released on DVD cover cover cover
How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, TDP. (30 September 2005, Mike Hoare (Congo Mercenary) 1920-???, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_hoare.html

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