Doherty's father, J.J. Doherty, a native of County Tyrone and a British AA artillery gunner, served during the Second World War, as did four of Richard's uncles. J.J. Doherty died of cancer, a result of complications from wounds suffered during the war. His mother Anna Coyle, who also died of cancer, came from a nationalist background. His parents married at St. Eugene's Cathedral, Londonderry City. Richard Doherty was a Royal Ulster Constabulary reservist from 1972 to 1974 and also served in the Territorial Army.
Doherty's most recent book, British Armoured Divisions and their Commanders, 1939-1945, is published by Pen and Sword Books.