Born at Coonabarabran, New South Wales, in 1891, Albany Thomas Frederick Varney was working as a contractor when he enlisted in the AIF on 29 March 1915. After initial training he was assigned as a private, service number 887, to the second reinforcements of 12th Light Horse Regiment.
Varney sailed from Sydney on 7 June aboard HMAT A51 Chilka. After brief training in Egypt the regiment deployed to Gallipoli in August, where, instead of fighting as a unit, it was split up to reinforce three other light horse regiments already on the peninsula. C Squadron, with Varney, transferred to D Squadron, 6th Light Horse Regiment. He returned to the 12th Light Horse Regiment in Egypt in March 1916, after the evacuation of Gallipoli.
In May 1916 the 12th Regiment was assigned to the defence of the Suez Canal. Varney undertook a Hotchkiss Machine Gun training course at Moascar in February 1917, and was promoted to lance corporal. He returned to his regiment in time to take part in its first major engagement of the war, at the second battle of Gaza. In October 1917 Varney took part in the famous charge of Beersheba, part of the successful third battle of Gaza.
Varney was wounded in the right leg and heel on 1 May 1918, during the Es Salt raid. He was evacuated to Egypt and remained in hospital until October, taking no further part in fighting. It is believed that he purchased this souvenir embroidery during his convalescence. Varney was promoted to corporal in May 1919. He returned to Australia in July, and was discharged from the army in January 1920.
During the Second World War Varney again volunteered for service, claiming to have been born in 1902. He served part time with 25 Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps between 1941 and 1945.