South Africa

Mercenary Mike Hoare was a dynamo on the battlefield and a charmer off it

Mercenary Mike Hoare was a dynamo on the battlefield and a charmer off it

DURBAN - Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Hoare was born to Irish parents who lived in India and, at age 8, was sent to boarding school in England.

Because he didn’t go back to India during the holidays, Hoare remained at school and came under the care of a Sergeant Badcock, who also fought in the Anglo-Boer War.

Hoare's eldest son Chris said: “Sergeant Badcock would tell Mike and the other boys about the war. By the time the impressionable Mike had finished school, he wanted to be a military man and go to Africa.”

Once Hoare completed his schooling, he hoped to attend an officers’ school in Sandhurst, in the south of England but he was unable to afford it after the death of his father.

An opportunity to pursue a career in chartered accounting arose and Hoare pursued that instead.

“It was still not apparent that he would become an action man at that stage,” said Chris.

However, he did join a reserve army force named the “Territorials”.

“They must have seen his potential in the reserves because he was sent to the ‘Small Arms School’, where he became an expert in small weapons.

“Thereafter, he went to officers’ school for six months. When he finished, his masters said Mike was a forceful, aggressive type, who will go far.”

Chris said when Hoare got drawn to World War II, it was halfway through and all he had were his small arms and officer’s school experience, and had never fired a shot in anger before.

“Mike was sent to India and fought in the battle of Kohima, which was a famous and horrible battle between the Japanese and British forces.

“He later moved to Delhi and was in a different kind of war. There, he met my mother and married her.”

Chris said once the war was over, Hoare’s military life ended, and he resettled in South Africa.

“My mother’s parents had settled in Durban, so it was a no-brainer for Mike to do likewise. They eventually got a house near the Westville university campus.”

Hoare was very entrepreneurial- minded and used his accounting skills to run seven motor vehicle-related businesses. Chris revealed that his father also loved the party life and nights on the town.

“His favourite hang-out was the Balmoral Hotel and sometimes the Edward Hotel.”

His father’s fascination with danger stemmed from his days in the war and the philosophy that one got more out of life living dangerously. Chris said his father never spoke about his exploits in Congo or anywhere else, but others wrote on what they saw.

“One journalist described my father as someone with a flair for command and he was a charmer. My father believed charm will get you halfway to where you are heading.

“He was pint-sized (1.7m tall), but he had a strong mind and was quick-witted. Mike was a powerful personality who you couldn’t mess with.

“His men were very loyal to him, partly because of his bravery.”

Chris said that in the communities they had lived, some held the view that Hoare was pro-apartheid.

“That talk was rubbish because he said on several occasions that taxes needed to be increased so that the money could be used to educate black people and create a strong black middle class. In that way you will prevent an explosion because people would have something to lose”.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE