Born in Birmingham, England, Samuel Freeman was 35 when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 1 March 1916. It is not known when he arrived in Australia, but at the time of enlistment Freeman was working as a musician and living with his wife, Emily, in the Sydney suburb of St Peters. He had previous military experience with the 8th Regiment of the Voluntary Irish Rifles, and was assigned to C Company in the Depot Battalion at Bathurst, and then to the 53rd Battalion, before embarking with the 24th reinforcements to the 13th Battalion. Freeman embarked from Sydney aboard HMAT Wiltshire on 7 February 1917 and joined the 13th Battalion in France that July. He was also a member of the 13th Battalion Band. While returning to Australia he was promoted to the rank of temporary sergeant after acting in the role of bandmaster aboard HMAT Commonwealth.