John Le Cain

Singapore Infopedia

by Chia, Joshua Yeong Jia


John Le Cain (b. 8 October 1912, Bangkok, Thailand–d. 11 January 1993, Singapore), a prominent Eurasian, was Singapore Police Force’s first Asian to be appointed Commissioner of Police.1

Early life
Le Cain was born in Bangkok, Thailand. When he was two years old, his family moved to Singapore, where he was educated at St Andrew’s School and Raffles Institution (RI). In school, he was a prefect and an all-round sportsman, and distinguished himself as a top high-jumper. He set RI’s high jump record at 5 ft 8½ in, which remained unbroken for several decades thereafter.2


From 1931 to 1939, Le Cain worked in a law firm as an articled law clerk. In 1939, he joined the Straits Settlements Police Force as an Asiatic probationary inspector, and was posted to Tanjong Pagar Police Station. During World War II, from August 1942 to September 1945, Le Cain was interned by the Japanese, but he resumed his appointment in the police force after the Japanese surrender. He held various appointments, including heading the Police Training School, Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, and Marine Police.3

In 1962, Le Cain was appointed Deputy Commissioner of Police – the second Asian to hold the position after Song Kok Hoo. Le Cain went on to become the first Asian commissioner of police in 1963, and led the police force through the turbulent times of the Indonesian Confrontation, racial riots and Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. He retired in 1967 after an illustrious career with the police force, during which he was conferred several awards.4

After his retirement, Le Cain became the chairman of Singapore Pools in 1968. The following year, he was appointed Counsellor (Defence) to the Singapore High Commission in London.5

Le Cain passed away in 1993 at the age of 80. As a tribute to his dedicated service in the police force, the John Le Cain Collection was launched on 21 November 2005 at the Police Heritage Centre.6

 Probationary Inspector, Tanjong Pagar Police Station.
 Posted to Special Branch (interned by Japanese authorities from 1942 to 1945).
 Senior Investigating Officer and later Assistant Officer-in-Charge, F Division.
 Assistant Superintendent of Police.
 Deputy Superintendent of Police.
 Superintendent of Police.
 Assistant Commissioner of Police.
 Deputy Commissioner of Police.
 Commissioner of Police.

1957: Colonial Police Medal for Meritorious Service
1963: Public Administration Medal, Gold (PPA)
 Johan Mangku Negara (a Malaysian federal award)
 Meritorious Service Medal (PJG)


Joshua Chia Yeong Jia

1. K. Hor, “Mr John Le Cain – SPF’s First Assistant Commissioner of Police,” Police Life Monthly 31, no. 12 (December 2005): 10–11 (Call no. RSING 363.2095957 PL); “Some Prominent Eurasians,” Straits Times, 15 April 2006, 2. (From NewspaperSG)

2. Hor, “Mr John Le Cain – SPF’s First Assistant Commissioner of Police,” 10; “Some Prominent Eurasians.”
3. Hor, “Mr John Le Cain – SPF’s First Assistant Commissioner of Police,” 10–11.
4. Hor, “Mr John Le Cain – SPF’s First Assistant Commissioner of Police,” 11; “First Asian Promoted to Head Singapore Police Force,” Straits Times, 3 July 1964, 9; “Acting in No. 2 Police Job,” Straits Times, 13 October 1961, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Hor, “Mr John Le Cain – SPF’s First Assistant Commissioner of Police,” 11.
6. L. Ong, “Launch of John Le Cain Collection,” Police Life Monthly 31, no. 12 (December 2005): 8 (Call no. RSING 363.2095957 PL); Hor, “Mr John Le Cain – SPF’s First Assistant Commissioner of Police,” 11; “Revisiting Past,” Straits Times, 23 November 2005), 4. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Hor, “Mr John Le Cain – SPF’s First Assistant Commissioner of Police,” 11.
8. Hor, “Mr John Le Cain – SPF’s First Assistant Commissioner of Police,” 11.

The information in this article is valid as at 4 July 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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