SOF: Mad Mike Hoare, with a bunch of his mercs, dubbed the 50 ‘Frothblowers’ invaded the Seychelles in an attempt to take over the government in 1981. The mission was aborted. Needing to get the hell out of town, the mercs hijacked an aircraft and flew back to South Africa where they were all arrested.
The men flew into their target with their AK-47s hidden in false-bottom baggage. A weapon was found on landing, all hell broke loose and ultimately Mike and the Frothblowers, as he nicknamed them, flew to South Africa in a Boeing 707 that came in to land at the wrong moment. Ultimately, Mike was jailed for ten years, but pardoned after 33 months.
SOF, becoming aware of the predicament of Mike and the Mercs, ran an ad in the SOF magazine, selling patches, that helped raise money for Mike Hoare’s legal defense. AT $5 a piece, SOFers purchased 3500 patches, raising over $15K, a lot of money back in the early 1981.
Recently, SOF interviewed Mike’s son Chris to talk about Mike Hoare’s autobiography that he wrote, Mike Hoare, the Legend
Lt Col ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare believed you get out of life by living dangerously. And yet about 35 family and friends gathered in Durban on 17 March, St Patrick’s Day, to honour Mike as he turned 100 years old. Among them were five of the Wild Geese who fought with him in 5 Commando in the Congo in the 1960s to crush a communist rebellion, rescue 2000 nuns and priests from barbarity, and defeat Che Guevara. Asked his secrets for longevity, the Irishman always says, “Laughter is the best medicine. But more seriously, there is very little that two asprins cannot fix. And never go and see doctors because they will only find something wrong with you.”
Mike is the subject of an authoritative biography which was published last year, titled ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare: The Legend, written by his son, journalist Chris Hoare.
Mike was schooled in England and, during World War 2, was the ‘best bloody soldier in the British Army’. He was demobbed as major after seeing action at Kohima, India, qualified in London as a chartered accountant and emigrated to South Africa.
Going rogue, he started living dangerously to get more out of life, including trans-Africa motorbike trips, bluewater sailing, exploring remote areas, and leading safaris in the Kalahari Desert. Here Mike got to know the CIA agent who was to change his life … and Nelson Mandela’s. Later Mike was technical advisor to the film The Wild Geese, which starred Richard Burton playing the Mike Hoare character.
In 1981 Mike led 50 ‘Frothblowers’ in a bid to depose the socialist government of the Seychelles. Things went wrong and soon Mike was to spend three years in the slam for hijacking a Boeing 707 before being granted an amnesty. The funds referred to above helped in his legal defense.
Later, Mike Hoare wrote a feature for SOF of how one soldier of fortune’s adventure with 5 Commando “Nightwatch” during the Katanga Crisis became a misadventure. We will rerun that feature shortly.
Now for an insight into Mad Mike as SOF speaks with author CHRIS HOARE, son of ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare Before Mike’s Death
Chris Hoare is a journalist in South Africa and the eldest son of ‘Mad Mike’. With unique access to Mike and his story, it took him about 12 years, working between times, to research and write this authoritative and referenced biography.
How is ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare today?
- Mike will be 100 years old on 17 March 2019. That’s St Patrick’s Day. Nice day to be born if you are Irish. Mike’s physical health is good. He has always said, to stay healthy never go and see a doctor because he will only find something wrong with you. Said like a true Irishman. As you can imagine, Mike moves slowly now, but he is as polite and charming as ever. His memory, however, has gone AWOL. He is living quietly in Durban, South Africa.
- What was it like growing up with a ‘hired killer’ in the house?
- Most people agree Mike was an officer and a gentleman. Some have called him a gentleman adventurer. Whatever, there was a bit of pirate thrown in, but certainly growing up I never saw any sign of the pirate. He had a big reputation in military circles for being a disciplinarian, but at home that was not the case. He did not believe in corporal punishment – I never received a beating from him. Nor, incidentally, did he believe in capital punishment – especially after his experience in Pretoria Central Prison, where the executions were carried out at dawn not far from his building.
- What were some of the non-military adventures Mike went on?
- When Mike arrived in Africa in 1948, he espoused the then popular philosophy that you get more out of life by living dangerously. His adventures including riding a motorbike from Cape Town to Cairo (1953) and Africa from east to west (1954); pioneering a road across the high mountains of Basutoland (now Lesotho); running safaris across the Kalahari Desert to the Okavango delta; looking for the Lost City of the Kalahari; searching for a mysterious ape in Nyasaland (now Malawi). And plenty of bluewater sailing adventures.
- How did Mike come to be employed as a mercenary leader in the Congo?
- This is extraordinary. One of the men who went on safari with Mike in 1959 just happened to be a CIA agent based in Durban, South Africa. He and Mike became best friends, and soon Mike started to believe that the Reds were going to grab hold of the Congo and gain control of every country to the south. Mike did not want his children to grow up speaking Russian, and when the Congo sought military assistance, Mike put his hand up, encouraged by the CIA.
- What would you say was the high point of his life?
- Mike was employed in the Congo in 1964 to drive out the communist rebels. After Stanleyville, he was asked, even begged, to rescue the 2000 nuns and priests who were being held hostage and horribly abused in a large area around the city. Mike personally went on every raid behind enemy lines to free the hostages. This was his finest hour, even though sometimes the missionaries had suffered terrible deaths before Mike and his Wild Geese arrived to rescue them.
- Is it true that Mike, the hero of the right, met Che Guevara, the hero of the left, in battle in the Congo.
- Che Guevara arrived in the Congo in April 1965 to train the local rebels.Mike said that the CIA had warned him that Che Guevara was around, and some say Guevara himself was at the battle of Baraka. There is certainly evidence that some of his Cubans were at the battle of Baraka. Whatever, it is true that after about six months in the Congo, Guevara slunk away with his tail between his legs; his Congo escapade had been an abject failure.
- What was Mike’s role in the film The Wild Geese.
- The story was inspired by Mike and his men, and what they did in the Congo. Mike was employed as the military advisor on the film set, which was in South Africa in 1977. Almost unbelievably, Mike’s hero Richard Burton played the Mike Hoare character in the film. Later Mike was paid to tour America and give interviews to publicise the film.
- Why was Burton Mike’s hero?
- Mike loved Shakespeare, and Burton was a famous Shakespearean actor. Mike, in later life and in prison, memorised probably several thousand lines from Shakespeare.
- Mike was approached to re-instate the rightful president of the Seychelles in 1981, but the counter coup went wrong. What happened?
- Mike and about 50 men flew to the Seychelles with their AK-47s hidden in false-bottom baggage. A weapon was found on landing, all hell broke loose and ultimately Mike and the Frothblowers, as he nicknamed them, flew to South Africa in a Boeing 707 that came in to land at the wrong moment. Ultimately, Mike was jailed for ten years, but pardoned after 33 months. He always said the fundamental cause of the failure was that the commander, Mike, did not have the opportunity to train with the men before the attempt. And the reason for that boiled down to a lack of funds on the part of the coup organisers.
- What did Mike do in World War 2?
- At school in England, Mike always wanted to become an army officer, but was pushed into accountancy. When war broke out, it was the happiest day of his life. He joined the London Irish Rifles, became a small-arms expert, and was soon identified for officer school at Droitwich where his war record shows he was described as a ‘forceful and aggressive type’ who would ‘go a long way’. Then, in a Recce regiment, part of the Royal Armoured Corps, he was sent to India and saw action at the famous battle of Kohima, and later in Burma. His role model at this time was Brigadier Bernard Fergusson who had served under General Orde Wingate and had been a Chindit. Mike demobbed in 1946 as major, aged 27. His commanding officer once described him as “the best bloody soldier in the British army”.
- People always think Mike was huge. How tall was he?
- The extraordinary thing is that Mike was only 5’7” tall. But in every other way he was a giant of a man, exceptionally bright, exceptionally brave, with a flair for leadership and a love for command. Add in a huge dose of charm and the gift of the gab, and you have an unstoppable soldier.
Author and Publisher of ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare: The Legend
“I found this book a cracking read and recommend it to those who want to miss a night’s sleep.”
– Frederick Forsyth, author of ‘The Dogs of War’, and ‘The Day of the Jackal’