Enlisting at Kohukohu (1916)

Enlistment, WW1
In 1916, Richard Hohepa Heperi (Grandpa) signed up to fight in World War I.  As stated on available enlistment documents, his age is recorded as “19 years and 10 months.”  Independent research shows that this date was fabricated.  Grandpa was actually born on 28 May 1899— he was 16 years old.  At the time of enlistment, few documents were available to prove a volunteer's age (e.g. birth certificate).  Therefore, those responsible for recruitment were at the mercy of the recruit, especially when inquiring about birth dates.  Such was the case, April 29, 1916, when Grandpa lined up with other recruits, at Kohukohu1 (Hokianga, New Zealand), to answer a nation-wide call to arms.  
Also in line with Grandpa were other locals who would eventually become part of the 4th Maori Contingent of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF).  The list of individuals recruited in Kohukohu, includes two names that will be familiar to both the Heperi (Waihou) and the Wihongi (Awarua) families:
  1. Peter ‘Pona’ Te Whata (#20621) Grandpa’s best mate and cousin, and
  2. David Padlie (#20625) Brother of my maternal grandma, Mary ‘Padlie’ Wihongi, wife of Patariki Wihongi.
Back in the day, many underage recruits doctored their names and/or birth dates in order to enlist.  Eager to enter the military, birth dates and personal information were regularly adjusted in order to accommodate the questions asked by recruiters.  Regarding recruiting, my father shared the following story about Grandpa:

The old man [Grandpa] said he and his cousin Pona, lined up to enlist.  When it was the old man’s turn to register, he stepped forward.  The recruiting officer looked him up and down, and asked his age?   The old man gave his correct birth date, 28 May 1899.  The officer told him he was too young to enlist and excused him from the line.  Mad at being kicked out, the old man still wanted to enlist.  Seeing a 2nd recruiting line, the old man jumped in that line.  This time, when they asked for his birth date, the old man was 3 (three) years older (5 June 1896).  He was accepted by the recruiter… (Wiremu Rihari Heperi, Son of Richard and Te Maki Heperi, Phone Conversation re: Army Recruitment, 17 Jan. 2012).

I suspect that Grandpa’s successful enlistment-- via the 2nd recruitment opportunity he provided for himself-- was aided by his mate Pona, and perhaps even David.  Note the sequence of their identification numbers:
  • #20621, Peter ‘Pona’ Te Whata
  • #20623, Richard Heperi
  • #20625, David Padlie

After seeing these numbers, so close together, the following is another possibility.  (Though, my reflection is intended to express the personality and character of these boys):  

I can imagine Grandpa, asking soon-to-be Recruit #20621 to hide him from the officer that had rejected him.  From one space ahead in line, Recruit #20621 casually shields Grandpa’s 2nd effort to enlist.  Also helping Grandpa, may have been soon-to-be Recruit #20625.  I imagine #20625 covering Grandpa-- from behind him in line-- just in case the other recruitment officer glanced over, recognized soon-to-be Recruit #20623, and throws him out, again (Reflection (Pona and David Covering Grandpa in Line, Vernon L. Heperi, Grandson of Richard and TeMaki Heperi)

1Photos showing Kohukohu around the time Grandpa, Pona, and David enlisted. (Included are photos of the primary industry in Kohukohu at that time-- processing Kauri Timber.)

Kohukohu, from Broadwood Road. 
Northwood brothers :Photographs of Northland. Ref: 1/2-024656-G. 
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. 

Kohukohu, Hokianga, Northland. 
Northwood brothers :Photographs of Northland. Ref: 1/2-002828-F. 
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.  

Bullock team hauling a Kauri log in the Kohukohu area. 
Northwood album 4. Ref: PA1-q-180-039. 
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. 

Bullock team hauling timber out of the bush in the Kohukohu area. 
Northwood album 4. Ref: PA1-q-180-034. 
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.  

Northland bush scene, with Kauri logs ready for transportation. 
Northwood album 4. Ref: PA1-q-180-044. 
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.  

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