A beer breakfast with Mobutu … and other Congo stories

Living in Durban, South Africa, you don't have to scratch very hard to find a link to 'Mad Mike' Hoare.

Two weeks ago I took part in a fun general knowledge quiz at a nearby club. I had donated a copy of my book 'Mad Mike' Hoare: The Legend as a prize for a particular question and the winner was a woman sitting in a group nearby. She seemed more than a little excited with her prize and soon came over to tell me that her brother had served as a volunteer with 5 Commando in the Congo in 1964-65.

Then an elderly woman at another table indicated I should come over, and she immediately told me in her charming Belgian accent she knew Mike Hoare and had lived next door to him way back. Tell me another, I thought, because I get a lot of people telling me they knew Mike Hoare back in the day, but on closer questioning it turns out they have made an error. Where was this? I asked her. Well, it was in Albertville in the Congo in 1965, she said. And she was right!

Casting my mind back, I remembered how in June 1965 Mike Hoare had told President Mobutu that he was not going to renew his contract. But Mobutu was persuasive and offered Mike a family home in Albertville not too far from the army base where they were training a new intake of volunteers, and preparing for the assault on Baraka to the north. And the cherry on the top would be two armed sentries posted outside the house at all times. And so it was that Mike, his wife Phyllis and their baby, Michael, came to live in the house next door to the Belgian woman in front of me, all those years ago.

It also brought to mind the amusing story of Mobutu's visit to that house. Mobutu's ADC had got in touch with Mike and said Mobutu wanted to meet Mike and his wife at the house in the suburbs of Albertville, and he wanted to have a full English breakfast with them. He was to arrive at 7 am with a small entourage, but arrived only at 9 am in a cavalcade of cars and 22 people. Phyllis of course was concerned that she had not catered for 22 people, but Mobutu put her at ease, saying Don't worry, we don't normally eat breakfast, but have you got any Simba beer? Mike, of course, being a pukka British army officer, immediately retorted saying, What? Beer? For breakfast? And Mobutu blithely countered, saying Yes, that's what we have for breakfast.

Make of that what you will.

The 'Breakfast with Mobutu' story and many others can be found in 'Mad Mike' Hoare: The Legend, now available from amazon.com. For the man who has everything, there are about 20 'leatherbound' copies of this book still available for $149 (and they will not be getting cheaper as time goes by) – just fill in the Contact form to enquire.

'Mad Mike' Hoare: The Legend

Go to our Order Form to enquire about a 'leatherbound' copy of Chris Hoare's 'Mad Mike' Hoare: The Legend. Or send your postal address, postal code and tel or cell number to chris@madmikehoare.com for a quote.

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