Charlie Varcoe was born on 4 August 1878 at St Stephen in Brannel, near St Austell, Cornwall, the son of James Varcoe, a china stone quarryman, and his wife Mary (née Hawke).
He joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class at Devonport (HMS VIVID II) on 25 August 1898, giving his date of birth as 4 August 1879, and previous occupation as labourer. After a short period in the guardship HMS COLLINGWOOD he joined the cruiser HMS VENUS in the Mediterranean where he was rated Stoker and served until March 1901.
On 20 August 1901, he was one of the commissioning crew of the first submarine depot ship, HMS HAZARD. He subsequently served in depot ships HMS LATONA, THAMES, and FORTH, although particular submarines are not detailed in his record. He was promoted to Leading Stoker in December 1904 and Stoker Petty Officer in July 1906. After two years in the cruiser HMS MEDEA he returned to the submarine depot ship HMS FORTH in June 1911 as a Chief Stoker. Having recently earned his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, he was drafted to HMS DOLPHIN in September 1913 and on 1 December 1913 was loaned to the Royal Australian Navy for 3 years for service in HMAS AE2. He was among the crew when AE2, in company with AE1, sailed from Portsmouth in March 1914 for Australia, at the time the longest voyage ever made by submarines.
On 25 April 1915, HMAS AE2 was the first Allied submarine to successfully penetrate the Dardanelles, with orders to ‘generally run amok’ in the Sea of Marmara. After an eventful few days, AE2 was attacked and holed by Turkish gunfire on 30 April. The submarine was abandoned and scuttled, and all the crew taken prisoner.
Chief Stoker Varcoe died from meningitis in Belemedik hospital whilst a prisoner of war in Turkey. He is buried at the Baghdad (North Gate) Cemetery, in Iraq.
He left a widow, Mabel (née Coombe) whom he had married in 1902, and four daughters.