Charles was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, qualifying B.A., M.B. in 1889. He took up a commission within the Medical Services at the rank of Captain on 28th July 1891, then gained special promotion to Surgeon Major on 20th May 1898 for his service on the N W Frontier, India 1897-1898. He served in the Tirah Expedition and in South African War - being seconded for service with the South African Constabulary from 3rd August 1902 to 2nd May 1905. On 28th July 1906 he gained further promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
On 1st June 1910, Charles was appointed Assistant Director-General of Medical Services, and had just completing his four years' tenure when war was declared.
He was then re-appointed at the War Office to direct the branch dealing with personnel and technical training of officers and men of the R.A.M.C., and on 28th October 1914 proceeded to France as Sir Arthur Sloggett's Staff Officer. On 1st March 1915 he was promoted to the rank of Colonel. At the end of March 1916, he took his place in the Adjutant-General's office at Montreuil, together with the medical inspector of drafts. In 1917 he had been given the temporary rank of Surg-General and later Major-General, in connexion with the special duties relating to the expediting of the return of men to the ranks from hospitals and convalescent depots at a time when man-power was causing considerable anxiety. When Major-General Sir W G Macpherson retired at the beginning of June, Charles was appointed by the Army Council to be Director-General of Medical Services with the rank of Lieutenant-General. He continued this appointment until the end of the war. He was the third son of the late Peter Burtchaell, a County Surveyor of Kilkenny, and Maria Isabella, daughter of Lundy -Edward Foot, a Barrister-at-Law.