Mercenary ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare dies at 100

Mike Hoare celebrating his 100th birthday in Durban in 2019 Credit: Roy Reed/PA

Michael “Mad Mike” Hoare, considered the world’s most famous mercenary, has died at the age of 100.

His family said in a statement that he died in his sleep at a care facility in Durban, South Africa, on Sunday.

Mr Hoare rose to fame commanding a unit of mercenary troops in the Congo during the 1960s.

But he was jailed for three years for hijacking a jet following a failed coup attempt in the Seychelles in 1981.

Mike Hoare in the Congo in 1964/65. Credit: Jean Kestergat/PA

His son, Chris, described his father as “an officer and a gentleman” with a bit of “pirate thrown in”.

He added: “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.

“Most people who met Mike described him as a legend, and as an officer and a gentleman; only a few realised there was a bit of pirate thrown in.

“Known as ‘Mad Mike’, he was short and dapper, impossibly charming, unaccountably enigmatic, always polite, strangely proper, absolutely sane, good natured, a brilliant leader and an absolute legend.”

Mr Hoare was born in 1919 in India to Irish parents, and was educated in England.

After serving in the British Army during the Second World War and reaching the rank of major, Mr Hoare qualified as a chartered accountant and emigrated to South Africa in 1948.

Mike Hoare with his biography, written by his son Chris Hoare. Credit: Roy Reed/PA

In 1961, he commanded a unit of mercenary troops in Katanga.

Then in 1964-5 he led a unit of 300 mercenaries – which became known as the “Wild Geese” – in the Congo to suppress a Communist-inspired uprising, becoming a household name in many parts of the world.

He was given the nickname “Mad Mike” after East German radio regularly described him as “that mad bloodhound Hoare”.

The 1978 film The Wild Geese starred Richard Burton as Colonel Allen Faulkner, a character based heavily on Mr Hoare.

In 1981, Mr Hoare led a failed coup attempt in the Seychelles, and served nearly three years in South African jails for air piracy.

He lived in France for 20 years before returning to South Africa in 2009 and leaves five children – Chris, Tim, Gerry, Mikey and Simon.