I agree with Arun that Lightoller's account over Nichols and the 6 never being seen again is conjecture on Lightoller's part.
Lightoller in all likelihood did not see Nichols again after they parted company at 01:05 am. Irrespective of whether Nichols and his 6 men tried to open the gangway door or not (and I agree with Sam that they could not have succeeded), by the time they returned to the boat deck, Lightoller had moved to A-Deck and Lifeboat #4. From that point onwards, Lightoller more or less remained in that general area with #4, Collapsible D and then Collapsible B.
Nichols probably reported to Wilde
instead; I think this because Wilde was involved with loading and later launching of Lifeboat #2; while upon his return to the boat deck, Nichols did briefly stop near #2 to give Johnstone that 'star tip', although I believe it was around 01:30 am (when Boxhall had not yet arrived) rather than later. Nichols must have left the forward port area soon afterwards because Barrett met him just as Lifeboat #13 was lowered and was told by the boatswain to 'pull an oar'.
Lightoller or any other surviving officer did not know the identities of the men that Nichols had taken below with him and so no one could have thrown light on that. We have to assume all of them perished, albeit later and in different parts of the sinking Titanic
Excerpts from Lightoller's testimony in the British Inquiry: 13900. Now let us pursue the two things you have mentioned. You say you gave those orders to the boatswain to go down with some men and open the gangway doors?
13906. (The Solicitor-General.) Yes. (To the witness.) Can you help us when it was that you gave this order to the boatswain? I mean, can you give it us by reference to boats. Was it before you had lowered No. 4 to the a deck or after?
- I think it was after and whilst I was working at No. 6 boat.
13910. Did the boatswain execute those orders?
- That I could not say. He merely said "Aye, aye, sir," and went off.
13911. Did not you see him again?
13912. And did not you ever have any report as to whether he had executed the order?
13914. You say you gave that order, as far as you recollect, when you were dealing with that boat No. 6?
- Yes, boat No. 6.
Since Lightoller confirmed twice that he gave that order to Nichols while working on Lifeboat #6, it must be true. This must have been around 01:05 am because when the lifeboat was starting to be lowered some 5 minutes later, they called out that the boat was a man short and Peuchen got his chance. I am assuming that Nichols must have left the vicinity of #6 by then; otherwise, he
might have been ordered to go instead of Peuchen.
Therefore, ANTR and other books assumed that Nichols and his men died below while trying to open the gangway door based entirely on Lightoller's statement that he did not see the boatswain again that night
. But Johnstone near #2 and Barrett near #13 reported not only seeing Nichols but receiving advice. So, I feel that Brad Payne's conjecture that Nichols died much later is likely to be correct.