Jonathan Cave was born in July 1913. He studied Modern History at Brasenose College, Oxford and took an Honours degree in 1934. After four years as a Senior History Master, he volunteered to serve in the Royal Armoured Corps and took part in the famous ‘Normandy Landing’ on ‘D-Day’. He continued to serve in Northwest Europe and was awarded the Military Cross. Cave joined the Malayan Civil Service in March 1946. In 1949, when he was holding the post of Collector of Land Revenue Malacca, he was sent to Oxford to attend a ‘Devonshire Course’ arranged by the Colonial Office. He had proposed as his subject of study ‘Adat Naning’; the ‘Customs and Traditions of Naning’.
After the course, Cave went back to Malaya as Collector of Land Revenue Malacca from 1950 to 1953. Cave was awarded the O.B.E. shortly before leaving the MCS in 1959. After 1959, Cave qualified as a solicitor and joined a country practice whose staple was conveyancing with land use, management and legislation probate and inheritance and family law. Eventual retirement afforded him leisure to pursue further research at the India Office Library and elsewhere and to travel to Malaysia again on two separate occasions, revisiting Alor Gajah and Naning each time after a prolonged absence.