THE family of these two girls, seen here clutching wreaths and looking suitably solemn, can boast of their fame within the martial history of Skipton.

Ivy and Marjorie Mason are the daughters of Lancashire fusilier Frederick James Mason, a father of five, who died on the Somme at Bapaume, France, on August 6, 1917.

Five years later, in April 1922, both girls were at the ceremonial unveiling of the new memorial to the fallen in High Street, Skipton. The Craven Herald reported the big event in a centre spread with photographs on April 14, 1922.

Pictured were the four children - two girls and two boys - who carried out the official unveiling and among them was Ivy.

The reporter describes how a space had been made among the scores of territorials, ex-servicemen and civil officials for the foursome who emerged from the town hall into a fine drizzle.

He writes: "They walked across from the town hall two abreast, a pathetic little group, some carrying flowers and two - girls they were - bearing on their dresses ribbons and medals, symbols of history their fathers had made and in the making had perished."

According to their niece, Shirley Schofield, who lives in Embsay, there was some rivalry between the sisters over the roles they played at the ceremony.

"We have the photograph of them dressed for the ceremony so we believed both of them were involved," she said.

The truth is possibly that both girls were indeed involved in the wreath-laying but Ivy was chosen to help unveil the memorial along with the other three children. Hence the rivalry.

Shirley's grandfather is believed to have died when an ambulance which was carrying him, was hit by a shell

He was taking part in one of the major offences when fighting resumed in the spring of 1917 after a bitterly cold winter in the trenches.

The allies' objective, part of the framework of the Battle of the Somme which had kicked off the previous July, was the ancient town of Bapaume, strongly held by the Germans. In February of 1917 the Germans began a strategic withdrawal towards the Hindenburg line. Naming it Operation Alberich, they made the ground as uninhabitable and difficult as possible.

The British set off in pursuit but it was tough going only reaching the smouldering city of Bapaume by early March. Still there was no respite for the Germans had left behind booby traps and time bombs which claimed the lives of many men including 25 when the town hall blew up burying and killing troops.

There was still little respite and hardly stopping to catch breath, the allies, at this time bolstered by the Australians, pushed on towards the Hindenburg line to be met by ferociously rearguard fighting from the Germans who held up the British in a number of small villages. It took until April 9 before the British were able to defeat these stalwart Germans and reach the Hindenburg line.

And what they came across seemed impregnable. They were faced by extensive barbed wire entanglements, rows of deep trenches, numerous machine gun nests positioned behind concrete shields and lines and lines of tunnels, slit trenches and deep bunkers.

Historically, Bapaume was occupied by the Germans from September 26, 1914, then by the British from March 17, 1917. On March 24, 1918, the Germans took over the city again.

Fusilier Mason is one 11,956 British troops named on the Tyne Cot memorial, which honours those men who died and whose bodies were never found in the Ypres salient.

It lies on a broad rise in the landscape which overlooks the surrounding countryside.

The area was strategically important to both sides and was captured by the 3rd Australian Division and the New Zealand Division, on October 4, 1917 and two days later a cemetery for British and Canadian war dead was begun.

The cemetery was recaptured by German forces on 13 April, 1918, and was finally liberated by Belgian forces on September 28.

It is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world. The name "Tyne Cot" is said to come from the Northumberland Fusiliers seeing a resemblance between the German concrete pill boxes, which still stand in the middle of the cemetery, and typical Tyneside workers' cottages – Tyne Cots.

Fusilier Mason was in his mid 30s when he died and left behind his wife Minnie with five children - Edgar, Robert, John, Marjorie and Ivy. The two girls married but never had children.

The family, who lived in Cumberland Street, were penniless, said Shirley. "They were very, very poor. The house wasn't big enough for them all and Edgar went to live with his gran."

But from humble beginnings began a family dynasty which is still going strong today.

Her father, John, eventually started a print business after World War Two where he had served as an aircraft toolmaker making Lancaster bombers.

It began in the attic of his home in Upper Commercial Street, Skipton, moving into a cellar at Belgrave Street, then on to Gargrave Road and then eventually into Back Park Avenue. John Mason Printers is still in existence today, run by John's grandson, Matthew.