Story: Kohere, Henare Mokena

Page 1 - Biography

Kohere, Henare Mokena

1880–1916

Ngati Porou; farmer, soldier

This biography was written by Henare Kohere Swann and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 3, 1996

Henare Mokena Kohere was born on 10 March 1880 at Te Araroa, East Cape. He was the fourth child of Hone Hiki Kohere and his wife Henarata Pereto (Bristow) of Ngati Porou. Henare, a grandson of the Ngati Porou chief Mokena Kohere and his wife Marara Hinekukurangi, was of Ngati Piritai of Ngai Tuiti-Matua and Te Whanau-a-Tuwhakairiora.

Henare received his education at Kawakawa Native School, Te Araroa, and followed the family tradition by attending Te Aute College, apparently from 1895 to 1898. He studied farming and showed prowess as an army cadet and as a competent haka leader. He was also an accomplished rugby player; he and an elder brother, Poihipi Mokena, were members of the school's senior team in 1898.

After leaving Te Aute College, Henare worked for a short time as a farm cadet on Hemi Matenga's sheep station at Wakapuaka in the Nelson district. He played rugby for the Nelson provincial side in 1899. He returned to the family farm at Rangiata station, East Cape, working tirelessly and in close collaboration with his sister, Kerenapu Kuata. In 1901 Henare was awarded a bronze medal and certificate by the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand for rescuing James Bertie from the wreck of the scow Whakapai.

Henare Kohere and his cousin Terei Ngatai were selected as members of the Maori section of the New Zealand contingent which attended the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. He trained and led the contingent in haka. During his journey he wrote many letters home relating experiences on board ship and at the various ports of call, and detailing the highlights of his time in London. He also gave vivid accounts of the coronation in Westminster Abbey and of a visit to the estate of the duke of Westminster. These letters were published in Te Pipiwharauroa, the newspaper edited by Henare's eldest brother Reweti Tuhorouta Kohere. Henare and Terei Ngatai also visited France and Belgium and took a trip on the Rhine. This was made possible through a British army officer they had befriended in London.

On his return to New Zealand Henare continued working on the family farm. On 12 April 1905 he married Ngarangi Turei, the only daughter of the Ngati Porou leader Mohi Turei and his second wife, Kararaina Korimete (Caroline Goldsmith). Ngarangi was a teacher at Rangitukia Native School. They had three children: Huinga Raupani, Ngarangi Putiputi and Hone Hiki.

On the death in 1910 of Ngarangi, who was buried in the family cemetery in Rangitukia, Henare became unsettled for a period. On the outbreak of the First World War he joined the second Ngati Porou contingent; his younger brother Tawhaikura Mokena had joined the first contingent. Henare enlisted on 9 June 1915, and became a second lieutenant. His contingent left Wellington on board the troop-ship Waitemata on 19 September.

Following his departure Henare's three children were looked after by their grandmother, Kararaina, at Te Rerenga, the family home in Rangitukia. Apirana Ngata, who had very close ties with the Kohere family, immediately offered support and provided help in educating them. Henare's brother Poihipi was to become their next of kin.

Henare disembarked at Suez on 26 October 1915. On 16 January 1916 he was posted to El Moascar, and on 11 March was attached to the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion, which embarked for France three days later. In France the men were involved in tree-felling, trench repair and construction, and night raiding. On 14 September, while taking part in one of these raids during the battle of the Somme, Henare was wounded.

His conduct was fitting for a leader of mana. As he lay on a stretcher in his dugout, he appeared comfortable and happy. In one hand he held a lighted cigarette; the other had been smashed by a shell. He expected to die and paid his small debts and trifling mess accounts. Peter Buck, a major in the battalion, visited him, asking 'Kei te pehea koe, Kohere?' (How are you?) 'Ka nui te kino' (Things are very bad), Kohere replied. He died of his wounds on 16 September. At his request, the leadership of his platoon passed to his fellow Ngati Porou lieutenant Pekama Kaa.

Henare Mokena Kohere was a man of dignity who was held in high esteem and greatly respected by all ranks of the armed forces. A great tangihanga held by Ngati Porou mourned his passing. He is honoured by many marae throughout Ngati Porou. A waiata tangi composed by Ngata for the Maori soldiers of the Pioneer Battalion refers to the East Coast contingent and to Henare Kohere; it became very popular throughout all tribes. Images of Henare Mokena Kohere and Pekama Kaa have pride of place in the stained glass windows of St Mary's Anglican Church overlooking Tikitiki, Rangitukia and the Waiapu valley.